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Marijuana Allergy Spreads With Legalization

Updated on March 13, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Degrees in medicine and psychology. Recognized contributions in allopathic & alternative medicine, brain research, and space medicine.

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Emergency Rooms See More Marijuana Sickness Patients

Working in food service for 12 hours at a concert filled with marijuana smoke three decades ago, I suffered a severe illness from marijuana allergy. The public has believed this allergy to be impossible until early 2017, when an epidemic of the illness occurred. Cases in Colorado doubled from 2009 through 2016.

The condition is called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS and in January 2017, Dr. Kennon Heard and the medical community related it to sustained or prolonged use of marijuana (reference: http://www.teenvogue.com/story/marijuana-related-illness-increases-legalized-states Retrieved 1/5/2017).

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome was first diagnoses in 2007. Symptoms include abdominal pain and intense vomiting. So far, the only cure is limiting or eliminating use of marijuana.

Source

Marijuana Allergy or Hypersensitivity

A raging argument continued throughout the 2010s about the benefits versus the harmful effects of marijuana as increasing numbers of US States legalize its medicinal use.

Few times have I seen a mention of marijuana allergy in these arguments, although some medical professionals are beginning to speak out about marijuana allergy and marijuana hypersensitivity.

The adverse reactions to marijuana can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. I suffer marijuana allergy and if exposed to any amount again in the future, I can suffer irreperable harm, because my body's reaction is so severe.

The aspect of the ongoing arguments about marijuana in the public media that most impresses me is that very few, or no individuals in some groups, express concern for the individuals that may be allergic to the drug via smoke inhalation or ingestion.

The lack of concern over, and sometimes denial of, the harmful effects to a portion of society, including children, who may be unwillingly exposed to the drug suggests to me something unconscionable about legalizing it without requiring health warnings on the related labels or prescription packaging.

Disbelief and Denial

I remember a time when people in general did not believe that a person could be allergic to chocolate or peanuts. When deaths for such allergies became broadcasted on international television, the public began to take notice.

Today, warning labels are placed on food items and even in the drive thru windows of restaurants, warning customers of the use of nuts and chocolate in their menu items. Warnings are even made to patients that receive chicken egg-produced anti-flu vaccines - my father could not have accepted such an injection, because it would have killed him. Today, we have a non-egg produced vaccine for those people.

I want the same warnings for marijuana.

Potential Problems with Short-Term and Long-Term Use Of Marijuana

Pertinent Document:

  • Wallace EA et al. “Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Literature Review and Proposed Diagnosis and Treatment Algorithm.” Southern Medical Journal. 2011: 104(9): 659-664.

Quotes from the above findings:

"Cannabis allergic reactions are characteristic of Type I Hypersensitivities, also known as immediate or anaphylactic, and involve skin, eyes, nose, bronchopulmonary and gastronintestinal tract."

"Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) ... can occur with chronic/daily cannabis use. CHS is well documented and has been reviewed by Wallace et al. (2011)"

Symptoms include:

  • Cyclic vomiting and compulsive bathing.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Paradoxical emetic response: Nausea and vomiting, when usually, marijuana causes the opposite (relief to chemo patients, for example). Hot baths provide temporary relief, but all 31 case reports in one examination showed that the patients suffering with CHS bathed an average of 5 hours per day. They had to stop using cannabis to get better and stop washing themselves.

Marijuana Related Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of Allergy or Hypersensitivity

Marijuana Allergy and Hypersensitivity are two different conditions. An associated anaphylactic reaction can cause death. Below are the less serious and more serious results of marijuana exposure in persons who are allergic or hypersensitive.

Marijuana Allergy

  • The pollen from marijuana growth can cause allergies as any other pollen can in humans.
  • Contact skin conditions can result from marijuana eposure, including itching, redness, hives, and scaling/peeling.
  • Airborne exposure can cause itching and watering eyes and nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, and asthma or other difficulty breathing.

At the same time, if you need marijuana for medicinal purposes and are allgeric, your physician may have the right treatment to offset your allergy symptoms.

