Allergic to Cannabis
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is only about a decade old, but doctors still don’t know exactly what causes it.
In fact, doctors sometimes have difficulty recognizing a patient with an allergy to cannabis, but the syndrome’s effects are quite severe.
At Yale’s Primary Care Residency Program, one 22-year-old woman arrived in the ER vomiting uncontrollably. Her nausea was so extreme, it didn’t ease with antiemetic medication.
She’d suffered these bouts of vomiting sporadically for about a year, spending many sleepless nights hunched over a basin in the ER while confused doctors attempted a diagnosis.
She didn’t exhibit any of the gastrointestinal complaints that usually accompany a stomach virus or food poisoning.
The physicians conducted CT scans, a pregnancy test, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and even screenings for liver or kidney disease, but the results were all clear.
There was, however, one clue: while the nausea and vomiting didn’t respond to any medication, the patient did receive some relief when she took a hot shower.
In fact, the patient told the doctor that she had been compulsively showering to obtain relief.
Later that night, stumped and concerned, a young doctor who had been treating the woman decided to Google the main symptoms.
After some searching, she discovered a 2004 report published by a South Australian psychiatrist who had observed the sudden onset of cyclical vomiting, extreme nausea, and obsessive showering among 19 long-term chronic marijuana smokers.
After she discovered that her patient had been a regular marijuana smoker for a number of years, the Yale doctor took the only advice the literature gave her: she told her vomiting patient to stop smoking weed.
A 2011 report notes that the appearance of the mysterious marijuana allergy coincides with an increased national rate of marijuana consumption (2.6 million new users each year in the U.S.).
While extreme nausea and vomiting are its most common symptoms, marijuana allergies can trigger responses as severe as anaphylactic shock.
Those allergic to cannabis can present a variety of symptoms ranging from asthma and eczema to conjunctivitis and anaphylaxis, according to Dr. Thad Ocampo and Dr. Tonya Rans, the authors of a paper published in January week by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.