Getting In the Shower for Emetic Symptoms

A recent study (I Aziz et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 878-86) examined the epidemiology and clinical characteristics of Rome IV functional nausea and vomiting disorders (FNVDs) in adults.  The study used internet cross-sectional health surveys from 5931 adults in 2015.

Key findings:

  • 2.2% of the population (n=131) fulfilled criteria for Rome IV FNVDs
  • Hot water bathing, which has been reported in cannaboid hyperemesis syndrome, was also noted  in patients with cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) in 44%.  “This behavior was independent of cannabis but augmented by its use.”

My take: FNVDs are common and hot water bathing is not pathognomonic for cannaboid hyperemesis syndrome.

Related references:

  1. Moon AM, Buckley SA, Mark NM. Successful treatment of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome with topical capsaicin. ACG Case Rep J. 2018 Jan 3;5:e3.
  2. Graham J, Barberio M, Wang GS. Capsaicin cream for treatment of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome in adolescents: A case series. 2017 Dec;140(6): e20163795.

Hotel in Barcelona

Clostridium difficile and Cannabis

Briefly noted:

W El-Matary et al. J Pediatr 2019; 206: 20-5.  This study from Manitoba using electronic database found that the incidence rate of C difficile was stable from 2005-2015, with an overall rate of 7.8 per 100,000 person-years.  Children with Hirschsprung’s and inflammatory bowel disease had increased prevalence rates.

JL O’Loughlin et al. J Pediatr 2019; 206: 142-7. Using data from two longitudinal studies in Montreal (Cannabis is legal for adults in Canada since 2018), the authors examined the rate of cannabis initiation starting in 6th grade through 11th grade. Key finding was that cannabis use was 1.8 time more likely among children whose parents used cannabis.  Overall, cannabis use increased from 3.1% in grade 6 to 25.7% in grade 11.

What is erythromelagia?  This term was noted in the title of a recent report (J Pediatr 2019; 206: 217-24) and refers to bilateral episodic pain and redness that occurs in feet, hands and occasionally the ears.  In some case, symptoms progress proximally to involve the legs, arms, and rarely the face.


How Safe is Marijuana?

A recent link to Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker: Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think? One of my sons informed me of this article.

Excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis:

A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.

For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.

Then come Chapters 5 through 13, the heart of the report, which concern marijuana’s potential risks. The haze of uncertainty continues. Does the use of cannabis increase the likelihood of fatal car accidents? Yes. By how much? Unclear. Does it affect motivation and cognition? Hard to say, but probably. Does it affect employment prospects? Probably. Will it impair academic achievement? Limited evidence. This goes on for pages…

Several points discussed in article:

  • Marijuana may increase the risk of psychiatric illnesses. “Many people with serious psychiatric illness smoke lots of pot. The marijuana lobby typically responds to this fact by saying that pot-smoking is a response to mental illness, not the cause of it—that people with psychiatric issues use marijuana to self-medicate. That is only partly true. In some cases, heavy cannabis use does seem to cause mental illness”…
  • Marijuana may increase aggression,  In the state of Washington was the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana. “Between 2013 and 2017, the state’s murder and aggravated-assault rates rose forty per cent—twice the national homicide increase and four times the national aggravated-assault increase”
  • Does cannabis serve as a gateway drug?  Like e-cigarettes, cannabis is being formulated into products attractive to youth: gummy bears, bites, and brownies.

My take (borrowed in part from author): “Permitting pot is one thing; promoting its use is another.” We really don’t know that much about marijuana.

CDC Link: Marijuana and Public Health

Related blog posts:


Legalized Cannabis Associated with Increased Vomiting and Dependency But What About Alcohol?

In politics, one hears a lot of “What about?”  If a problem is identified, many times a politician will try to divert the focus and/or justify a contentious issue to a related issue with a “what about” question. In medicine, when we see problems with marijuana, one could ask, ‘What about alcohol?’

A recent retrospective study (M Al-Shammari et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 1876-81) found an increase in cannabis dependency unspecified (CDU) (ICD code) coinciding with the legalization of marijuana. Thanks to Seth Marcus for pointing out this study.

Key finding:

  • “We observed an increasing trend of CDU or an aggregate of CDU and persistent vomiting…the legalization of marijuana significantly increased the incidence rate during the legalization period (by 17.9%)…compared to the prelegalization period.

Related article: Aaron Carroll Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

An excerpt:

The immediate answer, of course, is “neither.” …

The easy answer is to demonize marijuana. It’s illegal, after all. Moreover, its potential downsides are well known. Scans show that marijuana use is associated with potential changes in the brain. It’s associated with increases in the risk of psychosis. It may be associated with changes in lung function or long-term cancer risk, even though a growing body of evidence says that seems unlikely. It can harm memory, it’s associated with lower academic achievement, and its use is linked to less success later in life.

