We had never heard of marijuana causing nausea or vomiting and were only familiar with its various health benefits.
CHS causes abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and the vomiting can result in dehydration.
This dehydration can lead to a type of kidney failure that experts refer to as cannabinoid hyperemesis acute renal failure, and in severe cases, it can even result in death. The reason why I know so much about this is that it happened to my son.
My first introduction to CHS was in April 2018, when my 17-year-old son Brian was diagnosed at an emergency room (ER) in Indianapolis.
Brian had been living with his father at the time, and he called me because he had been vomiting for 3 days. When I went to pick him up to take him to the ER, we had to stop about five times on the way so that he could vomit.
He began to complain of numbness and tingling in his face during the ride, which led me to become more concerned. We arrived at the ER, and while registering, he continued to vomit. He was finding it difficult to speak, and his muscles became contracted. For a moment, I thought that he was having a seizure or a stroke.
While I was moving my car, the staff took Brian to a room, which they directed me to on my return. When I arrived, there were three nurses and a doctor in the room already. Brian had an oxygen mask on, they were putting an IV in each arm, and they had already taken blood to send to the lab.
The doctor said that the muscle contraction was due to an anxiety attack and that Brian was severely dehydrated. Another doctor asked Brian if he smoked marijuana, and he said that he did. She was the one who made the diagnosis of CHS.
The team gave Brian both Haldol and Phenergan, which helped his vomiting improve. The blood work results came back, showing that his kidneys were failing and that all of his levels were out of the normal range. As a result, the doctor decided to admit Brian to the hospital so that they could continue to monitor his blood work.
His levels slowly improved overnight, and he was released after 24 hours. Brian agreed to quit smoking until he was able to see a gastroenterologist, which was scheduled for 45 days after his release.
We had never heard of marijuana causing nausea or vomiting and were only familiar with its various health benefits, so we did not believe that CHS was what Brian had.
He was not a daily smoker, and he had been smoking on and off for about 3 years before he developed symptoms. Brian was also experiencing symptoms even after he had quit smoking, which caused us to doubt the diagnosis further.
However, the gastroenterologist agreed with the CHS diagnosis and ordered more blood work. In the meantime, Brian began using marijuana again, and for several weeks, he did not have any symptoms at all.
In October 2018, Brian began vomiting again, and I decided to take him to the ER. I told the doctors about the CHS diagnosis, and tests revealed that his kidneys were shutting down once more.
The doctor decided that Brian needed to be at a children's hospital to receive specialized care. They agreed with the CHS diagnosis and ordered monitoring of his levels, which improved with the rehydration again.
Brian went back on his depression medication, and the doctor recommended counseling. There is a history of depression in our family, and Brian had developed it during preadolescence.
The team released Brian and told us to follow up with his pediatrician as necessary.