August 23, 2018

Is Your Marijuana Use Causing Your Vomiting Problems?

A gastroenterologist explains the connection


“How often do I smoke it? Three times a day. Weed’s the only thing that helps my nausea,” the 24-year-old man who’s excessively vomiting tells his gastroenterologist.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The specialist orders a SmartPill® test to examine his GI tract. It’s normal.

The problem? It’s not a rare stomach-emptying disorder, like gastroparesis. It’s the marijuana.

It’s more common than most think

Gastroenterologist Michael Cline, DO, explains that the problem’s called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

What is it? It’s repeated cycles of nausea and vomiting, often accompanied by so-called “hot water bathing,” or a compulsive need to take hot showers. That’s because the hot showers — which sometimes last for hours — are the only thing that relieves their GI symptoms, though exactly why this happens isn’t entirely understood (but it’s thought to have something to do with the hot temperature’s effect on the part of the brain called the hypothalamus).

Weight loss, abdominal pain and dehydration may also occur. This syndrome, first officially classified in 2004, is on the rise, says Dr. Cline, who now sees multiple patients a day with the marijuana-induced vomiting.


Why the vomiting happens

“We know that marijuana works in the brain to stop nausea and increase hunger,” Dr. Cline says. “But it can also be toxic and cause cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. We believe, though we don’t yet have research to support it, that marijuana actually slows gastric emptying, causing the GI problems.”

When your stomach can’t empty normally, food simply sits there. When it sits there too long, Dr. Cline says, it tends to come back up through vomiting.

Medical or recreational use? The result is the same.

“The real question is, ‘You have an underlying problem and you’re using marijuana to help it, but could it really be hurting you?’ That’s a big question. And there’s no way currently to test for what range is therapeutic and what’s toxic,” Dr. Cline says.

How to break the cycle

Symptoms of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome typically ease in no more than 48 hours, if no additional marijuana is used.


But a brief hospital stay might be needed to get IV fluids to treat dehydration. And if someone has a difficult time stopping marijuana use, a drug treatment program may be needed.

Dr. Cline says more awareness of the connection between marijuana use and vomiting is needed — both in the public and the medical community.

“Doctors need to ask about marijuana use to avoid expensive testing and more promptly get to the root of a patient’s vomiting problem,” he says. “And patients need to be honest with their doctors about marijuana use, so they can get the relief they need.”

Related Articles

A canvas full of colors.
November 23, 2022
What’s the Color of Your ‘Goo’ Telling You?

Not all rainbows have gold at the end — the ones our bodies produce offer insight into our health

Stop smoking weed marijuana toss in trash
June 16, 2022
How To Stop Smoking Weed

Changing habits takes time and commitment

Bananas Rice Applesauce Toast BRAT diet
November 26, 2021
When Should You Follow the BRAT Diet?

If you’ve got a stomach bug, bananas, rice, applesauce and toast are easy on your stomach

marijuana and blank prescription pad
June 25, 2021
Why Using Cannabis to Manage Pain Isn’t Yet Recommended by Pain Doctors

An expert gives the latest updates about ongoing research

woman in bathroom sick on floor
March 8, 2021
Do You Know When to Visit the Hospital for Vomiting?

How to treat vomiting at home and when to see a doctor

man smoking marijuana
April 29, 2020
Can Smoking Marijuana Increase Your Chances of Getting the Coronavirus?

The short answer from a pulmonologist

Cannubus buds being placed into medicine jar
November 14, 2019
Can Marijuana Help Your Mental Health?

No real data supporting self-medicating with cannabis

Positive reading pregnancy stick amongst cannibis buds
October 14, 2019
Marijuana Use in Pregnancy: Why You Should Just Say No

Pot may seem harmless, but it’s not to your baby

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try