Marijuana Allergy Spreads With Legalization
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 (See www.teenvogue.com/story/marijuana-related-illness-increases-legalized-states Retrieved 1/5/2017).
"Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome" was first diagnosed as a medical condition in 2007. Symptoms include abdominal pain and intense vomiting. So far, the only cure is limiting or eliminating use of all marijuana, particularly the smoking of the drug.
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
- 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)"
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
Meta-Analysis of 35 Marijuana Studies
- 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.
Clinical Trials Into Benefits and Problems of Cannabis Use
- 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.
© 2013 Patty Inglish MS