Doctors address illness linked to chronic marijuana use

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 1:24 PM

What You Need to Know: Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Doctors around the Pacific Northwest are identifying a mysterious illness baffling patients and even other medical professionals.

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“The pain is so intense, I can’t make it go away,” Jigna Howland said. “I can’t make the vomiting stop.”

The sickness is called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, known as CHS, and it’s linked to chronic marijuana use. It’s so new that there are no hard numbers on how many people are affected across the country. Doctors believe using large amounts of marijuana frequently triggers a painful vomiting syndrome -- but only in certain people.

“Who has this condition, what brings it on and how can we help them?” Dr. Sean Bozorgzadeh said.

One of his patients was Jigna Howland, who, over the past few years, started battling what seemed like a strange, unexplained illness.

“You are literally just retching and retching, and it’s painful,” she said.

Howland has smoked pot for decades and uses it daily, in part to combat high blood pressure and anxiety. She’s also worked at Cannazone cannabis store in Mount Vernon, Washington, since it opened earlier this year. But she could not figure out what suddenly started causing the sickness.

“I had no idea what was going on, other than I was getting sick once a year -- and it was a pretty heavy illness,” she said.

She received medical treatment five times. Doctors told her tests were inconclusive.

Then, four months ago, doctors at Peace Health United General in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, suggested pot might be at the root of it.

“So you did not know it was marijuana-related?” KIRO-TV reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

“No,” she said. “Of course, I would smoke more marijuana to alleviate the nausea -- which was actually making it worse!”

CHS symptoms include nausea, intense cramping and vomiting, which can lead to severe dehydration.

People who have it say hot showers and baths are the only things that ease the pain. 

“I would just stand in the hot shower,” she said. “I don’t know why, and the doctors don’t even know why.”

Dr. Bozorgzadeh was the first to suggest Howland had CHS. In 2009, he saw two to three cases a week. Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington, he says that number has gone up.

“So how many are you seeing a week now?” KIRO-TV’s Linzi Sheldon asked.

“Right now, we see one or two a day, almost ... It’s much more common,” he said.

KIRO-TV’s investigation led to other cities and hospitals. At Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington, doctors reported seeing one to two cases a week. Harborview Medical Center sees one to two cases a month. as does Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center.

Overlake Hospital Medical Center reports seeing a case every two to three months, and Swedish Hospital told KIRO-TV it sees CHS cases “often,” but did not offer more details.

Dr. Otto Lin at Virginia Mason co-authored a case study of a man who reported “vomiting for 16 years,” while he struggled with the undiagnosed sickness, all the while “consuming at least four to eight marijuana doses (joints) per day.”

CHS is gaining national attention, too. People across the country have started speaking out, and a recent story in The Atlantic asked in the headline, "Will Smoking Pot Make Me Vomit Forever?"

It is still unclear how and why pot has this effect on certain people. However, Bozorgzadeh pointed out, “We do know that people who use it chronically and they use a lot of it, you know, sometimes three to five times a day, are more prone to developing this.”

Once patients are treated with IVs and medication, doctors say the symptoms usually stop after a couple of days. Then Bozorgzadeh recommends a trial phase of no pot at all.

“So they go through a period of time where they do not smoke cannabis, and if the condition improved or went away, that's proof that it's causing it,” he said.

Howland switched for a while to marijuana products with low levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical in pot that gets people high. She now smokes fewer concentrates, which she personally believes may have helped trigger the sickness for her in the first place.

“Some people refuse to believe it,” she said. “They think it's a very anti-marijuana stance. It is not anti-marijuana. It’s how I make my living—is selling marijuana. I enjoy marijuana. There is nothing wrong with it. It just comes back to moderation.”

