Cannabis advocates have long pushed the plant as an organic medicine that activates a person’s internal receptors. The cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant can affect everything from a person’s mood to their inflammatory responses and even brain functioning.
Limited research and endless anecdotal evidence over the past couple decades seems to overwhelmingly support those claims. But seldomly discussed, at least among the pro-marijuana crowd, are the consequences of using too much of the plant. Especially if you’re young.
Screaming, vomiting and bouts of psychotic episodes are among the latest side effects sending regular cannabis users to emergency rooms in Colorado, the first U.S. state to legalize adult-use and still one the country’s biggest marijuana markets. That’s according to interviewed medical professionals in an NBC report released this week, which cited recent studies detailing a little-known illness called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS).
CHS in a nutshell, happens when cannabinoid receptors in the body, especially the gut, get overstimulated and attempt to purge the extra cannabis components from a person’s body. Cannabis users in their teens and those who imbibe in the plant daily are most susceptible to getting CHS, researchers say.
“It’s almost like a form of cannabis poisoning,” explained Dr. Brad Roberts, an emergency room physician in Pueblo, Colorado.
Roberts told media outlets the intense symptoms associated with the condition has health care workers calling it “scromiting” – a term that combines “screaming” and “vomiting.” CHS sufferers normally require hospitalization for their vomiting. In other cases, doctors recommend medication for patients to help stop their psychotic episodes.
The emergency room at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, where Roberts is in charge, saw its number of scromiting patients go from just five in 2009 to over 120 in 2018, the NBC report said.
20-year-old Bo Gribbon, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, said the pain he experienced from CHS made it feel like “Edward Scissorhands was trying to grab my intestines and pull them out.” Gribbon, who smoked multiple times a day at age 17 back in 2018, knew something was wrong when he began throwing up multiple times every hour throughout the day. His mother finally took him to a nearby hospital.
Gribbon went to the emergency room 11 more times over the next nine months that year for the same problem.
But just how much is too much when it comes to smoking? Researchers say it varies person to person.
A review of studies in 2017 suggested that people who used cannabis products containing more than 10 percent THC on a daily basis were most susceptible to developing CHS. Almost all patients with the condition were daily cannabis users, per the review of studies, and three-quarters of them had used the plant for at least a full year.
A 2016 peer-reviewed report listed nausea and abdominal pain as other common symptoms of CHS. People with the condition often resort to frequent showering or bathing in warm water for relief.
The good news? Studies suggest the condition goes away when patients stop imbibing. While some people may need up to a couple weeks to completely mitigate their CHS symptoms, others can naturally cleanse themselves of the excess chemical compounds in a matter of days.