By Sharon Letts Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: The syndrome everyone loves to hate Alice Moon loves weed. So much so that in 2011, she created an entire career around the plant. Working at a dispensary, writing edible reviews, and regularly attending cannabis events, while naturally garnering more than 14,000 followers on social media as a […]
By Sharon Letts
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: The syndrome everyone loves to hate
Alice Moon loves weed. So much so that in 2011, she created an entire career around the plant. Working at a dispensary, writing edible reviews, and regularly attending cannabis events, while naturally garnering more than 14,000 followers on social media as a California Cannabis Influencer.
Today, she works as a Publicist and Social Media Strategist in the cannabis industry. As an Account Supervisor with Trailblaze public relations firm, her work supports both ancillary companies in the space, and those working directly with the plant.
Past gigs include Director of Communications of Blunt Talks, a monthly Ted Talk for cannabis; and Director of Communications & Operations for the California Cannabis Awards, as Co-Producer and Co-Host.
She’s been written up as a cannabis lifestyle expert in publications such as the LA Weekly, High Times, and on CNN and Viceland with her company nominated for Best Tech in SoCal for the (formerly) Dope Magazine, Dope Industry Awards.
Her life as an edible reviewer grew exponentially, as she was trusted for her opinions. After all, she loved the plant as much as those reading her reviews. She was one of them. She was part of the cannabis tribe and life was good for six years straight – both in using cannabis as medicine and working in the space.
And then she became extremely ill.
When the Cure Makes You Sick
Though Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is often described as affecting “chronic” or “longtime” partakers, Moon’s use of cannabis wasn’t intense or lifelong. She was not a 24/7 stoner, so to speak, and only ingested a minimum 10 milligrams per day to successfully quell the anxiety and depression she had suffered from since childhood. Moon mainly smoked cannabis to unwind at the end of the day and as needed for stress-relief.
Do a search, and you’ll find a wide variety of the how’s and why’s of CHS, with some sites stating symptoms come on after one to five years of use. But many of the stats bantered about just don’t reflect the anecdotal stories of most who feel they suffer from this syndrome.
“You can try to pinhole the problem, but there’s no rhyme or reason,” Moon shared from her home in Los Angeles. “It’s so random. Many who suffer are short-time users and start getting sick up to 24 or 48 hours after use. Others are longtime users, but they all get sick in the same way. Use runs the gamut from occasional to full-time, with many like me identifying as cannabis patients, being helped by the plant until the syndrome starts.”
Like many with CHS, Moon initially presented with an occasional bout of nausea after partaking, then progressed to vomiting uncontrollably for days; with the longest time period of 16 days, after a particular infused dinner she was reviewing. This last bout caused three ulcers to present from the constant upheaval.
What do we cannabis patients do when we are nauseous? We smoke or consume more cannabis, as it’s known to quell that symptom, right? But Moon just kept getting sicker.
Like any unexplained physical ailment, with the help of a doctor, she began a process of elimination from her diet – just as you would when looking for an allergic reaction.
Doctor’s could only guess what was wrong, as her symptoms presented like Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), another disorder very little is known about. One theory is, CVS is said to be brought on by anxiety and stress. Cannabis is an enhancer. Could the plant be enhancing whatever ailment(s) are already there, or is the plant actually causing the syndrome?
Other ailments causing CVS episodes and/or symptoms thereof are, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), gastroparesis (low stomach motility, causing delayed emptying of the stomach)
Triggers include chronic fatigue, exhaustion or lack of deep sleep, certain foods and beverages, such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and cheese. Alice shared a list from the CHS Recovery Group on Facebook: flax seeds, black/white pepper, truffle, kava, and rosemary.
It took two years for Moon to be diagnosed with CHS, namely because doctors aren’t educated on cannabis or what it does and doesn’t do to begin with, let alone any malady that may or may not be associated with it. To date, there are no studies on the syndrome, only observations and anecdotal stories shared via word of mouth – as is common in the cannabis caregiver community.
Since high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is said to trigger anxiety, the initial guess of CVS was an easy assumption. But her own research has shown that’s not always the case with CHS.
“Much of my own research has been culled from the more than 18,000 members on a private Group Facebook page, Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Recovery,” she explained. “Many of the members have shared they never had anxiety to begin with.”
Push back from the cannabis community included grand assumptions that the culprit must be pesticides in dirty weed, or the use of Neem that isn’t flushed properly after use. If this were the case, we’d see a lot more chronic cases, in my mind, as dirty weed is abundant.
According to Moon and her members, all of this has been debunked through anecdotal stories. For without serious studies on this syndrome, that’s all we have – the sharing of stories, via word of mouth and social media sites.
“I made sure I had clean and organic, pesticide-free cannabis, as many have in my group, and it made no difference,’ she said. “Many members began growing their own for this reason, but it didn’t matter. I even tried combinations of CBD derived from hemp, and that made me sick.”
*As a footnote, CBD derived from hemp is hybridized from whole plant cannabis, with trace THC, with a full terpene and cannabinoid profile. So switching to hemp wouldn’t make that much of a difference, if you are looking at allergic reactions from the whole plant as a cause for CHS.
“Many CHS patients have their gallbladders wrongly removed from infection prior to a diagnosis, and they still don’t improve from CHS,” she added.
