What Is a Cannabis Allergy?
A cannabis allergy is a negative response in the body in the presence of cannabis that results in an adverse immune response. After someone's initial exposure to cannabis, an allergy can develop.
Recently, cannabis allergies have become more common. This could be due to the plant itself, but it is more likely due to cross-reactivity. With cross-reactivity, someone can have an allergic reaction or sensitivity in the presence of cannabis if they are allergic to a food with similar proteins to cannabis.
Such foods include:
If you have any allergies to fruits or vegetables, ask your doctor about cross-reactivity or look online for any cases between your specific allergy and cannabis.
If you are allergic to any of the above, try to avoid contact with cannabis or ask your doctor for more information before consuming cannabis.
What Is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), also known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, is a condition that occurs in long-term cannabis users. This condition can result in reoccurring episodes of belly pain, vomiting, extreme nausea, and dehydration.
Once the person reaches the hyperemetic phase, the vomiting becomes more severe and will continue to worsen until the person ceases cannabis use completely.
As the recovery phase begins, these symptoms will begin to improve, but there will always be the chance that they could return if the person resumes their cannabis use.
How Common Is CHS?
With a drastic increase in cannabis users over the past few years, more CHS cases have started to pop up as well.
In one study, Emergency Department patients were surveyed from a public hospital. Out of the 155 people who smoked 20 or more days a month, 32.9% had experienced CHS.
Anyone who heavily uses cannabis could experience CHS at any point, but typically CHS patients are between the ages of 18 and 40.
What Causes CHS?
Cannabis itself and its side effects are still being studied today, currently leaving us with more questions than answers.
What we do know is that when the digestive system is triggered by the influence of cannabis, CHS can present itself with extreme nausea, vomiting, or belly pain.
While cannabis can have beneficial effects in preventing nausea and vomiting, these effects decrease with repeated drug use. Receptors in the brain eventually stop responding in the same manner that they once did after consistent cannabis use.
What Are the Symptoms of CHS?
With CHS, there are three stages of symptoms: the prodromal phase, the hyperemetic phase, and the recovery phase.
The first stage, the prodromal phase, presents itself with symptoms such as nausea and abdominal pain that can last for months or even years. This phase is typically seen in adults that have frequently used cannabis since they were teenagers.
Next comes the hyperemetic phase which lasts anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. It commonly consists of persistent nausea and vomiting. People with this condition can vomit as much as five times in just one hour and suffer from continued recurring episodes. Fluid loss and weight loss are two concerns that worsen during this phase.
This is usually when people with CHS decide to stop their cannabis intake completely to prevent any further symptoms from surfacing.
The recovery phase begins after the person with CHS stops using cannabis. Symptoms from the prior phases slowly lessen until they finally disappear. This process can take anywhere from days to months.
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent CHS from coming back. Someone who may have previously suffered from CHS may never have issues with cannabis again, but others may still continue to suffer from CHS with continued cannabis use.
How Is CHS Diagnosed?
CHS can be diagnosed by a doctor based on a person's symptoms, especially if they mention those symptoms together with frequent cannabis intake.
From there, they will examine for how long and how often that person has consumed cannabis. They might then ask about rapid weight or fluid loss, possible nausea or vomiting, and what steps the patient has already taken to relieve their symptoms.
For further testing, a doctor may order blood tests, a CT scan, or an MRI to rule out any other possible diagnoses. If the patient is female, they may also order a pregnancy test to rule out that cause for the nausea and vomiting.
If the doctor suspects the patient may have CHS, they may initiate provocation testing to confirm or deny their suspicions.
In other states or parts of the world where cannabis is illegal, this condition can be more difficult to diagnose. Provocation testing is usually done in clinical settings, but in states where cannabis is not legalized, this isn't an option.
If left untreated, CHS can continue to worsen and cause either temporary or permanent health complications. Stop cannabis use and talk to your doctor if you start to experience these symptoms.
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