DIGESTIVE HEALTH

Marijuana-related illness increases in legalized states

 (iStock)

As various states move towards the legalization of marijuana, doctors are noticing the increase of a particular illness that is associated with regular use of the drug. Emergency rooms have been seeing an influx of patients with the same symptoms – severe abdominal pain and intense vomiting – and this increase is particularly high in certain states that have already legalized the use of marijuana.

While some doctors have been perplexed by these symptoms, the disease does have a name: cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. The illness is believed to be caused by regular and long-term use of marijuana.

There seems to be a direct correlation between CHS and states that have passed marijuana legalization measures. One study shows that CHS diagnoses nearly doubled at two of Colorado's hospitals since 2009 – the year that it was decided that Colorado needed a state-regulated medical marijuana distribution system.

CHS was first identified ten years ago, but there is still not much known about the illness. Dr. Kennon Heard explained, "The most likely cause is that people using marijuana frequently and in high doses have changes in the receptors in their body, and those receptors become dysregulated in some way, and it starts causing pain."

In terms of treatment, doctors have found that the symptoms of CHS are often relieved with hot showers and baths. The use of a hot bath can also serve as a diagnostic tool for doctors who are looking to identify a patient's illness. Additionally, patients are often given an IV of fluids to help reduce the vomiting. However, the only way to "cure" CHS is to severely reduce the intake of marijuana, or stop using altogether.