Mysterious Illness Tied To Marijuana Use


For more than two years, Lance Crowder was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting, and no local doctor could figure out why. Finally, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis had an idea.


Lance Crowder



“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” Crowder said.

The answer was cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. It’s caused by heavy, long-term use of various forms of marijuana. For unclear reasons, the nausea and vomiting are relieved by hot showers or baths.

“They’ll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” said Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.


Dr. Kennon Heard



He co-authored a study showing that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available, emergency room visits diagnoses for CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. In 2012, the state legalized recreational marijuana.

“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”

Outside of Colorado, when patients do end up in an emergency room, the diagnosis is often missed. Partly because doctors don’t know about CHS, and partly because patients don’t want to admit to using a substance that’s illegal.

CHS can lead to dehydration and kidney failure, but usually resolves within days of stopping drug use. That’s what happened with Crowder, who has been off all forms of marijuana for seven months.

“Now all kinds of ambition has come back. I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it, but better now than never,”he said.

CHS has only been recognized for about the past decade, and nobody knows exactly how many people suffer from it. But as more states move towards the legalization of marijuana, emergency room physicians like Dr. Heard are eager to make sure both doctors and patients have CHS on their radar.




  1. As a baby boomer, the internal dialogue remains the same. Alcohol is legal, which seemed like such hypocrisy in the sixties.
    All these decades later, I’ve seen the fate of regulars drinkers through the years, and it’s not pretty. Like so much else at the moment, it is insane that a plant which is showing so much promise for so many things medically should be stigmitized. Marijuana has been a life long friend, nor has it caused problems with my memory, still acute, my health, which is really good. I know that would not be true were I a drinker.

  2. G.Allen Bowman on

    It’s been estimated that over 56% of all emergency room patients are suffering from alcohol-related disease or injury in the billions of dollars a year. So a few people have a reaction to cannabis? Is this really newsworthy or is this just another way of trying to generate crap? I’m sure the number of these illnesses related to cannabis are a mere grain of sand on a very large Beach of those who use cannabis for medical purposes and for the greater good. A few dozen have a bad reaction to cannabis well people go to the emergency room for allergies to toothpaste more than complications due to cannabis is that mean we should stop brushing your teeth? There are more deaths related to drinking water than there are cannabis there are more deaths from sharpening pencils then cannabis. When are these idiot journalist going to get a real job and produce real articles instead of minutiae?

  3. Media hype, had to try and dig up anything possible to be negative…that’s all they could come up with??? Bravo then, score one more victory for legalization!! All the cures and relief to the hundreds of thousands greatly outweighs a few, possible not proven,bellyache symptoms.

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