A clear answer to how contamination can cause Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome, CHS, is formed by combining old studies with new research. So, how can chronic heavy metal poisoning lead to mysterious cannabis-induced illnesses more frequently than excessive THC consumption?
About Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
Imagine waking up every day for a decade and consuming cannabis like an average Joe enjoying a cup of joe. Until finally, the body starts to profusely reject these routine doses. A once everyday ritual of relaxation can become violent, manifesting its new effects in the form of:
And hot flashes
People have even suffered brain swells or kidney failure while trying to find relief in a burning hot shower. This is a reality known as Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) – a condition that “feels like death” according to some individuals after suffering this fate. It all sounds like “reefer madness. But, long-term heavy metal exposure might be responsible more so than chronic cannabinoid use.
Diagnosing Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
Early diagnosis is crucial where an excruciating lack of appetite can be an initial warning sign. The appetite loss can lead to dramatic weight loss and subsequent effects of malnutrition and dehydration. Cannabis isn’t always the first suspect, so be open when speaking with a health care professional. Pain and discomfort, especially after a regular cannabis dose, is a typical sign that something is wrong. CHS will be accompanied by these warnings, alongside severe, cyclic vomiting.
Cause and Effect
Most research has concluded that excessive use of THC is the true culprit behind the strange “Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome.” Cannabinoids have become the poster-child for blame rather than common soil contaminants, such as arsenic or cadmium. Neem oil, a pesticide, and even heavy metals have been briefly mentioned regarding CHS in some scientific literature, though.
Yet, how exactly can chronic metal toxicity cause cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?
Multiple scientific papers have now speculated that a dysregulated HPA, the body’s stress response center, can lead to CHS.
Chronic, heavy THC consumption is known to simply dysregulate the HPA.
A question often overlooked is how metal toxicity can play a role. Marijuana is a bioaccumulator, which means it efficiently absorbs minerals from the soil. Heavy metals that are often found in contaminated cannabis in trace amounts, such as cadmium, can cause a likewise malfunction in the HPA. Small chronic doses of arsenic can even induce cyclic vomiting. There are well-documented occurrences of arsenic leading to cyclic vomiting syndrome, including an old case report regarding an eleven-year-old-girl.
Inhaling arsenic (oxide) should also cause severe lung damage that would resemble Vaping Associated Pulmonary Injury, VAPI, symptoms more so than CHS. Unlike vomiting conditions, however, lung damage is almost entirely synonymous with additional ingredients mixed with bad concentrates loaded into counterfeit vape cartridges.
One problem surrounding the identification of Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is the rapid absorption of certain metals.
Cadmium is less visible in blood and urine tests after approximately one week.
Whereas, arsenic can absorb deeper into the human body, becoming undetectable in a matter of two days.
In contrast, it is normally recommended to seek medical attention after experiencing a fever for three days.
Getting Tested for Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
Many toxic metals have plenty of time to hide within the body before any targetted tests are complete. Therefore, it is easy to misdiagnose a case of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome due to the absorption rates of certain illusive poisons. Once exposed to a toxic heavy metal, however, there may be lasting effects in the form of a dysregulated HPA and endocannabinoid system – catalysts to CHS, respectively. The symptoms of such a poison may last up to four weeks, or possibly years after an exposure event.
If you are a heavy cannabis user who has been suffering an unusually high fever and intense vomiting symptoms for more than three days, immediately speak with a health care professional such as your doctor, for example. Make note of your cannabis consumption but also ask for immediate blood and urine tests. As a precaution, request tests for at least the following contaminants:
Unfortunately, cyclic vomiting disorder is not a cookie-cutter symptom. CHS might instead be caused by a mixture of contaminants that are impossible to detect. An entourage effect from subchronic exposure to lead and cadmium at accepted levels mixed with sixteen different organochlorines, a class of pesticides, was identified as a toxin to the HPA. Organochlorines might be banned as sprays for cannabis cultivation but out of the sixteen pesticides used in the study, only three endosulfans are targeted in any lab tests required by Health Canada.
Five percent of cannabis products grown legally in Canada did contain banned pesticides between November 2018 to February 2019 according to Global News.
Following-Up on Liability
In the event someone tests positive for heavy metal poisoning, they should be advised to save any cannabis they have used. Unless it was homegrown, hopefully, it was a legal batch, and the batch code, company, and receipts can be kept on record just in case! Fortunately, every Canadian adult citizen can send in their legal cannabis so it can be retested at one of many approved labs.
If someone was poisoned by contaminated cannabis, a company may be liable for any experiences they have suffered.
Analytical results are one of few proofs that will cement-in a path to victory if someone has been poisoned and they do wish to fight against that injustice on the battlefield of class-action lawsuits. Cyclic vomiting can otherwise be caused by simply consuming too much THC combined with the existence of certain rare, genetic predispositions. Yet, it is certainly best to test for heavy metal toxicity rather than potentially misdiagnose your symptoms as a condition of excessive cannabinoid use.
Have you or anyone you know suffered CHS? Let us know your story in the comments and stay tuned to find out what other conditions can be caused by heavy metal contamination.
Busse FP, Fiedler GM, Leichtle A, Hentschel H, Stumvoll M. Lead poisoning due to adulterated marijuana in leipzig. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2008;105(44):757-762.
Embry CK. Toxic cyclic vomiting in an 11‐year‐old girl. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 1987;26(3):447-448.
Michael G. Wade, Sophie Parent, Kenneth W. Finnson, Warren Foster, Edward Younglai, Avril McMahon, Daniel G. Cyr, Claude Hughes, Thyroid Toxicity Due to Subchronic Exposure to a Complex Mixture of 16 Organochlorines, Lead, and Cadmium, Toxicological Sciences, Volume 67, Issue 2, June 2002, Pages 207–218, https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/67.2.207