Know About CHS: Vomiting Syndrome Linked to Marijuana - Nemours Blog


Know About CHS: Vomiting Syndrome Linked to Marijuana

Know About CHS: Vomiting Syndrome Linked to Marijuana, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Your teenager is sick to his stomach. Really sick, throwing up as much as four or five times in an hour. If your teen is a heavy marijuana user, he might have cannabinoid hyperemesis (CHS).

What Is CHS?

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is a scientific way of describing the body’s reaction when someone uses a lot of marijuana (cannabis) over a long period of time. Emesis means vomiting. Hyper means excessive. It’s a clinical way of saying that people with CHS throw up a lot because of heavy marijuana use.

Some people take years to develop CHS. But 1 in 3 people with CHS have used marijuana for less than a year. The only way to stop CHS is to stop using marijuana.

Why has CHS become a problem in recent years? A blog post published in The Lancet suggests it might be because marijuana produced today is much stronger than in the past.

What Should Parents Do?

If your teen can’t stop throwing up for 24 hours, go to the ER. Because people with CHS vomit so much, they often get dehydrated (the amount of water in their bodies drops too low). Even if they drink lots of liquids, it may not help because they soon throw them up.

Your teen probably will stay in the hospital overnight to get IV fluids, as well as medicines to reduce nausea.

CHS vomiting goes away on its own about 2 days after someone stops using marijuana. But CHS almost always comes back if the person starts using marijuana again. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor and find out what’s going on.

Diagnosing teens with CHS involves an open discussion between families and health care providers. Doctors, nurses, and other caregivers are trained to be supportive and not to judge people. But they need all the facts to give patients the best treatment and get them well.

If your teen is diagnosed with CHS, acknowledge that it can be difficult to give up marijuana. Your teen may benefit from working with a behavioral health specialist. And if you also are using the drug, be prepared to stop too. There should be no access to marijuana in your house.

Parents, teens, and health care providers should work as a team to resolve the problem and get kids back on the track to good health.

Kate Cronan, MD

Dr. Cronan is a pediatric emergency attending physician at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del., and a medical editor at Nemours Children’s Health Media.