Personal Experience

I was exposed to a cloud of marijuana smoke at a concert at which I was connected with the food service as a manager trainee. My symptoms then and thereafter encompass severe difficulty in breathing and projectile vomiting that does not stop without treatment, severe headache, reduced field of vision and eye pain, loud ringing in the ears, throat swelling, and loss of consciousness.

Marijuana Hypersensitivity: University of Toronto Findings

Pertinent Documents:

  • Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; 2011.
  • Otto, M. Alexander. "Marijuana Allergies: Reactions May Be More Common Than Thought." Internal Medicine News Digital Network (www.mdedge.com/internalmedicinenews/article/33456/pulmonology/marijuana-allergies-reactions-may-be-more-common Retrieved July 14, 2013).

Major Findings:

The University of Toronto in Ontario Province has conducted research testing and studies into marijuana allergy. The lead research is Dr. Gordon Sussman, current head of the Clinical Allergy and Immunology department of the respected school.

Dr. Sussman suggests that doctors generally do not ask about such an allergy or hypersensitivity, because so few people report it. My opinion is also that users may recover from symptoms and forget about them until the next time the folks use marijuana and suffer again. However, Sussman feels that doctors should ask about marijuana use in cases of unexplained runny nose, asthma, and anaphylactic shock (which is deadly).

NOTE: Additional symptoms reported in the medical literature include dry cough, skin blisters, and sneezing. Symptoms usually gradually recede with in about 30 minutes as the patient is separated from the exposure to marijuana, but in the worst cases, the patient requires epinephrine and antihistamines.

Toronto
Toronto | Source

The Sussman Pilot Study

Dr. Sussman operated his own study of 17 individuals without additional grant funding. The 17 had all reported that marijuana smoking gave them a runny nose.

All 17 people in the Sussman produced a positive marijuana skin prick test (allergic). One patient of the 17 suffered an anaphylactic reaction to drinking marijuana tea.

Major Findings:

Marijuana pollen steeped in water was placed under the skin by needle of all 17 participants inth study.

  • After 1/4 hour of contact, the 17 had welts between 4-19 mm in diameter, with redness flared out from them.
  • Of the 17 people, 15 had inhalation problems that included itchy/runny nose and conjunctivitis (inflamed eyes), swelling around the eyes, wheezing, sinusitis, and throat swelling. Thirteen also reported hives, a different type of welts.
  • After drinking marijuana tea, only 1 of the 17 had a reaction, which was severe and anaphylactic. It included much anxiety, chest tightness, wheezing, gastrointestinal cramping, and vomiting.

Quote from the lead researcher:

"The researchers’ next step is to identify the actual allergens responsible for the reactions using a marijuana extract from a U.S. federal laboratory, serum from positive patients, and Western blot assays."

A weed or an herb? Satisfied users of marijuana seem to call it an herb, but Dr. Sussman calls it a weed, further stating that weeds contain allergens. He now asks all of his allergy and asthma patients about their use of marijuana, according to the Internal Medicine News online.

Weeds
Weeds | Source

Meta-Analysis of 35 Marijuana Studies

Pertinent Documents:

  • Moore TH, Zammit S, Lingford-Hughes A, et al. Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. Lancet. 2007;370:319-328.
  • Wilner, AN. Cookie Encephalopathy. www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807778_4 retrieved July 24, 2013.

Quote from findings about long-term effects:

"Beyond the adverse pulmonary effects of smoking marijuana, less obvious long-term effects can occur. A systematic review of 35 studies (Moore TH, Zammit S, Lingford-Hughes A, et al ) indicated that marijuana use increases the risk for chronic psychosis, independent of its acute intoxication effects. The findings were consistent with a dose/response effect. It was unclear whether marijuana increased the risk for depression, suicidal thoughts, or anxiety outcomes."

Marijuana Mythbusters Findings

Myth Busters: www.marijuanamythbusters.com/tag/cannabis-allergy/ Retrieved July 15, 2013.

Quote from findings:

"...marijuana pollen is not detected in many areas before mid-July, most years it peaks in mid-August, and it is unlikely to be detected after mid-September."

