With marijuana legal in some form in over 26 states in the US, there are a lot of marijuana users out there. And although marijuana is believed to be a safe drug, the medical community has begun to see an uptick in what is considered to be a rare disease, as well as other marijuana-related ailments.
A recent illness that has made it to the news is a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). Although it is a rare ailment, this form of cannabinoid toxicity develops in chronic smokers, wreaking havoc on their day-to-day lives. It can cause problems with dehydration, nutrient absorption, and other vital body processes that help keep us healthy and well.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is episodic, meaning that people who suffer from it may experience days of illness – nonstop nausea and vomiting that can be debilitating — followed by days without symptoms, which can be incredibly frustrating for both the patient and the doctor. It is often confused with another syndrome called “cyclic vomiting.”
While it’s unknown why it helps, people who suffer from it say their symptoms only find relief in a hot shower. This often causes the sufferers to often bathe compulsively while they’re experiencing an episode. Some sufferers ironically find that their nausea is temporarily abated by more marijuana use, but the nausea quickly returns. Doctors say the simplest way to alleviate the symptoms of this disease is cease marijuana use.
Because it used to be so rare, it’s only been in the past few years that the syndrome has been making its way into emergency rooms in the US.
CHS is not a new condition. In 2004, Australia did a study on the syndrome with a group of ten patients suffering from CHS. It’s not something that is seen in new smokers or even in the medical marijuana community – it’s only associated with hardcore marijuana use. People with CHS tend to use marijuana at least three to five times a day, every day. Most CHS users have used the drug this heavily for the past 15 years or so, and the earliest onset was a heavy user who had been smoking marijuana for three years.
CHS is just one of many health problems the medical community is seeing an increase in since the legalization of marijuana for both recreational use and medical use.
Other rare problems associated with long-term cannabis use have begun to spring up in other specialties, including the dermatology field. Cannabis can cause vessel constriction, which can lead users to develop ulcers or ischemia in their extremities. This can lead to a very serious condition called cannabis arteritis. With this condition occurs, necrotic lesions and ulcers don’t stop bleeding and can’t heal. In users with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, this can lead to limb amputation. Treatment can help stop or reverse the problems with blood vessels, but is usually required for life.
While many people think of marijuana use as a low-risk drug activity, there’s always a risk of illness or accidents when you’re putting a psychoactive substance in your body. No drug is 100% safe and marijuana is a drug that often causes dependence as well.
As more people start to use marijuana on a daily basis, doctors expect to see more cases of these rare syndromes. If you know somebody who smokes weed and exhibits strange medical symptoms such as those described in this article (or other symptoms, too!), urge them to get to a doctor. And if they can’t cease smoking, there are many options for getting help. No one has to get clean alone, and even though it can be difficult, many people have been able to stop smoking weed and life a fulfilling, drug-free life.
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