Photos offer glimpse into former Texas home of parents accused of abusing 13 children

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 3:58 PM

RIVERSIDE, CA - JANUARY 18: David Allen Turpin, accused of holding their 13 children captive, appears in court for arraignment on January 18, 2018 in Riverside, California. According to Riverside County Sheriffs, David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin held 13 malnourished children ranging in age from 2 to 29 captive in their Perris, California home. Deputies were alerted after a 17-year-old daughter escaped by jumping through a window shortly before dawn on Sunday morning, carrying a de-activated mobile phone from which she was able to call 911 for help. Responding deputies described conditions in the home as foul-smelling with some kids chained to a bed and suffering injuries as a result. Adult children appeared at first to be minors because of their malnourished state. The Turpins were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment.  (Photo by Terry Pierson-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images
RIVERSIDE, CA - JANUARY 18: David Allen Turpin, accused of holding their 13 children captive, appears in court for arraignment on January 18, 2018 in Riverside, California. According to Riverside County Sheriffs, David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin held 13 malnourished children ranging in age from 2 to 29 captive in their Perris, California home. Deputies were alerted after a 17-year-old daughter escaped by jumping through a window shortly before dawn on Sunday morning, carrying a de-activated mobile phone from which she was able to call 911 for help. Responding deputies described conditions in the home as foul-smelling with some kids chained to a bed and suffering injuries as a result. Adult children appeared at first to be minors because of their malnourished state. The Turpins were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment. (Photo by Terry Pierson-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

David and Louise Turpin, the California couple who were charged with torture and child abuse after authorities accused them of holding their 13 children captive in dire conditions, previously lived in Texas, several news outlets have reported.

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ABC News reported Thursday that it had acquired pictures from inside the family’s former Texas home, near Fort Worth. The pictures were submitted by the home’s current owner, who took the pictures after he bought the foreclosed property about 18 years ago.

The pictures, which can be seen here, show stained carpets and walls. The current owner told ABC it required an “extensive cleanup” and that he and his wife “believed that the previous occupants destroyed the house because it was being foreclosed on.”

The anonymous owner also told ABC that feces were smeared all over the walls of every room at the time that he bought the home.

The Associated Press reported Friday that a prosecutor in the case said the Turpins limited their children to one shower a year and one meal a day. 

Boy, 12, dies from flu-like symptoms in Michigan

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 file photo, Ana Martinez, a medical assistant at the Sea Mar Community Health Center, gives a patient a flu shot in Seattle. This year's U.S. flu season got off to an early start, and it's been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/AP
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 file photo, Ana Martinez, a medical assistant at the Sea Mar Community Health Center, gives a patient a flu shot in Seattle. This year's U.S. flu season got off to an early start, and it's been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)(Ted S. Warren/AP)

A 12-year-old boy from Michigan who vomited during dinner one night, went to an urgent care facility the next night and had a flu test come back negative tragically died the very next morning.

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Michael Messenger’s family can’t believe how quickly their world was turned upside-down, losing a son and a brother who had been so full of life in just a matter of days.

The timeline of Messenger’s symptoms, evaluation and death has his mother Jessica Decent-Doll urging other parents not to wait if they see signs of flu.

“Don’t wait, it’s all I can say. This flu or whatever is going around this year is unbelievably dangerous,” she told the Times Herald.

Messenger vomited during dinner Jan. 9, was taken to an urgent care the next evening where he was cleared for flu and administered anti-nausea medication and was found unresponsive at home in bed the morning of Jan. 11.

An hour and a half later, he was declared dead at a hospital.

Decent-Doll said her son’s vital signs were deemed normal at the urgent care center and that the family was advised to give him fluids.

By 9:15 a.m. Thursday, it was clear Messenger’s life was in grave danger.

“I ran upstairs, and I sat with him, and I tried to get him to respond to me, but there was no response, nothing,” Decent-Doll said. “It’s indescribable, it really is.”

The grieving mother said that her son had just gotten a flu shot in December and that he “never stopped, ever. He loved science. He loved his family.”

Kristen Ervinck started a GoFundMe to help the grieving family:
"Mikey was so full of life and so energetic he lit up the room with his smile," it read.

The GoFundMe raised more than $12,000 as of Saturday. 
At least 30 children have lost their lives to the disease this flu season.

Michael Messenger's funeral was Thursday. His family is still waiting for the results of his autopsy.

Shutdown nixes Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago; party goes on with son Eric headlining

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 10:49 PM

Despite President Donald Trump deciding not to travel to Palm Beach on Saturday, January 20, 2018 due to the government shutdown, supporters and protesters stood near Mar-a-Lago. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)
Despite President Donald Trump deciding not to travel to Palm Beach on Saturday, January 20, 2018 due to the government shutdown, supporters and protesters stood near Mar-a-Lago. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)

The federal government shutdown led President Donald Trump to cancel plans to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office at a $100,000-per-couple fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.

