Navigating the Intricacies of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS): Understanding the Unseen Challenges


As the utilization of cannabis transcends traditional boundaries, encompassing medical treatments, recreational indulgence, and wellness pursuits, the profound impact of THC and cannabinoids on gastrointestinal physiology is coming to light.

This evolution has been accompanied by a concerning uptick in cases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), characterized by distressing bouts of nausea and vomiting with varying degrees of severity.

The diagnostic puzzle posed by CHS is compounded by the ubiquitous nature of gastrointestinal complaints in emergency departments globally, making it arduous to differentiate CHS from a myriad of potential causes of nausea and vomiting that extend beyond gastrointestinal origins.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

In clinical practice, the misapplication and overdiagnosis of CHS have surfaced as significant hurdles, contributing to unnecessary healthcare costs and prolonged discomfort for patients. The enigmatic nature of nausea and vomiting, while often associated with gastrointestinal maladies, can signal a broad spectrum of underlying conditions spanning infectious, cardiac, neurological, obstetric, and urological realms.


With the expanding acceptance and legalization of cannabis worldwide, healthcare providers face a crucial imperative to accurately identify CHS amidst a sea of similar clinical presentations. The ramifications of misdiagnosing CHS can extend far beyond financial burdens, potentially obstructing the timely recognition of life-threatening conditions and compromising the quality of care and life for affected individuals.

Unveiling the Complexities of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Mechanisms Underlying CHS

Delving into the intricate interplay between the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and gastrointestinal function unveils a delicate equilibrium within the human body. While cannabis is reputed for its antiemetic properties, paradoxical reactions leading to heightened nausea and vomiting in select individuals pose a perplexing conundrum.


The multifaceted triggers of CHS are shrouded in mystery, with hypotheses outlining possible mechanisms, including CB1 receptor overstimulation, genetic variations in receptors and metabolic enzymes, accumulation of cannabinoids in fatty tissues, autonomic dysregulation, gut-brain axis disturbances, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction, and altered mitochondrial function.

In shedding light on the complexities of CHS, healthcare providers are empowered to navigate the diagnostic challenges, forge accurate identifications, and deliver tailored management strategies that uphold the well-being and health outcomes of patients grappling with this enigmatic syndrome.

Deciphering the Diagnostic Conundrum: Understanding CHS with Rome IV Framework

The Rome Foundation (Rome IV) has emerged as a beacon of clarity in the labyrinth of diagnosing Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), categorizing it as a variant of cyclical vomiting syndrome under the umbrella of functional gut-brain disorders. With the absence of definitive biomarkers, the diagnostic journey for CHS predominantly revolves around the process of exclusion.


Key clinical features shared by both CHS and cyclical vomiting syndrome include a sudden onset of nausea and vomiting accompanied by abdominal discomfort. The trajectory of CHS unfolds through distinct phases:

Wellness Phase

An interval free of symptoms

Prodromal Phase

A precursor stage akin to migraine symptoms, marked by nausea, fatigue, sensory sensitivity, and abdominal distress

Emetic Phase

Intense bouts of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dehydration, and abdominal pain

Recovery Phase

Symptoms wane, signaling a return to the wellness phase

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) and Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)

Distinguishing CHS from cyclical vomiting syndrome hinges on the prolonged cannabis use preceding symptom onset (>6 months) and symptom resolution upon cessation of cannabis consumption. Patients often turn to cannabis as a self-remedy for nausea, inadvertently exacerbating their condition.


Notably, a hallmark behavior observed in CHS cases is the propensity for pathologic hot bathing or showering. This behavior stands out as a prevalent diagnostic hallmark of CHS. While not exclusive to individuals with CHS, the act of hot bathing or showering manifests in approximately 80-90% of patients with this condition.

Interestingly, patients dealing with Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) also frequently mention this behavior. Yet, with the evolving comprehension of CHS, there is a likelihood that some cases attributed to CVS might actually be undiagnosed instances of CHS, marking it as pathognomonic. This underscores the critical need to correlate symptoms with cannabis consumption, ruling out overlapping diagnoses that could be mistaken for CVS.

Unveiling the Therapeutic Potential of Hot Showers in CHS Symptom Management

Hot showers have emerged as an intriguing phenomenon in assuaging the symptoms of Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), offering a peculiar yet effective avenue for relief. While the precise physiological mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon continue to be explored, several theories shed light on why hot showers might hold therapeutic value for CHS patients.


Distraction Therapy

The comforting sensation of heat from a shower can act as a potent distractor, diverting attention away from the discomfort of nausea and vomiting. By immersing themselves in the warmth enveloping their body, individuals experiencing CHS symptoms may find temporary solace amidst physical distress, fostering a psychological respite.

