SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Local doctors are seeing an uptick in a rare illness caused by chronic marijuana use. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) causes people to become violently ill, and they’re starting to fill up emergency rooms across the area.
For many, pot is therapeutic — a form of pain management.
“Inflammation relief, also as a sleep aid,” said one Sacramento marijuana user.
But, doctors say too much of it is actually making pot smokers sick.
“They’re a wreck,” said UC Davis ER doctor Nick Sawyer.
It was first diagnosed in 2004, but since recreational of pot became legal in California, UC Davis emergency room Dr. Nick Sawyer says patients with CHS are pouring into emergency rooms at high rates.
“I’m seeing this two to three times a week,” he said.
So, what are the symptoms of CHS? Doctors say the telltale signs are severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
“They’re screaming and actively vomiting and it’s unnerving to us,” he said.
One Sacramento man says his family friend suffered from CHS awhile back.
“It was too much and they had nausea, vomiting. They thought the world was going to end,” he said.
The sickness typically stems from the prolonged use of pot, about three to five times a day for months or years. It’s diagnosed through a process of elimination when tests for other possible illnesses come up negative. Doctors say there’s still a lot of unknowns.
“Who gets it and who doesn’t, whether it’s their genes, whether it’s environmental. We don’t know yet,” said Dr. Sawyer.
Dr. Sawyer says his patients often don’t want to believe marijuana is at the root of their illness, especially when he tells them the only way to treat it for good is to quit using marijuana completely.
A recently legalized drug now sending people to the ER and doctors preparing to see a lot more patients sick from pot.
“I suspect that we’re going to see a lot more of it,” said Dr. Sawyer.
So far, every case Dr. Sawyer has treated has been associated with smoking marijuana, not with edibles or cannabis oil. He also says as these cases continue to climb, he thinks all doctors will be trained on how to educate their patients about the risks of too much marijuana.