This article goes on to say that many growers kill off all the male plants, which produce the pollen that may cause the allergies. However, some people are allergic to the actual cannabinoid/tetrahydrocannabinol content instead of the pollen.

Recommendations

  • As America and/or the 50 states legalize marijuana, individuals of all ages that might suffer harm from increased exposure resulting from marijuana's increased use and presence in their communities should be protected.
  • Patients that need medicinal marijuana and are allergic to it also deserve help. A warning label and public health education outreach can be the solution.

Lake Ontario near Toronto. Is marijuana a weed, as Dr. Sussman states? It does contain allergens.
Lake Ontario near Toronto. Is marijuana a weed, as Dr. Sussman states? It does contain allergens. | Source

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS

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    • profile image

      Anneml 

      8 months ago

      My experience was a bit different where I initially had a sharp increase in blood pressure followed by a quick decrease in blood pressure. After the drop in blood pressure I became very pale and lethargic. My heart rate dropped extremely low and it felt like my heart was skipping beats in my chest. My doctor said this seemed like an allergic reaction an I would be advised to avoid exposure in any form.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @TheClonedOne -

      How's the weather in MN?

      Marijuana is an allergen to only a very small number of people. I doubt that the govt can ban all allergens, but leaders might try a ban - as in the case of banning "big sodas." LOL

      The citations to the marijuana studies I used in the above article are listed in the article. If you need more, access the professional journals or your local university library online.

      Allergies, addictions; and aggression in the withdrawal stage are absolutely un-laughable and so is an attitude (from a small, mean, uneducated group of people) that insists that these things do not and cannot exist exist.

    • profile image

      Joe 

      4 years ago from Minnesota

      So basically marijuana is as deadly as peanuts and peanut products, shellfish, various plant pollen and bees. It's sad but I can actually see our brilliant government passing laws banning all allergens.

      I would be very interested in reading the studies claiming how addictive it is as well as the aggressiveness experienced during withdrawal and increase crime. That is almost laughable.

    • profile image

      hattersmen 

      5 years ago

      Great article Patty. I read this as I am thinking to write on educating teens that the drug can be addictive. I for one am totally against legalisation of it having watched loved ones suffer for years as a result of addiction to it. No one seems to realise how addictive it really it. Nor, how the withdrawal from daily use of the 'whacky baccy' can get aggressive and lead to a lot of the crime stats that are reported each year.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Maren Morgan M-T -- I will at least write to the governor of my state, then maybe look at the petition section on the White House site. Thanks for the suggestion!!

      randomcreative - Thanks a million for reading and posting! I also know a few people that are allergic to 1) both bananas and carrots - I have seen them go to hospital; or 2) avocados and seafood of all types.

      I'm also allergic to Splenda and an old roommate of mine thought it was very humorous that I became sick from ingesting it. Then there were the former 2 friends of mine who said that if they were not allergic to something, then no one else could possibly be allergic to it. Life can be dangerous, yes?

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I honestly had no idea that you could be allergic to marijuana. You learn something new everyday. Great overview of this topic.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Excellent, well-reasoned article. Get a petition going, Patty.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, Brandon E. Newman. Maybe Hawaiin species contains different chemicals than other species do? I don't know much about that.

      "The fear" is about the only thing I did NOT get from my experience - no paranoia or dry mouth, but I have never been so sick before or after. It was three hours after being removed from the area before I could even sit up.

      There is a clinical trial recruiting participants in order to look at "the fear" phenomenon at this time; it's listed at the clinical trials link. The study should have interesting results.

      Thanks for making a comment!

    • Brandon E Newman profile image

      Brandon E Newman 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      I once smoked some Hawaiian weed that made me so sick- extreme paranoia, nausea, increased heart rate, blood-red eyes, dry mouth and a "roller coaster" sensation of hallucinatory movement. I thought that this was just the effect of a high dose. Maybe I too am allergic. High-potency pot is known to cause a panic reaction in inexperienced smokers that some call "the fear." Maybe you got that.

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