The legalization of marijuana is a fast-moving phenomenon. States across the land are legalizing cannabis, and federal legalization of weed usage appears to be just a matter of time. As an economic boon, legalization provides a pathway of hope to areas of cultivation, and for sufferers of chronic pain, legal weed can be a relief. All in all, a large number of people believe marijuana is, at worst an acceptable alternative to alcohol abuse. However, a strange malady has shown up in emergency rooms located in legal weed states. This strange malady may slow the roll of the onrushing train known as legal marijuana.
This all sounds a little ominous. What do we need to know?
Here is what Gildshire knows, so far. The strange malady cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is CHS for short. It first appeared in Australia.
For almost a decade, an Australian woman experienced severe episodes of fast-onset nausea and vomiting after marijuana usage. For years before, she had smoked with no such symptoms. From 2004-2018, researchers made up of E.R. physicians throughout Australia detailed her experiences along with similar cases from the same region. In nearly every case, patients described the illness cropping up suddenly. The patients’ only relief came from hot baths. The Australian physicians were the ones who dubbed the strange malady cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.
Although the medical report from Down Under raised red flags regionally, international medical experts believed cases of CHS to be somewhat rare across the globe. That is until similar reports cropped up elsewhere.
Including in this country?
Recent studies from E.R.s across the United States and the European Union suggest CHS to be more prevalent than was previously thought.
The most recent study published just last Monday by a team of Colorado clinicians. Marijuana is legal in that state since 2014, after being legal medically for five years before. In that study, available in the publication, Annals of Internal Medicine, the doctors describe over 2,500 cannabis-related visits to a large public hospital’s emergency ward between 2012 and 2016.
What did they find?
Stomach issues, such as nausea and vomiting were the main drivers of the trips. Psychiatric problems such as paranoia and extreme intoxication were next.
“To see that this was a leading reason for people coming to the ER, that was pretty striking,” Andrew Monte, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told an interviewer from Business Insider.
“We have to do a better job of educating users on the fact that this phenomenon exists,” he added.
Nora Volkow is the director at the National Institute of Drug Abuse. She echoed Professor Monte’s concerns about CHS related to cannabis use in an editorial published concurrently with the new study.
“We must recognize that the full range of potential adverse health consequences from cannabis consumption is not fully understood,” she wrote in her opinion piece.
While supporters of legal weed remain undaunted, the medical profession is taking a careful look at CHS and marijuana. Are we experiencing unintended consequences, or is there a cure on the horizon? These are questions for the medical community and the voting public.