Since the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in North America, scientists and medical staff have been able to take a better look at the drug we have been using for around 5,000 years (or more).
As well as finding some fairly unsurprising stuff (when weed is legalized, ice cream and cookie sales go up), scientists have been able to study lesser-known side effects of chronic use, due to a mix of better reporting by users (who no-longer fear consequences for admitting use) and increased consumption. In Colorado, where medical weed was made legal in 2009, hospitals have seen an increase in one such condition linked to chronic use: scromiting.
Scromiting - as those with a thing for smashing words together may already have guessed - is a distressing mix of the words "screaming" and "vomiting". Scromiting is the nickname that has been given to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), a rare condition that generally occurs in daily users of cannabis. In the early phase of the condition, people may experience nausea in the morning, as well as abdominal pain and a fear of vomiting.
In the later phase - which can occur weeks, months or even years afterwards - chronic users can experience "intense and overwhelming" bouts of vomiting, pain in their abdomen, loss of appetite and continuous feelings of nausea. As one unfortunate man, who was hospitalized following several bouts of hours-long scromiting, told NBC News "It felt like Edward Scissorhands was trying to grab my intestines and pull them out."
The man - 17 at the time of his hospitalization - was unconvinced that his illness was caused by weed, until he stopped smoking and the symptoms ceased.
Following the liberalization of cannabis laws in Colorado, the state has seen an increase in the number of people with CHS, though studies have had difficulty attributing this to increased cannabis use or people being more willing to report cannabis use, while other studies have put down to the previous illegal status of the drug.
"The prevalence of cyclic vomiting visits increased from 41 per 113,262 ED visits to 87 per 125,095 ED visits after marijuana liberalization," one study wrote, noting "patients with cyclic vomiting in the postliberalization period were more likely to have marijuana use documented than patients in the preliberalization period."
The precise pathology of the illness is still not known, though diagnosis has become easier with people more willing to admit cannabis use, and the treatment is effective. One unusual way of diagnosing the condition is that patients' symptoms tend to improve while taking a warm bath or shower and disappear as they stop using the drug.
As well as being unpleasant in its own right, scromiting can lead to further complications, largely through the dehydration it causes in patients. There have been several known cases of people dying following a bout of the illness. In 2018, a teenager died following repeated bouts of the illness, as it caused severe dehydration. In 2016, doctors writing in the Amercian Journal of Gastroenterology attributed two deaths to dehydration caused by CHS, that of a 41 and a 48-year-old male.