With little substance and much hyperbole, a recent CBS piece is warning of a “mysterious illness” caused by heavy marijuana smoke which, in fact, is neither “mysterious” nor very well documented.
The piece, titled “Mysterious illness tied to marijuana use on the rise in states with legal weed,” is a pseudo-exposé of something called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. It essentially consists of nausea and vomiting bouts caused by heavy marijuana use, though it is easily treated with hot showers or baths, according to doctors themselves.
The CBS piece cites only one study by Dr. Kennon Hard at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, titled “Cyclic Vomiting Presentations Following Marijuana Liberalization in Colorado,” in an attempt to show a correlation between the rise of CHS and marijuana legalization.
The study itself is dubious, as it only surveys two hospitals in the entire region. Additionally, the CBS piece wrongly equivocates the study’s actual focus – which is on cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) – with its own story on CHS. Yet the two are not the same.
Citing a clinical study from Philadelphia, High Times Magazine also reported that one must smoke heavily for an average of 16 years before developing any CHS symptoms, though the earliest symptoms had appeared in a patient was after around three years. One need not smoke to develop CVS.
“Once thought to affect only children, cyclic vomiting syndrome occurs in all age groups,” according to the Mayo Clinic and reported by The Free Thought Project. “The syndrome is difficult to diagnose because vomiting is a symptom of many disorders.”
While the study did look at cannabis use among patients surveyed, the distinction between the two illnesses is crucial, something which the CBS piece did not expand on.
The study also saw a miniscule increase following the liberalization of marijuana – from 0.036 percent of visits to 0.07 percent – far too small to warrant the article’s scare-tactics headline.
In a time when “fake news” are on the rise and increasingly being reported on by mainstream news outlets as the a epidemic, it’s important to distinguish how often major outlets themselves engage in what they criticize.