The weed influencer and the scientist argue why some smokers keep throwing up

The group had been started by a CHS patient named Erica, a 37-year-old artist who had searched for resources online after her diagnosis and, finding nothing, decided to create “essentially a blog about my full recovery process and all things I discovered along the way. (Erica preferred not to use her last name, due to the backlash that accompanies public discussions of CHS.) She pinned posts recommending magnesium supplements and listing lesser-known symptoms of CHS, such as seizures and “scromiting”, that is to say cries and vomiting. at a time. Before joining, members must agree to a set of rules, including “No posting theories or unproven methods… This group is for tried and true methods only.”

Erica and Moon became fast friends, despite living across country from each other. As the group grew, accumulating up to a thousand new members each month, the two women felt they were uncovering crucial information, including which prescription drugs were best for the condition and which foods. Triggers (cocoa, rosemary) could also cause CHS patients to puke. “There are so many of us that we can use each other as guinea pigs,” Erica told me. “The articles that were written by the doctors themselves are actually fake.”

For example, she explained, she’s been told that some doctors recommend that CHS patients try using non-psychoactive CBD products. But when Moon tried taking CBD capsules, about six months after that dinner in Malibu, she ended up in the emergency room with three ulcers, two hernias and a bacterial infection. Now, she and Erica worked to convince the new band members that to be healthy, they had to quit all cannabis, for good.

“We saved thousands of lives,” says Erica.


In September 2019, after speaking on a panel at a medical cannabis conference, Moon was thrilled to learn that a researcher named Ethan Russo was interested in studying the disease. From 1998 to 2014, Russo conducted research for GW Pharmaceuticals, the only company to offer an FDA-approved, plant-derived cannabis drug (Epidiolex, a 98% CBD-based treatment for childhood epilepsy). . Russo’s early belief in the promise of medical cannabis, combined with the imprimatur of a white coat, made him something of a folk hero among pot lovers.

Russo had been tracking nascent research into cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, including a 2012 study showing that patients like Moon spent up to $95,000 in screening and hospitalization costs before being diagnosed with CHS. He thought the theories about CHS caused by pesticides were “bullshit” and was curious as to why CHS affected some stoners and not others, hypothesizing that a genetic mutation might be responsible. . He thought that if he could compare the genomes of a large group of patients with CHS with the genomes of a control group of smokers who had not developed CHS, he might be able to offer patients and physicians some clarity.

“The original idea was, can we develop a diagnostic test for this?” Russo told me. “A $180 genetic test can maybe save people a lot of heartache,” he said. And maybe it could give the parents of the many teenage and 20-something CHS patients who refused to believe weed was making them sick “more ammunition to say, ‘Hey, Johnny, don’t smoke for you.’ “

He decided to team up with a genetic testing company called Endocanna Health, which used its DNA kits to offer individualized cannabis recommendations based on a person’s genetics. Russo, who doesn’t particularly enjoy using cannabis himself, had taken the company’s DNA test and said his assessments of how his body was genetically predisposed to react to weed were surprisingly accurate.

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