Dear Old Hippie: First, I love your column! Keep it up!
Now for my question: has it been shown, or is it possible for chronic marijuana use to worsen or cause nausea, perhaps as a withdrawal symptom?
Back story: I am a patient with Crohn’s disease, MMJ helps me immensely for pain and nausea, and I told my doctor that. He told me that habitual use of marijuana could cause the nausea I am often having, even though MMJ treats it effectively, and my internet detective skills are lacking (searching for “marijuana” and “nausea” gives nothing but how effective it is at treating!).
— D. from DeKalb
A: Thanks for the kind words! I do not claim to be a doctor, or even a mind reader, but I strongly suspect that your doctor — presumably a gastroenterology specialist — had Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome in mind. This extremely rare condition involves a cycle of nausea, vomiting, and the need to take constant hot showers (go figure). A paper by Budhraja, Narang, and Azeez was published a few years ago in Practical Gastroenterology proudly announcing they had found only the third known case in the United States.
This paper may be significant to your case because it uses that exact phrase “habitual marijuana use” that your doctor quoted. But what’s also significant is that the authors don’t mention any further important details, such as what kind and how much marijuana the patient was actually using (i.e. was this a heavy stoner, a medical marijuana patient, or a light recreational user?), which would be de rigeur in any typical peer-reviewed article that wasn’t about “the evil weed”.
Anyway, if that was the kind of nausea your doctor was thinking of, he hasn’t done his homework, only skimmed the headlines 🙂 Even given the terms “Crohn’s Disease” and “nausea“, the anti-MMJ crowd were unable to come up with much in the negative direction other than “don’t do it, there are probably better (read: more expensive pharmaceutical) drugs to use”.
Now, there is an acute nausea condition that can be caused by simply ingesting too much cannabis too quickly, but that’s not likely to be a factor in your case, since you’re a regular medical user and probably not “bingeing”.
Let’s look at the good news. Cannabis, used medically and responsibly, is not only damn good against nausea in general but also very effective against Crohn’s Disease. In fact, there’s some good evidence that it can not only help with Crohn’s symptoms but actually treat it on the macro level.
So if you’re getting relief from Crohn’s (a nasty illness by all accounts) by using medical marijuana, the only “withdrawal symptoms” you’re likely to get would be feeling the bad effects of your disease if you stopped your treatment. Meanwhile, if your nausea isn’t fully contained, you might want to experiment with mixing different strains, since THC works against nausea and CBD works against pain, and they’re rarely found at ideal ratios in the same plant.
Old Hippie is a MMJ patient living somewhere in the wilds of California whose only link with the real world is a 420 MHz radio. He blogs on BeyondChronic.com and vapes on Sour Diesel.
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