Fatal Cases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Reports of Fatal Cases. – PubMed – NCBI – J Forensic Sci. – May 2018

Too many people insist that “no one has ever died from cannabis poisoning” but that’s not entirely true:

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is one of the more clinically challenging effects of cannabis consumption.

It is characterized by cyclic attacks of nausea and vomiting in chronic cannabinoid users and learned behavior of compulsive hot bathing.

It turns out that hot bathing is the only thing that seems to help people who get stuck in cycling vomiting.  

The deaths of a 27-year-old female, a 27-year-old male, and a 31-year-old male with a history of CHS are reported.

The decedents had a history of cyclical nausea and vomiting, chronic cannabinoid use and negative laboratory, radiological and endoscopic findings.

All presented to the emergency department with nausea and vomiting in the days preceding death and were treated symptomatically.

Toxicological analysis revealed tetrahydrocannabinol in postmortem blood.

The cause of death of two of the three cases was attributed to CHS.

CHS was appreciated in the third case but was not the cause of death.

These three cases demonstrate the importance of recognizing CHS as a potential cause or contributing factor to death in cannabinoid user.

Of course, this is extremely rare if only 3 cases of death have been found in all the decades of people smoking marijuana, legal or illegal.

Still, it’s good to know this can happen so when it does, we and/or our doctors know what the problem is.

5 thoughts on “Fatal Cases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Very interesting! But the hypoglycemia (essentially starvation) could have resulted from not being able to keep any food down. I’ve read about this syndrome before elsewhere and it sounds like it only happens to heavy, consistent smokers.

      Still, it’s the cannabis that causes the constant vomiting, which can cause death in various ways.

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  1. Shuree Jacquelyn Solbrack

    I’ve known for about 10 years that I have this. Noticed that when I quit smoking weed, it went away, especially the morning nausea, which is very pronounced during chronic smoking. Before the advent of marijuana legalization, I would have called this “cyclical vomiting syndrome”. For me, the non-stop vomiting (dry-heaving) could last morning, noon, night (no relief). It is a battle from which you emerge shell-shocked and complete loss of morale. I resort to begging God, similar to a severe pain situation. Every 3-5 years (since the age of about 16), I would enter into a week long non-stop cycle of retching/vomiting. Unreal.

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    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Yours is certainly an “interesting” experience – how awful! I’m curious as to what doctors told you about it because it’s definitely a medical emergency when you can’t hold down anything. The lack of fluids over one week would drastically dehydrate you and could easily kill you.

      You say it stopped when you quit smoking weed, but how long does it take to stop vomiting after you stop? It’s a cruel irony that weed is usually a cure for nausea, but in this case becomes the cause.

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