Last month a study was published—and widely written about in the media—about a medical condition associated with chronic marijuana use: scromiting. More precisely and often known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), the catchier name is a portmanteau word combining screaming and vomiting.
Actually, screaming doesn’t seem to be a common symptom, and “scromiting” doesn’t seem to be nearly as popular usage as one article—quickly picked up on by other writers—suggested. Basically, CHS is extreme recurring nausea and vomiting which appears to be caused by excessive marijuana use. Excessive is described by the study as 20 days a month (no indication of how much was consumed on any of those days, or if it was smoked or eaten) or more.
Not much is known about CHS. Marijuana is a common treatment for nausea so that it can cause nausea seems paradoxical or at least counter-intuitive.
There are only two known treatments: hot showers, which only seems to help while the sufferer remains in the shower, and abstaining from marijuana use. It’s not clear why hot showers work, but it’s a common enough remedy that it is considered a diagnostic symptom (“You’re vomiting? You use marijuana? You take a lot of hot showers? You have CHS.”) Again, paradoxical: withdrawal is often the cause of vomiting, not a cure.
How common is CHS? Of the subjects in this one study—” a convenience sample of patients presenting to the [Emergency Department] of the oldest public hospital in the United States”—almost one-third “met our criteria for having experienced CHS.” The study authors continued, “If this is extractable to the general population, approximately 2.75 million (2.13-3.38 million) Americans may suffer annually from a phenomenon similar to CHS.”
If. May. Similar. Those are wiggle words for when you don’t have enough information to speak more authoritatively. Some articles took the 2.75 million figure as more concrete. Most reports consider the condition to be much rarer, if no less disturbing. If one-third of heavy marijuana users suffered from uncontrollable regurgitation, we probably would have heard about it sooner.
The abstract of the study also doesn’t indicate when or exactly where the study was conducted (“oldest public hospital” isn’t much to go on, and may be disputed). A claim published months earlier on fact-checking site Snopes.com cited a 2016 report. If it’s based on the same study, I’d question describing it as “recent.”
If cannabis use is causing vomiting, we should study it. How much use causes it? Are there genetic predispositions? Can we come up with better remedies? (No anti-nausea treatments seem to help.)
For now, the treatment is clear: if you exhibit symptoms of CHS, stop using marijuana. If you can’t or won’t, you might be suffering from marijuana dependence or psychological addiction.
Nothing is completely harmless. Seek help.
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