Mrs. X told her doctors that soothing herself with a warm bath was like magic — her symptoms seemed to melt away into the warm tub. But as soon as the water began to cool, her symptoms creeped back. It felt like she couldn’t get the water hot enough. She learned to progressively heat the water, preferring to stay in the bath as long as she could.
But one day, the water got too hot and she emerged with red skin and a bad burn. The third time it happened, she ended up in the hospital.
Mrs. X was eventually diagnosed with CHS. Patients who get it usually experience a very upset stomach in connection to frequent, heavy marijuana use. Mrs. X’s case report, along with those of nine other people with similar symptoms, was published in 2004 in the medical journal Gut, an official journal of the British Society of Gastroenterology. It was the first time the set of symptoms was given a name.
Until now, cases of CHS were presumed to be incredibly rare. But somerecent evidence indicates cases could be on the rise, and a new study from emergency clinicians at New York University suggests the syndrome may affect far more people than initially thought. The worst part may be that patients have no idea that cannabis may be causing their symptoms, since paradoxically, weed is sometimes used to treat nausea.
“This is something that’s poorly understood that doctors don’t know about,” Joseph Habboushe, an assistant professor at NYU Langone and the lead author on the paper, told Business Insider. “It could affect millions.”
The study also did not exclude people who took other drugs, meaning that other drugs could be playing a role as well. Lastly, there’s no way to know whether a specific compound in cannabis — such as THC or CBD, the two most well-known compounds — plays more of a role here than others.
These caveats mean more research is needed. But in the meantime, Habboushe is concerned.
“We are going to see more of this disease,” he said. “This doesn’t mean marijuana is bad or good it just means it has side effects — side effects that we need to understand and learn how to avoid and treat.”