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If Weed Makes You Extremely Nauseated, You’re Not Alone

In the fall of 2016, I became an egg donor. Following my hormonal treatments and egg retrieval, I began to experience unusual bouts of nausea. I didn’t think much of it at first, assuming it was an interim experience attributed to the hormonal changes my body was undergoing. I also found that cannabis, which I’d typically used to treat insomnia, provided temporary relief from the sick feeling in my stomach.

But as time went on, the rounds of nausea became prolonged and more severe. The smell and sight of food repelled me. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, sometimes for days on end, and I started to lose a lot of weight. I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist to see if we could figure out what was going on.

I had noticed that the more I used cannabis to treat my nausea, the more sick I felt during the hours I wasn’t smoking. It seemed counterintuitive that cannabis might be playing a role in my sickness since it’s often recommended to alleviate nausea, but I felt compelled to tell the doctor I’d been smoking on a regular basis.

To my surprise, he told me that U.S. states that had legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis, leading to an increase in cannabis usage, had also seen a significant rise in a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). I was consistently experiencing prolonged nausea throughout the day—a common symptom of CHS. Because I smoked cannabis on a regular basis, the doctor believed my condition was, in fact, linked to cannabis use. My various test results came back normal, indicating he was likely right.

CHS is a puzzling condition occurring in long-term cannabis users. Common symptoms include extreme nausea, intractable vomiting, and abdominal pain. Many patients report finding relief by taking hot showers. It’s an unusual illness given that medical cannabis is often used to treat the nausea of cancer patients, for example. But it turns out that while cannabis is frequently effective against nausea and vomiting, it can also trigger it.

The symptoms of CHS sometimes take years to surface. The first course of action for cannabis users suffering from severe nausea and/or uncontrollable vomiting should be to cease cannabis use and see if symptoms subside within 2-3 days. I was advised to do this, and within two days, I was completely back to normal.

The cause of CHS is unknown. Because cannabis has complex chemical properties, it makes it difficult to pinpoint what leads to this seemingly paradoxical syndrome. Some research is focused on the body’s receptors which are affected by cannabis use. Heavy, frequent use is thought to deregulate receptors, causing the symptoms of CHS. Cannabis use, however, has been common for centuries in countries like India, and symptoms of CHS have only begun to be reported in the last couple of decades. In addition, there are no reports of CHS by chronic users in some regions, such as South Asia, at least not to the extent we see in the United States. This has led some doctors to be skeptical of the idea that cannabis itself is the problem, theorizing that additives may be the issue instead. In the case of Asia, however, lack of reports may also be due to the fact that weed remains strictly illegal in many of its largest countries, even as it gains acceptance in the West.

In my case, my fertility specialist believed CHS was directly linked to changes in my receptors caused by the hormones I was taking. I was scheduled to undergo a second round of egg donation, and he thought it was possible my receptors would revert back to normal afterward. Sure enough, following the second procedure, I no longer experienced the symptoms of CHS when using cannabis.

Cannabis use is increasing across the country as states not only legalize its recreational use, but also as it becomes increasingly seen as an effective alternative treatment to many commonly used pharmaceuticals, including opioids. Regardless of its cause, doctors expect to see a rise in cases of CHS coinciding with its increased use. Hospitals across the country have already seen more and more cases of CHS in states where weed has been legalized.

Cannabis was illegal in my state, so I was hesitant to tell the doctor I’d been using it. And, because of my unique situation, it would have been easy to blame my symptoms on recent hormone treatments, especially since cannabis provided temporary relief. But if I hadn’t been transparent, I would have continued to be sick. Be honest with your doctor if you use cannabis regularly and begin to exhibit these symptoms. Also be aware that many doctors may not yet be aware of CHS, and you may need to be the one to bring this possibility to their attention. It likely won’t remain under the radar for long, however. As cannabis continues to become more acceptable and accessible across the United States, we’ll need to work toward developing a better understanding of what causes CHS and how to prevent it.

Doctors are seeing an increasing number of cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which has symptoms cannabis is, ironically, often prescribed to treat.

What is greening out?

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Contents

  1. What causes someone to green out?
  2. What does greening out feel like?
  3. Can greening out cause damage?
  4. How do I prevent greening out?
  5. How do I stop getting too high?

Greening out is the experience of nausea, unease, and other distressing symptoms that sometimes occurs after consuming too much cannabis .

Symptoms differ individually, but greening out is usually accompanied by dizziness, vomiting, and severe anxiety. Greening out can also increase heart rate and reduce blood pressure due to the dilation of blood vessels caused by THC, as explained in a study of cannabinoids’ pharmacological effects , published in the Handbook of Experimental Psychology. Users feel dizziness, nausea, and some report experiencing mild hallucinations when they consume too much weed.

