“Scared me to death:” Rare but terrifying illness affecting chronic marijuana users

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PORTLAND, Oregon — A rare but terrifying illness is affecting chronic marijuana users in the Portland area.

It’s called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, and it leaves those who develop symptoms suffering from bouts of uncontrollable vomiting that can last as long as 48 hours.

Christine Martinez, who said she used cannabis heavily to treat chronic pain, suddenly developed Cannabinoid Hyperemesis in July.

“I lost 17 pounds in one week. 25 in two weeks,” said Martinez. “It was comparable to when I had cancer.”

Doctors with the Oregon Poison Center said little is known about what causes Cannabinoid Hyperemesis, but it is typically seen in patients who have used cannabis daily for several years.

“It’s confusing and paradoxical for patients because cannabis use is thought oftentimes to be a relief of vomiting and nausea,” said Dr. Matt Noble, a medical toxicologist with the Oregon Poison Center.

Noble said emergency rooms don’t specifically track cases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, but said doctors have been seeing roughly three or four cases a month.

Noble said symptoms can return if patients continue using cannabis, and doctors typically advise discontinuation of marijuana use.

Martinez said she hasn’t smoked or consumed cannabis since she got sick.

“It scared me to death,” said Martinez. “Never again. I’m through with it.”

Noble said several studies are underway in an attempt to better understand the illness.


  • afreedomfighter88

    Cannabis causes gums to melt, Cannabis causes people to become booze hounds! Cannabis causes high blood sugar. Cannabis causes low blood sugar! Cannabis causes brain to swell. Cannabis causes brain to shrink. Cannabis growers cause drought! Cannabis causes ingrown toenails! Cannabis causes dogs and cats to sleep together (it’s TRUE, I’ve seen it!)

    Cannabis is still much safer than alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs which according to data from the Center for Disease Control’s kill over 650,000 US citizens annually, plus another 21,000 traffic fatalities directly attributed to alcohol and pharmaceutical drug intoxication.

    Legalize, regulate and TAX!

    • JJ79

      afreedomfighter88 – Agreed, TAX the s%&$ out of it like other states to help fund education.
      So this issue that these 3-4 people a month go to the ER for is pretty much the same as drinking until you cant any more and your body rids of it. Smoking too much marijuana at one time can cause you to vomit but you will not OD like you will on drugs or too much booze. This article is not news just another way to scare the over 50 crowd.

  • Charles

    I’ve been smoking since 1987 and don’t have any issues other than snacking before bed. lol at all the BS stories about what it will do to you, and the gateway lie is the worst. If your vomiting when you smoke then smoking IS NOT for you! LMAO@ a society that will say and do anything to keep freedom of choice from us.
    OMG potheads are going to eat all the twinkies and cup cakes, we have to stop them now!!!!!!lmao

  • malcolmkyle

    Just more reefer madness.

    * Marijuana has never, ever, directly killed anybody, not even small children.

    * FDA approved Prescription drugs kill some 200,000 Americans, including children, every year.

    * An estimated 770,000 people are either injured or die each year in hospitals from adverse drug events (ADEs), defined as an injury that has resulted from medical intervention and is related to a drug.

    * The number of deaths from drug poisonings in the U.S. has increased sixfold since 1980.

    * Fully 40% of these deaths, in 2008, involved the use of prescription opioid pain relievers, such as codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. The same figure for 1999 was 25%.

    * In 2008, drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone (these are the main ingredients in Oxycontin and Vicodin) landed 305,885 Americans in emergency rooms. This is more than double the figure for 2004, 144,644. Source: Samsha and the CDC, 2010

    * Overdose deaths involving oxycodone, hydrocodone, and synthetic narcotics such as fentanyl and propoxyphene now exceed deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Gojem

    How so? Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) doesn’t cause death. I assume it is safe to say you are a “conservative” since you prefaced your abhorrent statement toward “liberals”. Should the same fate befall “conservative” cannabis consumers? And what of patients in medical need?

    I hope someday for you to grow out and away from your ignorance and hatred of others.

  • Christopher Barker

    Isn’t it more likely that people are having a reaction to something. In/on the cannabis? A pesticide or additive used in the growing of the cannabis? A mold or fungus?
    The whole thing just doesnt sound right, but maybe it’s because of the decades of false propaganda associated with pot.

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