TRPV1 Receptor Stimulation

Heat exposure from hot showers may stimulate the transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1) receptors on sensory nerve endings in the skin. Activation of these receptors by the shower-induced warmth could trigger neural responses that modulate pain perception and sensory input, potentially influencing the transmission of signals related to nausea and vomiting pathways in the brain. This mechanism implies that the analgesic and sensory effects of TRPV1 receptor activation might contribute to the relief experienced during hot showers for CHS patients.

Vasodilatory Effects

The vasodilation induced by heat exposure in hot showers can enhance peripheral blood vessel dilation, promoting improved circulation. This increased blood flow to the skin and peripheral tissues may help shift blood volume away from the gastrointestinal tract, potentially alleviating nausea and vomiting symptoms by reducing visceral hypersensitivity and enhancing overall comfort levels.

Furthermore, heat-induced vasodilation might facilitate toxin elimination through the skin, aiding in the detoxification process and potentially contributing to symptom improvement in individuals with CHS.


While ongoing research is necessary to unravel the intricate mechanisms through which hot showers alleviate CHS symptoms, the interplay between distraction therapy, TRPV1 receptor stimulation, and vasodilation offers compelling insights into the therapeutic potential of this unconventional yet promising approach in managing the manifestations of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.

Unveiling Treatment Strategies for Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)

Addressing Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) requires a nuanced approach due to its intricate nature and the ongoing quest to comprehend its underlying mechanisms. While the cornerstone of CHS management revolves around discontinuing cannabis use, a range of supportive and symptomatic treatments can play a pivotal role in alleviating the challenging symptoms associated with this condition.


Despite the scarcity of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on optimal treatment approaches for CHS, a holistic care plan can significantly enhance patient outcomes and well-being.

Exploring Effective Treatment Modalities

Cannabis Cessation

The fundamental and definitive treatment for CHS involves ceasing cannabis consumption. Patients must be informed that habitual cannabis use can result in cannabinoid accumulation in adipose tissue, leading to prolonged or recurrent symptoms that may take weeks to completely resolve. Preventing a recurrence necessitates complete abstinence to facilitate recovery.

Supportive Care with Fluid and Electrolyte Replacement


The profuse vomiting and potential dehydration inherent in CHS often mandate intravenous fluids administration to correct electrolyte imbalances and sustain hydration levels. Adequate fluid resuscitation is crucial during the acute phase of CHS to avert complications and ensure physiological stability.

Antiemetic Therapy

While conventional antiemetic medications like serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonists and dopamine antagonists can be prescribed to manage nausea and vomiting in CHS patients, their efficacy in CHS cases is limited. These therapies may offer transient relief but are not comprehensive solutions for CHS symptomatology.

Topical Capsaicin Cream


In select cases, topical application of capsaicin cream on the abdomen has demonstrated promise in alleviating CHS symptoms. Capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers, acts on TRPV1 receptors, potentially modulating gastrointestinal sensory pathways and altering intestinal blood flow to provide relief from nausea and vomiting.

Behavioral Interventions

Incorporating cognitive-behavioral therapies encompassing stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and coping strategies can complement pharmacological interventions in addressing the cyclical nature of CHS and assisting patients in navigating the emotional toll of their symptoms.

Exploring Alternative Therapies


In refractory CHS cases, experimental therapies such as benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, and dopaminergic agents like haloperidol have been explored. While the evidence supporting their efficacy is limited, these options could be considered in specific scenarios where conventional treatments prove inadequate.

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome Management

In essence, while abstaining from cannabis remains the cornerstone of CHS management, adopting a multifaceted approach comprising fluid resuscitation, tailored antiemetic therapy, topical interventions, behavioral strategies, and comprehensive supportive care can collectively alleviate symptoms, optimize patient outcomes, and elevate the quality of life for individuals contending with this complex syndrome.

Through a holistic and individualized treatment regimen, healthcare providers can navigate the challenges of CHS, offering hope and relief to those affected by this puzzling condition.

Want to Learn More About Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Visit our course website to learn more with our Cannabinoids in Gastroenterology (GI) course and other educational offerings.



Perisetti A, Gajendran M, Dasari CS, Bansal P, Aziz M, Inamdar S, Tharian B, Goyal H. Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome: an update on the pathophysiology and management. Ann Gastroenterol. 2020 Nov-Dec;33(6):571-578. doi: 10.20524/aog.2020.0528. Epub 2020 Sep 16. PMID: 33162734; PMCID: PMC7599351.

Senderovich H, Patel P, Jimenez Lopez B, Waicus S. A Systematic Review on Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome and Its Management Options. Med Princ Pract. 2022;31(1):29-38. doi: 10.1159/000520417. Epub 2021 Nov 1. PMID: 34724666; PMCID: PMC8995641.

Lathrop JR, Rosen SN, Heitkemper MM, Buchanan DT. Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome: The State of the Science. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2023 May-Jun 01;46(3):208-224. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000730. Epub 2023 Apr 18. PMID: 37074964.