Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome: an update on the pathophysiology and management

Authors Abhilash Perisetti, Mahesh Gajendran, Chandra Shekhar Dasari, Pardeep Bansal, Muhammad Aziz, Sumant Inamdar, Benjamin Tharian, Hemant Goyal.


Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a form of functional gut-brain axis disorder characterized by bouts of episodic nausea and vomiting worsened by cannabis intake. It is considered as a variant of cyclical vomiting syndrome seen in cannabis users especially characterized by compulsive hot bathing/showers to relieve the symptoms. CHS was reported for the first time in 2004, and since then, an increasing number of cases have been reported. With cannabis use increasing throughout the world as the threshold for legalization becomes
lower, its user numbers are expected to rise over time. Despite this trend, a strict criterion for the diagnosis of CHS is lacking. Early recognition of CHS is essential to prevent complications related to severe volume depletion. The recent body of research recognizes that patients with CHS impose a burden on the healthcare systems. Understanding the pathophysiology of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) remains central in explaining the clinical features and potential drug targets for the treatment of CHS. The frequency and prevalence of CHS change in accordance with the doses of tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids in various formulations of cannabis. CHS is unique in presentation, because of the cannabis’s biphasic effect as anti-emetic at low doses and pro-emetic at higher doses, and the association with pathological hot water bathing. In this narrative review, we elaborate on the role of the ECS, its management, and the identification of gaps in our current knowledge of CHS to further enhance its understanding in the future.

Keywords Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, cannabis, marijuana, endocannabinoid system

Ann Gastroenterol 2020; 33 (6): 571-578

Review Articles