Ask Moon any hypothetical question or conclusion on this syndrome, and she will quickly respond with it debunked, per she and other members. There simply are no easy solutions for this conundrum of a reaction from cannabis for some and not others.
“The lack of knowledge on this syndrome is frustrating,” she added. “One doctor I’ve been working with filed to do a controlled study, but it was rejected. They just didn’t feel there was enough demand for funding such a study.”
Back to Pharma
Since Moon could no longer find relief with cannabis due to severe bouts of CHS, she was forced to go back on pharmaceuticals for a short list of symptoms, treated successfully by cannabis for a solid six years prior.
“None of the pharma I’m on now works as well as cannabis did for me,” she said. “Not for my anxiety, my depression, or the pain of cramps on my period. None of it. I miss using cannabis more than I can say. Specifically as a mood stabilizer – nothing else works the same.”
Cannabis, she said, uplifted her in a way nothing else does.
“The pharma works to a degree, but it just numbs me, where cannabis helped and healed me overall,” she said. “It’s hard to explain the difference unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. When you are helped with cannabis it’s often called a miracle – that’s how it feels. But, all that stopped for me – and many others with CHS.”
Moon isn’t too far off, as the difference between using pharmaceuticals for an ailment, and choosing plants is the difference between treating a symptom and treating the whole body and mind.
Plants don’t just provide a band-aid as pharmaceuticals do (typically with a list of negative symptoms of their own, with the need for more pharma), plants address all our biological systems, naturally healing us. Or, simply put, righting us.
One such example is, the ability for cannabis to address infection in the body. Pharmaceutical antibiotics kill both good and bad cells, then it’s up to your own personal alchemy and immune system to fight it. Plants, on the other hand attack infection, supporting the good cells, regenerating more healthy cells, while strengthening the immune system.
This is all done via the endocannabinoid system (eCS), the pathway for plants that address all our biological systems, creating homeostasis in the body, or a place where illness cannot dwell. And it makes us happy, but it’s not magic; it’s all science and biology.
“Cannabis brought so much joy to my life,” she surmised. “The plant helped me feel more, increased my creativity, as well as making me feel happy and healthy. The medications I’ve been prescribed now don’t bring me any creativity at all. They don’t elevate my mood the way cannabis did, they just stabilize my mood.”
Judgment from the Tribe
We in the cannabis community don’t fare well with criticism to this plant that has helped many for decades. Thanks to our own government, the negative stigma of the plant is something we are constantly fighting against.
When anyone blames the plant for anything, we take offense – and rightly so. We’ve been persecuted wrongly for years in the worst ways, with only our personal truths of the healing as defense.
We’ve shunned the finger pointing of psychosis, neurosis, and mental disorders; we’ve beat back accusations of a lack of efficacy for myriad ailments; while shaming our own government for not acknowledging cannabis as medicine, let alone the superfood we now know it is.
Yet, the negativity persists, with only the anecdotal stories of healing and our seemingly small voices spreading the good news of what the plant can do, globally.
Yet, there are thousands of people presenting with CHS, unable to partake of the plant they once enjoyed. Unable to find the relief once sought in lieu of pharmaceuticals.
As a writer of cannabis as medicine, I was asked by a prominent member of the cannabis community several years ago if I would ever write anything bad about the plant. At the time I had nothing bad to say about it.
After all, ingesting cannabis oil put my breast cancer into remission and did away with upwards of 10 prescription medications and supplements for numerous diagnosis and subsequent symptoms and ailments 10 years ago this year. How could I disrespect it?
As the years have gone by, I’ve realized that too much high THC can spike my anxiety, with others in the space confirming. Postings of this fact are often met with hostility in defense of the plant, so I’ve gotten just a taste of what Moon has gone through.
I made a decision early on in my writing of cannabis to never do critical review of any products in the space. If I didn’t like a product, I just didn’t write about it, the company or its principals.
Not for fear of being criticized myself, but for the simple reason that there’s enough negativity about the plant out there, and we don’t need infighting within the tribe. We actually can’t afford the infighting if we are to move forward in educating the masses.
That said, Moon has felt the brunt of criticizing the plant. She’s had death threats, vile language spewed upon her and worse, from our own tribe. And that’s just sad, because she still loves the plant and is hopeful for a cure to this syndrome, or at least some answers that aren’t based on an urgency to support the plant at all costs.
“People say I work for big pharma, that I’m a mole, here to spread negative information on the plant,” she said. “But, I never meant to be an influencer, my following evolved through sharing. Now they say I’m a failed influencer. It’s been a hard road to go down.”
The bottom line is, she still loves the plant.
“Those who don’t trust me, who think I’m part of further demonizing the plant don’t know me,” she concluded. “I miss using the plant every single day and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.The minute there’s a cure or a solution to CHS, I’ll be partaking in the plant again.”
For more information on CHS visit, https://cannabinoid-hyperemesis.com
For more information on Alice Moon visit, https://alicemoon.la
Follow Alice Moon on Instagram @thealicemoon, Twitter @thealicemoon
Join Alice’s Group on Facebook: suffers of C.H.S. (cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome)
Join Facebook Group: Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Recovery
Subscribe to Alice Moon’s LinkedIn Newsletter, Moon High