Health

Mysterious Illness Is Tied to Marijuana Use

Users show up in ER with very specific symptoms, say Colorado physicians

Know of a marijuana user struggling with vomiting and abdominal pain — and who showers a lot to feel better?

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There is a condition emergency room physicians in Colorado are seeing more of called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. The disease is believed to be caused by heavy and long-term use of various forms of marijuana.

It’s something doctors hope to make others aware of as use increases across the nation. Patients typically end up in the ER several times before physicians realize the root of the problem.

Related: ‘This is Not Your Father’s Marijuana’

Since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available in Colorado, ER visit diagnoses for CHS nearly doubled in two hospitals where records were reviewed, according to Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician in Aurora, Colorado.

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Heard co-authored a study on CHS for the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in April 2015. As more states begin to legalize marijuana, doctors now are eager to make sure CHS is on people’s radar.

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As Heard stated in the report: “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.” Patients presenting with CHS were predominantly female (71 percent), and white (72 percent).

CHS can lead to dehydration and kidney failure, but usually resolves within days of stopping drug use, CBS News recently reported.

That’s what happened with Lance Crowder, of Indianapolis, who was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting. No local doctor could figure out why. After going off all forms of marijuana for seven months, “Now all kinds of ambition has come back. I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it — but better now than never,” he told the network.

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