Rare Marijuana-Related Illness Linked To Rise In ER Visits In Colorado, New Study Reports

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Rare Marijuana-Related Illness Linked To Rise In ER Visits In Colorado, New Study Reports

By Seth Ferranti 01/03/17
It's called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome and doctors say it's becoming more common as more people have legal access to pot.
Image: 
Woman smoking from marijuana pipe.

A new study claims that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available in Colorado, emergency room visits for pot have nearly doubled in two hospitals.

According to the study, the main diagnosis has been Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, or CHS, which is caused by long-term, heavy and chronic use of the plant. Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of the disorder. The diagnosis was very rare in the past, but as more legal and medical marijuana reforms pass around the nation, some emergency room doctors are getting concerned.

“[Patients] often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” Dr. Kennon Heard, one of the study authors and a physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, told CBS News. “It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw. Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”

As the number of new and chronic marijuana users grows annually, it is important to measure its effect on public health, the report stated. "While marijuana-associated pulmonary disease may take years to manifest, if associated with marijuana at all, the rate of cyclic vomiting seems to have increased acutely," it continued.

Paradoxically, the association of marijuana use with cyclic vomiting contrasts its well-touted antiemetic properties. This effect may be in part modulated by the concentration of cannabidiol, a cannabinoid compound in marijuana, rather than the psychoactive compound known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

But a previous study claimed that it takes almost 16 years before the diagnosis manifests itself in the pot user—16 years of day in and day out use, ranging from three to five times per day. CHS is an extremely rare syndrome that can be reversed if the individual stops smoking marijuana.

High Times reported that Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is different from Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome—though the symptoms are very similar. 

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is not caused by cannabis consumption. Marijuana is the safest recreational "drug" around and has tons of medical properties, but as with anything, long-term, repeated and chronic use can cause CHS. The syndrome has only been discovered and recognized in the past decade. Treatments include taking hot showers which relieve the nausea and vomiting symptoms.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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