A Third of Heavy Pot Users Suffer Severe Nausea — and They’ve All Landed on the Same Weird Solution


Marijuana is developing quite the reputation for relieving pain without the negative aspects of opioids and other medications, such as addiction or death by overdose. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. A New York Times report last week brings to light one particularly painful and debilitating set of consequences associated too much pot use.

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition where heavy marijuana users (those who smoke 20 times a month or more) are frequently wracked with bouts of intense abdominal pain, along with severe nausea and vomiting. And the vast majority of people who experience these symptoms all mysteriously arrive at the same solution.

CHS is still poorly understood, but researchers are making strides in identifying and characterizing its origins. A new study by Joseph Habboushe, an emergency medicine professor at New York University Langone/Bellevue Medical Center, suggests that perhaps one-third of the 8.3 million heavy users in the U.S. experience CHS. And there’s one thing almost all of them have in common: Their incessant need for hot showers.

In a separate study, Cecilia Sorensen, a physician at the University of Colorado Hospital at the Anschutz medical campus in Aurora, and her colleagues found that about 97.5 percent of the participants in their study used hot showers to alleviate CHS symptoms. “As a clinician in the emergency room, when I have a patient who has CHS, I ask them if they take a lot of hot showers, and the reaction is instantly like, ‘how did you know?!’ It’s become a useful diagnostic for CHS,” she says.

Chances are good you love a hot shower too. They can be soothing, immeasurably comfortable, and a great way to urge your muscles to relax. But when it comes to CHS, hot showers provide a much more specific and intense effect: a nearly complete reduction of bodily pain and nausea. Many patients report those symptoms quickly coming back once the shower is over or the hot water goes out.

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