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As of Saturday evening, the fundraiser was still set to go on with presidential son Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel as headliners. About 100 donors were expected Saturday night, with their contributions going to the RNC and Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Eric and Lara Trump and McDaniel also spoke to about 100 local Republican activists in West Palm Beach on Saturday morning, urging them to work to preserve the GOP’s imperiled majorities in the House and Senate.

“We’re very, very lucky that we have majorities in the House and Senate. I mean, we’re very, very, very lucky. But let’s not take that for granted as a party because honestly, 2018 will be as important as ever,” Eric Trump told the Republican group at the West Palm Beach Marriott. “His great work is hugely, hugely impeded if we lose that and I’m going to fight every single day between now and those elections to make sure that those majorities are stronger than ever.”

President Trump had planned to visit Mar-a-Lago on Friday for the 12th time since taking office. But he remained in Washington as congressional Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a spending agreement to keep the government running past midnight.

After Friday’s cancellation, the White House left open the possibility of a Trump trip to Palm Beach on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory for an arrival after 2 p.m. Saturday, but rescinded it by mid-afternoon. The latest FAA notification indicated no presidential travel planned to Palm Beach County this weekend.

“No plans to go to Florida while there is a shutdown,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email Saturday morning.

Brian Ballard, the Tallahassee lobbyist who was Florida finance chairman for Trump’s 2016 campaign, came to Palm Beach for Saturday’s event and said he understood the president’s choice to remain in Washington.

“I think it was the right decision. I haven’t talked to anyone that’s down here for the event that doesn’t agree,” Ballard said. “We’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary sometime soon.”

Trump supporters, who regularly gather near Southern Boulevard and Flagler Drive to cheer the president’s motorcade as it passes, showed up in Trump’s absence, numbering about 25 at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s the one-year anniversary of President Trump and the mainstream media is ignoring all of his accomplishments. All they want to talk about is the government shutdown over DACA and illegal immigration,” said Lamarre Notargiacomo of Vero Beach, who held an “Eliminate Sanctuary Cities” sign.

Most Senate Democrats voted against a spending bill to keep the government running for four weeks because the legislation did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation about 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors by their parents.

Another group of Trump supporters gathered a few blocks away near the garishly decorated “Trumpmobile” and other vehicles adorned with pro-Trump messages. That group left for Palm Beach to drive by an anti-Trump demonstration that police said drew 600 to 700 protesters.

Staff writer Chelsea Todaro contributed to this story.

Jim Rodford, bassist for The Kinks, dead at 76

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 7:17 PM

INDIO, CA - APRIL 28:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Musician Jim Rodford of The Zombies performs on the Palomino stage during day 1 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 28, 2017 in Indio, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)
Frazer Harrison
INDIO, CA - APRIL 28: (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Musician Jim Rodford of The Zombies performs on the Palomino stage during day 1 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 28, 2017 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)(Frazer Harrison)

Jim Rodford, bassist for popular rock band The Kinks from 1978 to 1996, has died at 76, according to the band.

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The Kinks, whose hits include “You Really Got Me,” “Lola,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “A Well-Respected Man,” “Victoria” and “Waterloo Sunset,” made the announcement Saturday on its official social media accounts.

“It is with deep sadness that we have learned that Jim Rodford passed away – he toured and recorded with the Kinks for many years and will be greatly missed. He was much loved by all of us #JimRodford,” the band said on Twitter.

Founding member Dave Davies also expressed his sorrow over Rodford’s “sudden loss.”

“I’m devastated Jim’s sudden loss I’m too broken up to put words together it’s such a shock I always thought Jim would live forever in true rock and roll fashion – strange – great friend great musician great man – he was an integral part of the Kinks later years RIP,” he wrote on Twitter.

Although Rodford did not play for the band when they burst onto the scene in the ’60s, he was credited by Davies as being an integral part of “The Kinks” in their later years. Rodford would later return to the band The Zombies.