Denver Woman Wants People to Know About Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

“Almost every morning I’d wake up with the pain.”


In April, Julia Unger, 19, was diagnosed with a rare medical condition associated with marijuana, called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). She said she wants more and more people to know about the condition that can affect chronic marijuana users.

Unger who hails from Denver said, “Every morning, I would wake up with nausea and extreme pain in my stomach. I would be throwing up for hours on end.”

She said she had anxiety and depression when she was in high school and started smoking marijuana to manage those issues.

“I would say four or five times a day I was smoking,” continued Unger. “Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was doing this to myself but it was the only thing I thought was helping me.”

In 2018, she started having symptoms of stomachaches, constant nausea and vomiting, body temperature changes, and weight loss.

Unger added, “It’s just been a battle ever since. Almost every morning I’d wake up with the pain. It was hard for me because I wasn’t knowing what was going on with me and I was very confused about why my body was doing this.”

She had to visit ER regularly for several months. In April, she was advised to see an expert who specializes in digestive disorders.

Unger said, “They initially sent me to a gastroenterologist. They told me that they see a lot of this with people who smoke marijuana. I’m like, that’s ridiculous. This could never happen to me. I just kept smoking. I totally ignored the fact that she told me that’s what was wrong with me.”

Even after seeing a gastroenterologist, she continued smoking pot daily for the next four months. And in August, she again went to the hospital, with doctors explaining her the same thing; however, Unger was dubious. She said, “I’m like, ‘You’re ridiculous.’”

The 19-year-old said she started doing some research the next morning.

Unger said, “I joined a Facebook group that was all about CHS. It just hit me and I was like, ‘Okay. I’m stopping today.’ Ever since August 28th, I haven’t touched anything and I’ve been feeling amazing.”

The Denver local said her health started to improve dramatically just three weeks after completely stopping marijuana. She recalled, “It’s improved just about everything. I can get out and go to the store. I can go for a drive or hang out with friends without worrying about throwing up or feeling pain all the time. It’s just insane to think it was affecting me that badly and I had no idea.”

“It definitely is an issue that I feel like needs to be talked about more,” continued Unger. “It can affect people in the wrong way and I just want that to be known.”

In April 2018, a 17-year-old teen from Indianapolis was also diagnosed with CHS after having complaints of repeated bouts of vomiting with numbness and tingling in the face. 

CHS is characterized by the symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, which could lead to acute renal (kidney) failure. People with severe cases of dehydration with acute renal failure caused by CHS may even die.