For years, Lance Crowder suffered inexplicable abdominal pain and vomiting, puzzling many doctors.
Adding to the bewilderment was one strange fact: hot showers — not medications — were the only things providing any sort of relief, CBS News reports. Only one emergency room doctor in Indianapolis was not surprised.
“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief,” recalled Crowder. “When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer.”
It turned out the culprit responsible was cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, a condition common among longtime marijuana users. For reasons yet unknown, only hot showers and baths can provide relief. Ceasing use of the drug can cure the condition if it’s caught in time.
“Now all kinds of ambition has come back,” said Crowder, who has spent the past seven months marijuana-free. “I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it, but better now than never.”
While Crowder appears to be doing better, some cases can lead to kidney failure — an increasingly likely scenario for many, given how few doctors are unfamiliar with CHS.
“They’ll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” said Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician in Colorado. Heard co-authored a 2009 study on the issue.
Since more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana, Heard argues doctors and patients need to learn more about CHS.
“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said of the condition, referring to Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana in 2012. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”
For some, the condition raises concerns over the safety of using medical marijuana in general.
“We’re learning new things every day,” says Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D, a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, according to WebMD. “Before we can really understand the effects of marijuana, further research is needed.”
However, some medical professionals say that while the drug has its risks, it is not uniquely dangerous.
“Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications,” explains the Institute of Medicine, Americans for Safe Access reports.
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