Denver Health Doctors Warn About Cannabis Disease in Missoulian Article

Cannabinoid hypermesis syndrome (CHS) was first reported in Australia in 2004, and it's in the news again after a Missoulian article came out about the disease this month.

CHS causes recurring nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Symptoms have reportedly improved after patients take a hot shower or bath or stop using cannabis.

Two doctors from Denver Health Medical Center were quoted in the article, which has been circulated by the AP and other national news outlets.

"You can think of it as a new or emerging disease," said Dr. Eric Lavona, chief of emergency medicine at Denver Health. In the article he cautions his colleagues to "be careful not to trivialize [CHS]. These folks are really suffering. They can get pretty sick. They vomit like crazy and make frequent emergency department visits because they just can't stop vomiting.”

Despite his warning, the condition is vary rare. According to a clinical study conducted in 2011, early symptoms can appear after three years of smoking weed, but they don't become severe until after a decade.

Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, an emergency-medicine doctor with Denver Health, was also quoted in the article. According to Sorensen, "The average patient with the syndrome made five visits to stand-alone clinics [the article didn't specify a time frame], seven trips to emergency departments and was hospitalized three or more times."

Messages left by Westword with Denver Health were not returned.

With recreational marijuana becoming legal in more states, emergency rooms could see an increase in visits by patients with CHS. Lavona told the Missoulian he knows of about fifty people who have the syndrome at any given time.

“We see it all the time in several patients a week in our emergency department, and all the emergency departments around Denver,” he told the Missoulian. “It takes time for the medical community to learn about it and recognize it. But once you're familiar with the disease, you're not likely to misdiagnose it.”

In 2014, High Times published an article about CHS and reported that patients who have CHS are often consuming marijuana in hopes that it will cure nausea.

"CHS is a very rare syndrome and is easily cured by stopping the consumption of cannabis," the High Times reports. "This should not, by any means, hurt marijuana's reputation for being the safest recreational drug around, but people need to be aware of the syndrome's existence."
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.