Greening out is the experience of nausea, unease, and other distressing symptoms that sometimes occurs after consuming too much cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Bear in mind that while greening out symptoms may feel overwhelming, no deaths from an overdose of cannabis have ever been reported. Symptoms of a green out can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours . While this can feel like a long time when you’re high, trust that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

What causes someone to green out?

THC and other cannabinoids interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system , including the CB1 receptors in the brain. The body has a natural analog to THC called anandamide that typically acts on these receptors and plays a role in appetite, pain, depression, memory, and other bodily functions.

When you consume too much THC, the CB1 receptors become overwhelmed, which may cause you to become sick. What symptoms you experience or whether you experience a green-out at all entirely depends on your physiological makeup, the potency of the cannabis, and your tolerance.

When you consume too much THC, the CB1 receptors become overwhelmed, which may cause you to become sick.

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What does greening out feel like?

Greening out can happen to anyone whether they smoke cannabis or ingest it. It all boils down to the amount of THC consumed and a person’s tolerance and previous experience with cannabis. Smoking does result in more rapid absorption than eating cannabis, which may result in a faster onset of greening out. That said, ingested cannabis stays in your bloodstream longer, resulting in green out symptoms that may last longer. Green out symptoms include:

  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Limb heaviness or a lack of mobility
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness or lack of focus
  • Nausea
  • Chills or sweats

These side effects vary in length the same way a regular cannabis high does, anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. If weed is the only substance you’ve used, the symptoms should dissipate without requiring medical care. If you’re greening out after consuming a combination of weed with drinking or harder drugs, known as crossfading, you may want to seek medical attention.

Can greening out cause damage?

No evidence supports that greening out on cannabis alone can cause any damage. There are no verified instances of death due solely to cannabis toxicity. However, there are instances where, for example, cannabis can aggravate things in people with underlying heart issues or cause over-sedation, which suppresses breathing if one combines cannabis with a sedative like sleeping pills.

Consuming too much marijuana at once may feel alarming, but there’s no evidence it will cause lasting issues.

How do I prevent greening out?

Marijuana affects people differently, so a green out is more likely to happen to some individuals than others. People with prior cannabis experience have a good sense of their tolerance and often won’t consume more weed than they can handle. Those who haven’t tried weed before can prevent greening out by starting with a low dose and waiting an hour or more to judge the dose’s effect on their system.

If you’re someone who needs only one or two hits off a joint to get high, don’t feel compelled to smoke more. Know your limits and resist peer pressure if it heads your way.

Eating and drinking water before smoking can also help prevent symptoms of greening out. Like drinking alcohol, consuming cannabis on an empty stomach void of any nutrients can make the effects of weed stronger. Too, mixing your weed with alcohol or prescription drugs can also increase the likelihood of greening out.

If you don’t pay attention to how many milligrams of THC is in your edible, you can easily consume way too much and experience an unpleasant high. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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When eating edibles, it’s also essential to carefully measure your dose. If you don’t pay attention to how many milligrams of THC is in your brownie, you can easily consume way too much and experience an unpleasant high.

How do I stop getting too high?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of greening out, there are a few things you can do to manage symptoms . Having a friendly face guide you through things is always helpful, as friends can help manage psychological symptoms with their reassuring presence.

Find a safe space to ride out the high, drink enough water, and boost blood sugar levels with food or fruit juice. Take deep breaths and try to distract yourself with a TV show or your favorite music. Do what you can to create a soothing environment in which to wait things out.

Some research, such as this study published in Frontiers Psychiatry , indicates that CBD oil can soothe the anxiety and paranoia associated with too much weed, among other benefits CBD may provide .

Additional research indicates that terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene (found in black peppercorn) and limonene (found in lemons) may play a role in soothing the overwhelming psychoactivity . Beta-caryophyllene binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, preventing THC from doing so and reducing the associated anxiety. Another 2013 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that limonene demonstrated anti-anxiety symptoms in animal models. Therefore, chewing black pepper or a lemon rind may be helpful.

Prevention is usually the best medicine when it comes to smoking too much weed. Staying hydrated and within your canna-limits will help ensure you enjoy a pleasant high, but if you go too far, remember to keep calm and ride out the wave. The unpleasantness of greening out won’t last forever, and you’ll be back to normal in time.

What is greening out? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What causes someone to green out? What does greening out feel like? Can greening ]]>