You may have heard of “scromiting,” an informal name for cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome: a condition that causes uncontrollable vomiting after prolonged marijuana use. But it takes frequent weed smoking to develop the problem, as Taylor Nichols, an emergency medicine doctor, recently clarified for Slate. “It’s a rare condition that only develops in the long term, daily use, of marijuana. It’s not like somebody who is a nonuser goes out and smokes marijuana once and then develops ‘a poisoning.’”
Symptoms of scromiting
Symptoms develop in two phases. In the first, a person might experience heartburn, nausea, stomach pain and/or burping. The second phase is characterized by uncontrollable vomiting, which might also include very loud sounds of retching or screaming, hence the term “scromiting”—a portmanteau of the words “screaming” and “vomiting.”
An over-the-counter remedy that helps with scromiting
Long term, the only cure for scromiting is to stop using marijuana. Since scromiting is induced by chronic use, and marijuana takes a while to fully leave the body, it may be weeks to months before a sufferer starts to feel relief. However, as science writer Laurel Hamer reports at ASBMB Today, there are a couple of over-the-counter remedies that seem to offer short-term relief.
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The first remedy is a hot shower. Anecdotally, compulsive bathing seems to be one of the symptoms that accompanies a case of scromiting, as it’s often the only way a sufferer can find any sort of relief. Spending all day in a hot bath or shower doesn’t exactly help a person return to their daily life, though, so emergency toxicologist Jeff LaPoint decided to test out capsaicin cream as a potential remedy for scromiting, which is widely available over the counter.
As LaPoint explained to ASBMB Today, he decided to test out capsaicin cream based on a hunch that the relief offered by hot baths was due to activating a receptor in our body called TRPV1 that senses heat. Since capsaicin cream also activates TRPV1, he figured it was worth a shot, which led to him testing it out on an ER patient suffering from the condition. The attempt was successful, with the person experiencing significant relief of their symptoms within 30 minutes.
As LaPoint reported at the 2014 North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology, applying capsaicin cream to the belly led to significant relief for seven people suffering from scromiting, with their symptoms resolving within half an hour. Researchers at the University of Virginia are now testing capsaicin cream as a remedy for scromiting in a clinical trial, with results expected soon. As LaPoint told ASBMB Today, it’s a huge breakthrough “to have an over-the-counter medication that someone could take home and be functional.”