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nauseous after smoking weed

If Weed Makes You Extremely Nauseated, You’re Not Alone

In the fall of 2016, I became an egg donor. Following my hormonal treatments and egg retrieval, I began to experience unusual bouts of nausea. I didn’t think much of it at first, assuming it was an interim experience attributed to the hormonal changes my body was undergoing. I also found that cannabis, which I’d typically used to treat insomnia, provided temporary relief from the sick feeling in my stomach.

But as time went on, the rounds of nausea became prolonged and more severe. The smell and sight of food repelled me. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, sometimes for days on end, and I started to lose a lot of weight. I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist to see if we could figure out what was going on.

I had noticed that the more I used cannabis to treat my nausea, the more sick I felt during the hours I wasn’t smoking. It seemed counterintuitive that cannabis might be playing a role in my sickness since it’s often recommended to alleviate nausea, but I felt compelled to tell the doctor I’d been smoking on a regular basis.

To my surprise, he told me that U.S. states that had legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis, leading to an increase in cannabis usage, had also seen a significant rise in a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). I was consistently experiencing prolonged nausea throughout the day—a common symptom of CHS. Because I smoked cannabis on a regular basis, the doctor believed my condition was, in fact, linked to cannabis use. My various test results came back normal, indicating he was likely right.

CHS is a puzzling condition occurring in long-term cannabis users. Common symptoms include extreme nausea, intractable vomiting, and abdominal pain. Many patients report finding relief by taking hot showers. It’s an unusual illness given that medical cannabis is often used to treat the nausea of cancer patients, for example. But it turns out that while cannabis is frequently effective against nausea and vomiting, it can also trigger it.

The symptoms of CHS sometimes take years to surface. The first course of action for cannabis users suffering from severe nausea and/or uncontrollable vomiting should be to cease cannabis use and see if symptoms subside within 2-3 days. I was advised to do this, and within two days, I was completely back to normal.

The cause of CHS is unknown. Because cannabis has complex chemical properties, it makes it difficult to pinpoint what leads to this seemingly paradoxical syndrome. Some research is focused on the body’s receptors which are affected by cannabis use. Heavy, frequent use is thought to deregulate receptors, causing the symptoms of CHS. Cannabis use, however, has been common for centuries in countries like India, and symptoms of CHS have only begun to be reported in the last couple of decades. In addition, there are no reports of CHS by chronic users in some regions, such as South Asia, at least not to the extent we see in the United States. This has led some doctors to be skeptical of the idea that cannabis itself is the problem, theorizing that additives may be the issue instead. In the case of Asia, however, lack of reports may also be due to the fact that weed remains strictly illegal in many of its largest countries, even as it gains acceptance in the West.

In my case, my fertility specialist believed CHS was directly linked to changes in my receptors caused by the hormones I was taking. I was scheduled to undergo a second round of egg donation, and he thought it was possible my receptors would revert back to normal afterward. Sure enough, following the second procedure, I no longer experienced the symptoms of CHS when using cannabis.

Cannabis use is increasing across the country as states not only legalize its recreational use, but also as it becomes increasingly seen as an effective alternative treatment to many commonly used pharmaceuticals, including opioids. Regardless of its cause, doctors expect to see a rise in cases of CHS coinciding with its increased use. Hospitals across the country have already seen more and more cases of CHS in states where weed has been legalized.

Cannabis was illegal in my state, so I was hesitant to tell the doctor I’d been using it. And, because of my unique situation, it would have been easy to blame my symptoms on recent hormone treatments, especially since cannabis provided temporary relief. But if I hadn’t been transparent, I would have continued to be sick. Be honest with your doctor if you use cannabis regularly and begin to exhibit these symptoms. Also be aware that many doctors may not yet be aware of CHS, and you may need to be the one to bring this possibility to their attention. It likely won’t remain under the radar for long, however. As cannabis continues to become more acceptable and accessible across the United States, we’ll need to work toward developing a better understanding of what causes CHS and how to prevent it.

Doctors are seeing an increasing number of cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which has symptoms cannabis is, ironically, often prescribed to treat.

How to Conquer a Weed Hangover

Despite some debate over their validity, weed hangovers are likely real. While research on the subject is limited, anecdotal reports suggest that smoking marijuana can trigger next-day symptoms in some people.

Despite the similar names, weed hangovers aren’t quite the same as those brought on by alcohol. And for many, weed hangovers tend to be more tolerable than alcohol-related ones.

Common symptoms of a weed hangover include:

  • fatigue
  • lethargy
  • brain fog
  • dry eyes and mouth
  • headaches
  • mild nausea

Read on for tips on how to deal with these effects and to learn more about the debate within the medical community over whether weed hangovers are indeed a thing.

