Emergency Department Treatment of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: A Review

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Abstract

Background:

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a syndrome of cyclic vomiting associated with chronic cannabis use. As cannabis consumption steadily increases each year, CHS is becoming a commonplace and costly occurrence in hospitals nationwide. Currently, there are no best treatment strategies agreed upon universally.

Areas of Uncertainty:

Thus far, most data about CHS have come from case reports and case series. Consequently, the pathophysiology of the syndrome is unclear, and its occurrence in some cannabis users, but not others, is not understood.

Data Sources:

A literature search was conducted through PubMed, Embase, and Google Scholar from inception until 2017. Publications only in English describing the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic criteria, and treatments of CHS were incorporated after thorough evaluation. National government surveys were also referred to for current information about the CHS patient population.

Results:

CHS should be considered in the differential diagnosis of any patient presenting with persistent nausea and vomiting. In particular, the diagnosis is suggested if the patient demonstrates regular and chronic cannabis use, intractable nausea and vomiting, cyclical vomiting, relief of symptoms with hot baths, and resolution of symptoms after cannabis cessation. There are currently many possible explanations regarding the mechanisms behind CHS. A variety of treatment options have also been examined, including hot water baths, haloperidol, capsaicin, and benzodiazepines.

Conclusions:

CHS is becoming an increasingly prevalent and complicated problem for health care providers and patients. Further research must be done to address the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges of this syndrome.

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