What Is CHS (Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome)?

Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with almost 18% of the population using it at least once in 2019. It’s estimated that 3 out of 10 people have a marijuana use disorder, which can lead to some severe consequences, including cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). Causing unpleasant side effects, including severe nausea, headaches and vomiting, CHS can have a powerful impact on a person’s life.

In this article, we’ll explore CHS in more detail and outline the help available to help treat CHS.

What is CHS (Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome)?

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a rare condition that causes severe, regular episodes of vomiting and severe stomach pain in heavy or frequent users of marijuana. It was first recognized in 2004, and has continued to be researched since then as people look to develop an understanding of the condition. Left untreated, CHS can lead to severe health complications, making it vital that sufferers seek treatment.

Those who use marijuana at least once a week are at risk of developing CHS, as well as those who started their cannabis use during their teenage and young adult years. It may be several years before people start experiencing symptoms of CHS.

What are the symptoms of CHS?

The main symptoms of CHS are frequent and severe nausea and vomiting. Often occurring in a cyclical pattern, sufferers can experience intense bouts of vomiting, as well as associated symptoms such as abdominal pain, dehydration and weight loss.

Some people use showers and baths as a way to ease some of the symptoms of CHS, leading them to shower or bathe multiple times a day to help them manage their symptoms. This can lead to its own complications, including the risk of dry skin and other conditions.

What are the phases/timelines of CHS?

The timeline for CHS can vary according to the individual. Not all cannabis users will develop CHS, while for others it can take years for symptoms to develop. 

There are two main phases associated with CHS:

Prodromal phase

The first phase of CHS is more common in long-term users of CHS, who started using cannabis from a young age. Typical symptoms in the prodromal phase include morning nausea and abdominal pain. At this stage, symptoms aren’t likely to lead to vomiting. Symptoms may last for several months, and many people will go undiagnosed at this stage due to a lack of awareness of CHS, or attributing the symptoms to other causes. 

Hyperemetic phase

In the hyperemetic phase, sufferers experience intense and persistent vomiting. During this phase, individuals may only find relief while taking hot showers and baths, developing compulsive bathing behavior. They may also change their eating habits and timings to help avoid symptoms. These bouts of symptoms can last for several days or weeks.

A third phase, known as the recovery phase, takes place when an individual stops using marijuana. However, symptoms may return when they start using again, leading to a persistent cycle of symptoms. 

What are the complications of CHS?

If left untreated, CHS can lead to several complications. Persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration, in addition to electrolyte imbalances that can have an impact on the heart and kidneys. Frequent vomiting can also cause damage to the esophagus, causing ulcers or tears, making symptoms more unpleasant to deal with. This can result in sufferers needing hospital treatment, and can make eating and drinking difficult. 

Treatments for CHS

For most people, stopping marijuana use completely will treat CHS. However, those with a cannabis addiction or dependency may find it hard to stop using marijuana, and may require dedicated support to overcome the addiction and improve their health and wellbeing. Treatments can range from therapy and counseling to behavioral interventions depending on the needs of individual patients.

Are you worried about CHS? Learn about how Peaks Recovery can help

CHS can be a distressing and dangerous condition, and it’s important to know that there’s help available if you or a loved one are experiencing CHS. At Peaks Recovery, we provide an effective treatment program for sufferers, helping clients overcome their cannabis addiction to not only help treat CHS, but other complications of cannabis addiction. 

We assess the needs of each client to provide an appropriate treatment program, helping them on their journey to recovery. For more information about our marijuana addiction treatment, contact Peaks Recovery Center today. Let us work together to help you reclaim your life and say goodbye to marijuana for good. 

Medical Disclaimer: Peaks Recovery Centers uses fact-based content about recovery treatment, addiction medicine, and behavioral health conditions to improve the quality of life for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction or mental health disorders. This information is not intended to replace professional medical guidance, diagnosis, care, or treatment. This information should not be used as a substitute for advice from a qualified healthcare provider and/or your physician.