What Is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Have you heard of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome? If you’re wondering if your side effects are related to cannabis use, this article may have insight.

Abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting are symptoms from a very broad spectrum of possible diagnoses for stomach and digestive system conditions. Something everyone will probably agree on is that none of these are something that a person would want to experience chronically. 

Maybe you consume cannabis regularly and you’re curious if the symptoms you’ve been experiencing match with those of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Well, you’ve come to the right place and we’ve done our research on the matter, so hopefully you’ll get a bit of helpful information from this article. 

Understanding Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

By definition cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome(CHS) is a condition in which a patient experiences recurring nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. This condition can occur in some, but not all, cannabis consumers after several years of regular cannabis use. Lets dive further into CHS to gain some further understanding of the condition.

What Causes Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

The cause of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is relatively easy to explain in simple terminology. Chronic use of cannabis over the period of several years is what causes this condition in cannabis consumers. Essentially the cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract get overloaded and cause the symptoms to occur in people after long term regular cannabis consumption. Some symptoms resemble those from greening out, but this condition is much more uncomfortable. 

The Three Phases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis

There are three phases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome that are important to be aware of if you are a regular cannabis consumer. We’ll go ahead and break each of them down for a better understanding of how this condition may progress.

Prodromal Phase

The prodromal phase of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome encompasses the period leading up to the characteristic symptoms. Typically affecting heavy and long-term cannabis users, this phase involves early signs such as morning nausea, abdominal discomfort, and mild vomiting. These symptoms often go unrecognized and may even lead to increased cannabis use in an attempt to alleviate discomfort. 

As CHS progresses, the prodromal phase transitions into the hyperemetic phase, marked by severe and recurrent vomiting, accompanied by intense abdominal pain and relief through hot showers. Identifying the prodromal phase is crucial for early intervention and cessation of cannabis use to prevent the syndrome’s full-blown manifestation.


The hyperemetic phase of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is characterized by intense and intractable vomiting, along with severe abdominal pain. Typically following the prodromal phase, this stage can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalances due to excessive vomiting. A distinctive feature is the relief experienced by hot showers or baths, providing temporary respite from symptoms. 

CHS-induced hyperemesis can be debilitating and may necessitate hospitalization for fluid and electrolyte replacement. Cessation of cannabis use is the primary treatment, leading to eventual resolution of symptoms. Recognition of the hyperemetic phase is vital for accurate diagnosis and effective management.

Recovery Phase

The recovery phase of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome follows the cessation of cannabis use and onset of symptom relief. During this phase, which can last several days to weeks, individuals experience a gradual reduction in vomiting, abdominal pain, and discomfort. Hydration and nutritional replenishment are crucial as the body heals from the effects of CHS. Medical support may include anti-nausea medications and fluid replacement therapy.

As patients abstain from cannabis, their endocannabinoid system regains equilibrium, contributing to symptom resolution. Monitoring for potential relapses is essential, and adopting healthier coping strategies becomes vital to prevent reoccurrence of the syndrome’s symptoms.

How is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Diagnosed?

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome diagnosis involves a combination of medical history, clinical evaluation, and exclusion of other possible causes. Physicians look for a history of chronic cannabis use, cyclic vomiting, and relief from hot showers. Physical examination and ruling out other conditions are crucial steps. 

Imaging and lab tests can aid in excluding alternative diagnoses. Improvement with cannabis cessation reinforces the diagnosis. CHS recognition is vital for targeted management and preventing unnecessary interventions.

Treatment and Solutions for Cannabinoid Hyperemesis

Treatment for CHS primarily involves discontinuing cannabis use to detox from cannabinoids, which leads to symptom resolution over time. Supportive care includes hydration, nutrition, and anti-nausea medications. Hot showers or topical capsaicin creams can alleviate discomfort. Preventing relapse requires adopting healthier coping strategies and addressing underlying psychological factors. Education about CHS is essential for individuals and healthcare providers.

Can a Tolerance Break Help?

Yes, taking a tolerance break from cannabis can be beneficial for cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Ceasing cannabis use allows the endocannabinoid system to reset, often leading to symptom improvement and eventual relief from CHS-related symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome presents a perplexing paradox within the context of cannabis use. As cannabis gains legality and popularity, understanding CHS becomes increasingly vital. This enigmatic syndrome, characterized by cyclic vomiting and abdominal discomfort, underscores the intricate interplay between cannabis, the endocannabinoid system, and individual susceptibility. 

Timely diagnosis, marked by recognizing prodromal symptoms and exclusion of other causes, empowers effective management through cannabis cessation, supportive care, and lifestyle adjustments. CHS serves as a reminder that while cannabis offers potential benefits, its misuse can unveil unique physiological responses, emphasizing the necessity of informed and responsible usage.

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