Marijuana Use May Lead to Gastro Problems
Individuals are showing up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms complaining of recurring vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain. Doctors try to diagnose the common symptoms and find a cause and then a treatment for the individual. Most doctors would not automatically conclude that these symptoms could be due to smoking marijuana, yet researchers have uncovered a relatively new disorder called cannabinoid hyperemesis in which marijuana may cause these sickening symptoms.
At the recent scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), two reports included preliminary information on cannabinoid hyperemesis. Researchers voiced concern that this condition is not well-known by either physicians or by the individuals who are using the marijuana. After several costly tests and doctor’s appointments, some cases are still going undiagnosed. More awareness has to be spread to medical workers and to those who use marijuana.
Rare Condition Baffles Doctors
Cannabinoid hyperemesis is a relatively new diagnosis and not commonly recognized in the healthcare field. In 2004, it was first mentioned after a study in Australia of nine patients. To date, only 14 case reports as well as four cases series have been published on the condition.
Because of the minimal studies that have researched this condition, there are many doctors who have never heard of it. If they have never heard of it they would not know to consider it when someone walks into their office or the emergency room. Some say that this puts a burden on healthcare when multiple tests, procedures, and appointments to try and determine the drug-induced symptoms drive up health care costs.
Halting the Marijuana Halts the Symptoms
Individuals can develop cannabinoid hyperemesis by using either regular or synthetic marijuana and symptoms usually subside as soon as the individual stops taking marijuana.
Dr. Ana Maria Crissien-Martinez co-authored a report of nine cannabinoid hyperemesis patients who were treated at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego. Of the 88 percent of individuals who used regular marijuana each day, 80 percent of them did not suffer any more symptoms when they quit using marijuana.
Another study in which a 22-year-old man took synthetic marijuana for 10 months also found that his symptoms subsided when he stopped using the synthetic marijuana.
A Costly Process of Diagnosing
Dr. Crissien-Martinez along with her colleagues said that treatment for cannabinoid hyperemesis costs between $10,000- $30,000 for multiple hospital admissions and the lab work, imaging studies, and other procedures needed to diagnose an illness. Factor in physician costs as well as emergency room costs and the numbers climb even higher.
The research team believes that better education for both physicians and individuals who use marijuana is the key to reducing these costs and keeping individuals healthier and more aware of emerging conditions related to marijuana use.