But these are all associations, not known causal pathways…

When I’m debating my answer, I think about health as well…Binge drinking accounted for about half of the more than 80,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States in 2010, according to a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The economic costs associated with excessive alcohol consumption in the United States were estimated to be about $225 billion. Binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on a single occasion, isn’t rare either. More than 17 percent of all people in the United States are binge drinkers, and more than 28 percent of people age 18 to 24…

Marijuana, on the other hand, kills almost no one…

I think about which is more dangerous when driving. A 2013 case-control study found that marijuana use increased the odds of being in a fatal crash by 83 percent. But adding alcohol to drug use increased the odds of a fatal crash by more than 2,200 percent. A more recent study found that, after controlling for various factors, a detectable amount of THC, the active ingredient in pot, in the blood did not increase the risk of accidents at all. Having a blood alcohol level of at least 0.05 percent, though, increased the odds of being in a crash by 575 percent…

 In 1995 alone, college students reported more than 460,000 alcohol-related incidents of violence in the United States… On the other hand, a 2014 study looking at marijuana use and intimate partner violence in the first nine years of marriage found that those who used marijuana had lower rates of such violence…

[Thus]  if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

My take: While the cited study shows a correlation between cannaboid legalization with both CDU and increased vomiting, the commentary by Dr. Carroll helps provide context to the risks of marijuana use.  From a safety standpoint, the risks posed by alcohol appear much greater.

Related blog posts:

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

CCFA: Updates in Inflammatory Bowel Disease 2017 (part 1)

Our local CCFA chapter provided a useful physician CME meeting.  The following are my notes/picutres. My notes may include some errors in transcription and errors of omission.

Nancy McGreal  -Complementary Therapies in IBD

Key points:

  1. Curcumin and VSL#3 are likely helpful
  2. Most complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies are not inherently dangerous, but most are unproven
  3. Biggest risks: Nonadherence rates are increased in patient taking CAM.
  4. Despite the low overall risk of most CAM treatments, Dr. McGreal cautioned against the following:
    1. Cannabis is NOT recommended due to neurocognitive effects. It may mask active disease.
    2. FMT investigational. There are unknown risks but FMT could cause metabolic problems. Donor selection is important and we still have a lot to learn.

This final slide is from CCFA about how to order more patient information brochures.

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) and changes in diet should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Should Medical Marijuana Get a Free Pass?

In many states, including Georgia, medical marijuana has bypassed the rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process via state laws permitting its usage.  A recent editorial (J Koliani-Pace, CA Siegel. Am J Gastroenterol 2016; 111: 161-62 -thx to Ben Gold for this reference) highlights the dilemma facing physicians with medical marijuana with regard to providing advice/approval for this treatment.

Key points:

  • 12% of people aged 12 years or older report using cannabis in the past year.
  • For gastrointestinal illnesses, there is scant evidence effectiveness.  There is some data indicating that it makes you feel better, but no data proving that there is objective improvement in conditions like Crohn’s disease.
  • Adverse effects require more research.  “Approximately 9% of people who experiment with marijuana will become addicted.”  Other concerns: increased car accidents, altered memory/judgment, hyperemesis syndrome, and respiratory effects.  With increasing availability and increasing THC concentrations, there have been in an increase in emergency department visits related to usage.
  • Lack of quality control: various concentrations of THC and cannabinoids, different administration routes, contaminants.

My take: At least with GI illnesses, more studies are needed to determine whether medical marijuana should be recommended.

Related blog posts:

Gibbs Gardens

Gibbs Gardens

Medical Marijuana -Update

While medical marijuana is not a frequent concern of many pediatric gastroenterologists, our nurses have been getting questions with the recent passage of legislation.  In Georgia, as in many states, marijuana is allowed for certain medical conditions. “Georgia’s medical marijuana law [Haleigh’s Hope Act] does not legalize the production or sale of marijuana, it simply decriminalizes its possession by certain qualified individuals.” –GeorgiaCann Website

in Georgia the patient must suffer from one of these qualifying illnesses:

  1. Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea and vomiting.
  2. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
  3. Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries.
  4. Multiple Sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
  5. Crohn’s Disease
  6. Mitochondrial Disease
  7. Parkinson’s Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
  8. Sickle Cell Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.

While I will not be recommending medical marijuana for my patients, here is a link for How to Legally Obtain Medical Marijuana Oil in Georgia (thanks to AM for information).

Also, Georgia Department of Public Health -Low THC Oil Registry Page

Related blog posts:

From CNN:

University of Chicago

University of Chicago