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Marijuana Legalization Spikes Syndrome Related to Weed Smoking

Marijuana Legalization Spikes Syndrome Related to Weed Smoking

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  • Medical marijuana was legalized in the United States of America in 2009.
  • Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) that involves excess cyclical episodes of nausea and vomiting is the side- effect of prolonged use of marijuana.
  • The number of CHS cases have doubled since marijuana legalization in 2009.

Heavy and long-term use of marijuana can lead to chronic nausea and vomiting. This condition is known as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.

Medical marijuana is prescribed for a variety of medical conditions. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is one of the effects of legalization of medical marijuana in the United States of America since 2009.

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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

The illness was first documented in a group of Australians in 2004, and has been steadily documented since then.

This condition is often misdiagnosed. It is mistaken for another condition known as cyclical vomiting syndrome where patients experience identical symptoms but is not associated with weed smoking.

In this syndrome partients experience cyclical periods of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Vomiting periods typically last for 48 hours, but can resume if the patient continues to smoke.

It takes a minimum of three years to a maximum of 10 years of daily marijuana use for the symptoms to become apparent.

If left untreated, it may lead to severe dehydration and kidney failure. Taking hot baths and showers often provide temporary relief although this is not a permanent cure.

Doctors typically treat patients with CHS with fluid therapy and anti-emetic medications.

Steady Rise in ER Visits Post-Legalization

Dr. Kennon Heard, who works at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, mentioned that there has been a steady rise in CHS in Colorado since marijuana became widely available.

The number of emergency room visits have doubled since 2009.

"It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw," Heard said. "Now we are seeing it quite frequently."

Researchers studied 120,000 patient visits. Half of the cases were studied in 2008 to 2009 during the "pre-liberalization" period of marijuana and the other from 2010 to 2011.

The study states that before legalization there were 41 of 113,262 emergency room visits, which was at the rate of 1 CHS case for every 2,762 patients. After legalization, there were 87 of 125,095 visits, at the rate of 1 CHS case per 1,437 visits in two hospitals on Colorado.

The doctors found that the number of patients exhibiting cyclical vomiting doubled in that time period.

"They'll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out," Heard says of patients who come to the hospital with CHS symptoms.

As marijuana becomes increasingly legalized the number of ER visits will continue to rise.

The study is published in Academic Emergency Medicine.


  1. Kennon Heard et al. Cyclic Vomiting Presentations Following Marijuana Liberalization in Colorado. Academic Emergency Medicine; (2015) DOI: 10.1111/acem.12655

Source: Medindia

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