Rare Marijuana Side Effects

Though I have found myself writing a lot of these lately, I have here yet another one. A reaction to someone else’s article on the subject of marijuana. Though I let the vast majority of these articles slide (few venture into territory that I have not already covered), this one is alarmist enough to justify some analysis. And it also highlights a new problem that I had not yet come across.

So, let’s begin. Written by Julia Naftulin for Insider, the article (titled Rare marijuana side effects, from uncontrollable vomiting to lung damage) was published on June 12th, 2021.

 

https://www.insider.com/rare-marijuana-side-effects-vomiting-lung-damage-psychosis-2021-6

When it comes to smoking cannabis, experiences like blood-shot eyes, getting the munchies, and an impaired sense of time are near-universal.

But for a small subset of the population, using cannabis creates unwanted side effects, either from the weed itself or the method used to consume it.

These effects are still being studied and little conclusive research exists due to cannabis’ federal illegal status.

 

So far, so good. Though, I admit that it be nice if some of these journalists would be less matter-of-fact when reporting on the illegality of marijuana hampering research. I get it, it is just a part of how things are. But that does not mean that it isn’t idiotic. Particularly with what is to follow this sentence.

But, that is just my critique.

 

A mysterious syndrome causes regular weed users to endure unrelenting nausea

Cannabis researchers are currently studying cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, a rare disorder that affects some frequent cannabis users, Insider previously reported.

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, usually sets in when a person is in their thirties and is characterized by vomiting and nausea.

People who have been diagnosed with CHS previously told Insider it felt like a flip was switched on them: One day they were fine with the normal cannabis consumption, and the next they were violently vomiting hours after smoking.

The only known way to treat CHS is to quit cannabis altogether.

 

This was the main reason I decided to analyze this article as I have never heard of CHS before now. And I still don’t know anything about it, as what you see is the depth in which this article bothers to cover the illness. We’re barely skin deep!

So let’s dig.

 

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting. It is rare and only occurs in daily long-term users of marijuana.

Marijuana has several active substances. These include THC and related chemicals. These substances bind to molecules found in the brain. That causes the drug “high” and other effects that users feel.

Your digestive tract also has a number of molecules that bind to THC and related substances. So marijuana also affects the digestive tract. For example, the drug can change the time it takes the stomach to empty. It also affects the esophageal sphincter. That’s the tight band of muscle that opens and closes to let food from the esophagus into the stomach. Long-term marijuana use can change the way the affected molecules respond and lead to the symptoms of CHS.

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/cannabinoid-hyperemesis-syndrome.html

 

I would assume that by molecules, the source article is referring to receptors of the endocannabinoid system in layman’s terms. An understandable approach to take in terms of education on this topic.

While I looked at a few sources for information, all seem to share the sentiment of this one. That is to say that this disorder is considered to be rare, and only affects chronic users of marijuana. And the solution is indeed permanent abstinence from marijuana.

 

To fully get better, you need to stop using marijuana all together. Some people may get help from drug rehab programs to help them quit. Cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy can also help. If you stop using marijuana, your symptoms should not come back.

What are possible complications of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

Very severe, prolonged vomiting may lead to dehydration. It may also lead to electrolyte problems in your blood. If untreated, these can cause rare complications such as:

  • Muscle spasms or weakness
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Shock
  • In very rare cases, brain swelling (cerebral edema)

Your healthcare team will quickly work to fix any dehydration or electrolyte problems. Doing so can help prevent these problems.

What can I do to prevent cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

You can prevent CHS by not using marijuana in any form. You may not want to believe that marijuana may be the underlying cause of your symptoms. That may be because you have used it for many years without having any problems. The syndrome may take several years to develop. The drug may help prevent nausea in new users who don’t use it often. But people with CHS need to completely stop using it. If they don’t, their symptoms will likely come back.

 

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/cannabinoid-hyperemesis-syndrome.html

 

While the complications of ignoring the condition are indeed dire and should be heeded, the condition itself, fortunately, seems to be quite rare. Something that isn’t exactly clear in the original article that I quoted from. A tact that seems far more concerned with scaring than informing. 

I really wish the media would quit doing this. It may work on ageing adult parents, but teens and kids can see this nonsense from a mile away. And unlike me, they likely won’t bother doing research to confirm (or debunk) these arguments. They will just assume they are being lied to, and likely have to learn the hard way.

Just say no . . . to drug propaganda.

 

https://www.vox.com/2015/12/22/10621810/internet-marijuana-legalization-drugs

Having gotten that off my chest once more, I will now go into some speculation. Though this is not well understood (much like the endocannabinoid system itself), I have to wonder if this is yet another effect of increasing THC potency in modern strains. A case of the body being able to handle it until . . . it just can’t anymore.

