Ethan B. Russo, Chris Spooner, Len May, Ryan Leslie, and Venetia L. Whiteley

Published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research




Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a diagnosis of exclusion with intractable nausea, cyclic vomiting, abdominal pain, and hot bathing behavior associated with ongoing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exposure. Increasing cannabis use may elevate CHS prevalence, exacerbating a public health issue with attendant costs and morbidity.

Objective, Design, and Data Source:

This study, the largest contemporaneous database, investigated genetic mutations underlying CHS. Patients with CHS diagnosis and ongoing symptoms were compared with current cannabis users lacking symptoms.
Target Population: A screening questionnaire was posted online. Of 585 respondents, 205 qualified as the CHS pool and 54 as controls; a reduced pool of 28 patients and 12 controls ultimately completed genomic testing.


Patients and controls were high-frequency users of cannabis flower or concentrates (93%), using multiple grams/day of THC-predominant material. Among patients, 15.6% carried diagnoses of cannabis dependency or addiction, and 56.6% experienced withdrawal symptoms. About 87.7% of patients improved after cannabis cessation, most suffering recurrence rapidly after resumption. Findings in patients included mutations in genes COMT {odds ratio, 12 (95% confidence limit [CL], 1.3–88.1) p = 0.012}, transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) (odds ratio, 5.8 [95% CL, 1.2–28.4] p = 0.015), CYP2C9 (odds ratio, 7.8 [95% CL, 1.1–70.1] p=0.043), gene coding dopamine-2 receptor (DRD2) (odds ratio, 6.2 [95% CL, 1.1–34.7] p=0.031), and ATP- binding cassette transporter gene (ABCA1) (odds ratio, 8.4 [95% CL, 1.5–48.1] p = 0.012).
Limitations: Some participants were reluctant to undergo genetic testing; only 28 of 99 CHS patients who agreed to testing ultimately returned a kit.


This is the largest patient cohort of CHS examined to date, and first to note associated mutations in genes affecting neurotransmitters, the endocannabinoid system, and the cytochrome P450 complex associated with cannabinoid metabolism. Although the sample size was smaller than desired, these preliminary findings may contribute to the growing body of knowledge, stimulate additional investigation, help elucidate the path- ophysiology of CHS, and, ultimately, direct future treatment.

Open Access


DOI: 10.1089/can.2021.0046


Russo, E. B., Spooner, C., May, L., Leslie, R., & Whiteley, V. L. (2021). Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Survey and Genomic Investigation. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.