A weed hangover will typically go away on its own. There isn’t much you can do for an immediate fix, but these tips can offer relief:

  • Stay hydrated. The most important thing you can do before, during, and after weed use is drink enough water. This will help relieve symptoms such as headaches, dry mouth, and dry eyes.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast. Opt for a healthy, balanced breakfast the morning after weed use. Try a small serving of whole-grain carbohydrates along with a lean source of protein and healthy fat.
  • Take a shower. A shower can help you to feel refreshed and hydrated the morning after smoking weed. The steam from a hot shower can open your airways.
  • Make some ginger tea.Ginger can help with digestive symptoms, such as nausea. Add a bit of grated ginger to hot water with lemon and honey to soothe an upset stomach.
  • Drink caffeine. A cup of coffee or caffeinated tea can help you feel more alert.
  • Try CBD. Some anecdotal reports suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) can counteract some of the symptoms associated with a weed hangover. Just steer clear of any preparations containing THC.
  • Take a pain reliever. For a persistent headache, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

If you can, try to take it easy for the rest of the day. With a good night’s rest, you should wake up feeling like yourself again.

If you’re feeling a little off after using weed, it may not necessarily be a hangover that you’re experiencing.

Here’s some other potential culprits:

  • Drinking alcohol or using other drugs while using weed. If you tend to consume other substances while smoking marijuana, they might affect how you feel the next morning.
  • Marijuana withdrawal. If you smoke weed on a regular basis, it’s possible to experience withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t smoking. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include changes in mood, insomnia, and difficulty focusing.
  • Lingering effects of weed. How long a weed high lasts depends on factors such as dose, concentration, and delivery method, in addition to your own tolerance and metabolism. Most of the time, a marijuana high lasts between one and four hours.

If at least five hours have passed since you last used weed, and you haven’t had any alcohol or used other substances, you’re likely just experiencing the after effects of weed.

There isn’t much evidence surrounding weed hangovers. Existing studies are often outdated or have major limitations.

Older studies

One well-known study on weed hangovers dates back to 1985. In the study, 13 males participated in a series of sessions that involved smoking either a weed cigarette or a placebo cigarette and then completing a series of tests.

The tests included sorting cards and judging time intervals. When the tests were repeated the following morning, the group that smoked weed cigarettes judged time intervals to be 10 or 30 seconds longer than they actually were.

The authors concluded that, although the day-after effects of smoking weed may be subtle, they probably exist. However, this study’s small sample size and all-male participants are significant limitations.

A 1990 study had similar limitations. It involved 12 male marijuana users who smoked marijuana over one weekend and a placebo over another, then completed a series of subjective and behavioral tests. But these authors concluded that weed didn’t seem to have much of an effect the following morning.

Recent research

More recently, a 2017 study explored perspectives toward medical cannabis among people with chronic pain. One of the self-reported undesirable effects of marijuana was a hangover described as a foggy, non-alert feeling in the morning.

However, the authors of the study did not indicate how many participants reported this effect.

A 2015 review on the use of medical marijuana recommends that healthcare professionals teach patients about the hangover effect. It also recommends describing it as lasting at least one day after the last time marijuana was used.

more research is needed

There are, of course, numerous anecdotal reports of marijuana hangovers, suggesting they are possible. More research needs to be done to understand causes, symptoms, and risk factors associated with weed hangovers as well as recommended self-care.

In addition, most of the studies described above focused on the morning-after effects of smoking a small amount of marijuana. Research exploring the effects of overconsumption is also needed.

The only way to guarantee you won’t have a weed hangover is to avoid weed. Still, there are plenty of things you can due to minimize the negative effects of weed.

  • Avoid smoking weed the night before an important activity. If you tend to experience weed hangovers, try to avoid using marijuana the night before something important, such as an exam or stressful day at work.
  • Take days off. If possible, avoid using weed on a daily basis. Continuous weed use can build up your tolerance, which might eventually trigger withdrawal symptoms in the morning.
  • Limit your use. You might be more likely to experience a weed hangover if you overconsume. Decide on an appropriate quantity before you get high, and stick with that.
  • Try low-THC marijuana. THC is the active ingredient in weed. No one’s totally sure how THC affects weed hangover symptoms, but it’s worth trying low-THC strains to see if they help prevent morning-after symptoms.
  • Use caution when trying a new product. You might find you react differently to weed depending on the dose, concentration, and method of delivery. When trying something for the first time, start with a low dose.
  • Don’t mix it with other substances. The morning-after effects of weed might be more intense if you tend to smoke weed while also drinking or using other drugs.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about the effects of weed and medication. Remember that any over-the-counter or prescription medication you take can interact with weed. This could affect how you feel in the morning.

Contrary to popular belief, weed can be addictive. The more often you use it, the more likely you are to become dependent on it.

If you regularly experience weed hangovers, they could be a sign that you’re overdoing it. If you’re having a hard time curbing your use, it may be time to reach out to your doctor for help.

Other potential signs of weed misuse include:

  • using it on a daily or near-daily basis
  • experiencing cravings for it
  • spending a lot of time thinking about it or obtaining it
  • using more over time
  • using more than you intended
  • continuing to use it despite negative consequences
  • keeping a constant supply
  • spending a lot of money on it, even when you can’t afford it
  • avoiding situations or places where you can’t use it
  • driving or operating machinery while high
  • trying and failing to stop using it
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop

"Weed hangover" is a casual term used to refer to the lingering effects of weed. We'll offer some tips for relief, take a look at the research behind this phenomenon, and give you some guidance on how to prevent them in the future.