But that is just layman speculation. For all we know, it could also be one of the hundreds of other cannabinoids aside from THC and CBD that we don’t yet know anything about. Something we don’t know, may I again reminds you, because of panicked and biased drug prohibition laws.

However, I’m done with my soap box speech. On to the rest of the Insider article.

 

Some weed users have reported psychosis

For people with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, consuming cannabis could lead to a psychotic break, current research suggests.

A March 2019 study suggests using high-potency cannabis with more than 10% THC could also cause psychosis.

The researchers were unable to prove cannabis directly caused psychosis, since they didn’t follow users from the first time they ever used cannabis.

But they observed that cannabis users in European cities where high-potency weed is more available were more likely to report a first-ever psychotic episode.

 

The first paragraph of the studies summary reads thus:

 

Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of later psychotic disorder but whether it affects incidence of the disorder remains unclear. We aimed to identify patterns of cannabis use with the strongest effect on odds of psychotic disorder across Europe and explore whether differences in such patterns contribute to variations in the incidence rates of psychotic disorder.

https://www.thelancet.com/article/S2215-0366(19)30048-3/fulltext

The underlining slash bolding was on my part, to emphasize that the study authors had much broader intentions than repeating what is already established. It was less about proving than it is about looking for patterns in usage corresponding to instances of psychiatric episodes.

And aside from that, this topic has been well explored already by Gary Wenk Ph. D in this Psychology Today article. His write-up is such a breath of fresh air on the subject matter that it has become my go if this comes up (after exploring it HERE).

We can now move on to the last paragraph of the insider article (which concerns vaping).

 

Vaping cannabis has led to permanent lung damage in some users

Another rare side effect of cannabis involves a particular method of ingesting it, vaping, rather than the substance itself.

In 2019, a spate of vaping-related illnesses popped up around the United States, with hundreds of people being hospitalized due to vaping-related lung injuries, Insider previously reported.

The trend led health officials to investigate ingredients in both THC and nicotine-containing devices. They found certain additives in vape “juice,” like vitamin E acetate and glycerin, could damage a person’s lungs and cause symptoms like chronic coughing, shortness of breath, and nausea.

Now, the illness is referred to as EVALI, or e-cigarette and vape-associated lung injury.

 

And, thus concludes the article.

The way that most governments have reactively responded to the unethical actions that drove the growth of the vaping industry has annoyed me for some time now. Though they were viewed and sold as largely harmless smoking cessation tools by most people for many years, the industry finally seems to be having its social media-esk reckoning. Though not before hooking a whole new generation on nicotine. Not to mention being the cause of a still growing number of illnesses and injuries relating to the almost entirely unregulated nature of the vaping marketplace. A tainted market that has now at times become entangled with the newly budding legal marijuana market as companies (and users) look to alternatives to smoking.

While my own personal advice would be not to vape THC, CBD or anything else period, that is just me. For those that do vape, I suppose the best you can do is try to ensure that you know what you are paying for. Both in terms of the other ingredients in the juice, and in terms of the THC content of the product. Being the unregulated nature if the industry, this could involve some research into the products you are using. Some investigative news organization or research entity is bound to have checked the legitimacy of the label claims at some point.

For those that doubt the prospect of a company violating the trust of its customers that much, consider what the supplement industry has been getting away with for decades.

On the whole, we believe them. Supplements are a $30 billion industry in the US. Recent surveys suggest that 52 percent of Americans take at least one supplement—and 10 percent take four or more. But should we? Are we healthier, smarter, stronger, or in any way better off because of these daily doses?

The answer is likely no. Most supplements have little to no data to suggest that they’re effective, let alone safe. They’re often backed by tenuous studies in rodents and petri dishes or tiny batches of people. And the industry is rife with hype and wishful thinking—even the evidence for multivitamins isn’t solid. There are also outright deadly scams. What’s more, the industry operates with virtually no oversight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/02/supplements-are-a-30-billion-racket-heres-what-experts-actually-recommend/

 

My personal viewpoint on vaping is quite regimented in comparison to my views on everything else. I know . . . “Okay boomer!”. More like “Okay Milliniel!”, but nonetheless. 

In terms of vaping as a form of relaxation (in the same way that others smoke, or drink alcohol), I won’t ever attempt to stand in your way. It’s not great, but such is the tax of many things that make life bearable.

And the same goes for those that vape THC. Having said that, however, given the many other options increasingly available on the legal edibles and drinkables market, the choice certainly perplexes me. One of my local dispensaries alone has infused cola, vanilla rooibos (red) tea, gummies and many other options that are much preferable to either smoking or vaping (just watch the dose!). However, to each their own.

In closing, the insider article is yet another example of why it is often pertinent to fact-check the media when it comes to controversial and fairly complex topics such as marijuana. Though the issue is not always willfully perpetuated mistruths, perpetuated misunderstandings can be just as damaging.

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