Teenage girl curled up on a couch

For several years, researchers and medical personnel have noticed a disturbing trend. More cases have been documented of teenagers and young adults in their early twenties experiencing severe psychiatric and physical symptoms attributed to cannabis use.

The Origin of the Condition

The phenomenon was first reported in the scientific literature in 2004 but only gained notoriety when doctors in Washington and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, began reporting an increase of cases. In the years that followed, doctors began expressing their concerns over the health risks the increasing potency of marijuana may pose young users.

Doctors have officially termed the condition “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.” However, it is better known among medical professionals by the informal term “scromiting”- a combination of the words screaming and vomiting, which are two of the most common symptoms associated with the condition.

Doctors in Colorado, in particular, have noticed the increasing frequency of cases, with one medical center reporting only five cases in 2009, but by 2018 that number had risen to over 120. In addition, two other emergency rooms in the state reported that cases of the condition had doubled shortly after legalization.

The increasing influx of cases puts a strain on hospitals and requires the use of many hospital resources. In addition, patients suffering from uncontrollable vomiting must often take a variety of diagnostic tests to rule out any other disease or injury they may potentially suffer from.

What We Know

Even though humans have been ingesting cannabis for thousands of years, very little is known about cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Although several studies were conducted, the findings were inconclusive.

Despite this, the studies did find that 97 percent of patients suffering from the condition reported using marijuana at least once a week. In addition, about 75 percent said they had regularly consumed cannabis for over a year. From the research currently available to them, doctors feel safe in assuming that the condition is caused by chronic use of, particularly potent cannabis.

It is still unknown what causes some patients to develop the syndrome while others don’t. What is known is that while symptoms can be managed with hot baths or showers, episodes of vomiting, screaming, and psychiatric outbursts often continue until marijuana use is stopped entirely.

How Potency Ties in

Doctors have noted that as marijuana becomes increasingly potent, cases increase. Industry experts state that the cannabis of 20 years ago was not the cannabis of today. Twenty years ago, cannabis had levels of THC ranging around 2% or 3%, but since then potency levels have gradually risen to double figures. A study conducted in 2019 indicated that ingesting cannabis with THC levels of over 10% increases the chances of a psychotic episode.

Is it Possible to Avoid the Risk?

With new potential dangers of extremely potent cannabis coming to light, how can we ensure young cannabis users remain safe and still gain the many benefits associated with cannabis? Potency testing has become essential to guarantee that only safe products make their way to young consumers and avoid the many risks of cannabis with high levels of THC.