Study Summary: Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (July 2022)

Updated: Jul 26

A 2022 academic continuing education activity paper entitled "Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome" investigated this controversial condition that is more commonly known as CHS. The researchers described Cannabinoid Hyperemesis as a condition in which "a patient experiences cyclical nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain after using cannabis."

Patients suffering this disorder share multiple traits, including "1) several years of cannabis use predating the onset of illness; 2) a cyclical pattern of hyperemesis every few weeks to months, at which time the patient is still using cannabis and 3) resolution of the symptoms after cessation of cannabis use," wrote the paper.


Hot Showers Relieve Symptoms

Interestingly, CHS patients report that their symptoms are relieved by hot baths and showers, among other things. The study noted a 2014 anonymous internet survey of 500 cannabis users (mostly white women from the U.S. with a mean age of 34) who were recruited from a cyclical vomiting referral center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "Sixty-seven percent of respondents noted that hot showers relieved their [vomiting], though whether symptoms were merely ameliorated or fully resolved is unknown," reported the paper.


"Sixty-seven percent of respondents noted that hot showers relieved their symptoms, though whether symptoms were merely ameliorated or fully resolved is unknown," reported the paper.

Topical capsaicin has also been reported to deliver relief to CHS sufferers. "As of 2018, twenty published cases of CHS demonstrated significant relief of both pain and vomiting with capsaicin cream," wrote the scientists.


Despite the fact that little is known about the underlying mechanisms and potential cause of CHS, many sufferers and the authors of this paper agree that cessation of cannabis consumption ends their symptoms. "The only definitive treatment of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is the removal of cannabis exposure," reported the paper.

Dr. Ethan Russo (photo courtesy Ethan Russo)


Genetic Origin?

A 2021 study by Dr. Ethan Russo theorized that the cause of CHS is genetic. It proposed that a very small portion of the population features this genetic mutation, explaining why only a few hundred cases of this disorder have been diagnosed and reported in the research literature.


The 2022 paper reported that CHS is "easily confused with other diseases" and concluded that there is a gross lack of "sizable randomized control studies." "Most resources and recommendations come from case studies and expert opinions," concluded the paper.


View the original study.


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