Have you heard? There's a new and "mysterious" illness being linked to marijuana usage in the United States.
What I'm saying is, of course you've heard... especially if you've scrolled through any social media timeline these past few weeks.
Yup, that's the one.
According to CBS, the illness is called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), and it causes nausea and vomiting. The report says CHS is linked to "heavy, long-term" use of marijuana.
A study written by five doctors in 2015 further proves that link, the report says. The study showed that since medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado, cases of CHS nearly doubled in two of the state hospitals.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Kennon Heard, told CBS,
It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw. Now we are seeing it quite frequently.
Now, you could understand why some might raise their eyebrows at this news story.
For starters, some suspect an overly negative perception of marijuana has been manufactured in a way that isn't proportionate to any harm the drug actually does.
Just today, another lawmaker announced he was pardoning offenders of marijuana restrictions, hinting that convictions were needlessly "holding too many back."
Plus, the sloppy way this story has been reported opens the door for skepticism in a couple of ways.
For example, the headline of the CBS story ties the "rise" of CHS to legalization in multiple states. But it doesn't cite any data for states other than Colorado. It doesn't mention any other specific state, except when it opens the report by citing a single case in Indiana.
Although the article states cases of CHS have nearly doubled at two Colorado hospitals, it doesn't mention specific numbers.
Doubling can mean anything. Did the number of cases double from one to two, or 1,000 to 2,000?
Now, there's no need to get defensive about how people "hate" weed. All we really need to do is look at the facts... the available ones, anyway.
The study that surveyed the two Colorado hospitals laid out exactly what type of increase took place. It reads,
The prevalence of cyclic vomiting visits increased from 41 per 113,262 ED visits to 87 per 125,095 ED visits after marijuana liberalization.
Now, that might not sound like enough data to hail the "rise" of an illness. But it's important to note the CBS reporter didn't really seem interested in that narrative.
When chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook spoke on "CBS This Morning" on Saturday, he didn't try to create any fear surrounding the issue. He simply called for more understanding.
The message seemed simple: There seem to be some things we still don't understand about marijuana, but let's try to learn as much as possible.
The issue is, if it's going to be legalized, we have to do it in the most responsible way possible. And I think there's a lot of responsibility on the part of doctors like me. For one thing, we need to be involved in education... but on the other side of that is potential benefits, and we need to educate ourselves about that.
So, where does that leave us?
Well, it looks like doctors really have found a link between marijuana usage and an illness that's hard to keep track of.
According to the doctor actually reporting the story, that alone should encourage more people to learn about marijuana, in order to maximize its benefits and minimize potential negatives.