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Repeated Vomiting From Marijuana Use: Taking Care of Yourself

People who use the drug marijuana (cannabis) for a long time can develop vomiting that won't stop, nausea, and belly pain. The medical name for this is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). 

Someone with CHS can get dehydrated and usually needs to stay overnight in the hospital for treatment with IV fluids and sometimes medicines. Now that you have been treated, the health care team feels it's safe for you to go home.

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  • The best way to treat CHS is to stop using marijuana products. It can take a few days or sometimes longer for symptoms to fully clear up. Be aware that if you use marijuana again in any form, the symptoms of CHS probably will come back.

  • Quitting marijuana after long-term use can be very hard to do on your own. Getting help from a professional can help you stay on track. To get started:

    • Talk with your health care provider.

    • Think about calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at (800) 662-HELP (4357). It's free and confidential.

  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated:

    • Good choices include water, diluted juice, soup, or ice pops.

    • Avoid carbonated drinks (like soda) and drinks with caffeine (like coffee and caffeinated black or green teas).

  • Take warm baths and showers to help ease nausea. But don't stay in a warm bath/shower for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Too much heat can make dehydration worse. 

  • Only take medicine for CHS if your health care provider recommended it. Ask about capsaicin cream, which can be bought over the counter (without a prescription). It can help ease symptoms when applied to the abdomen (around the belly button). It is safe and easy to use, but sometimes it can make skin burn or itch.

  • Follow your health care provider's advice about when you should return to school or work.

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  • can't keep liquids down

  • haven't peed in more than 12 hours 

  • have muscle spasms or weakness

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  • vomit bright green (bile) or red/brown (blood-tinged) liquid

  • are dehydrated; signs include dizziness, drowsiness, and peeing less

  • feel very tired or exhausted

  • have chest pain or heart palpitations (when your heart beats fast, hard, or feels like it skips a beat)

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How does long-term marijuana use cause vomiting? The exact cause of CHS isn't clear. Experts are studying how long-term marijuana use can affect different parts of the body. For example, the brain and the digestive tract can both play a role. When marijuana is first used, it can have an anti-nausea effect by activating certain parts of the brain. But long-term use can slow down digestion, which can then lead to nausea and vomiting.

What problems can cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome cause? Dehydration is the main problem. Severe dehydration can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes (salt and other minerals) in the blood.

Dehydration that is not treated can cause:

  • muscle spasms

  • kidney failure

  • heart rhythm problems

  • extreme tiredness

  • loss of consciousness or fainting

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