DOI: 10.1002/ncp.11111 ISSN: 0884-5336

Cannabis use in the United States and its impact on gastrointestinal health

Omayma Alshaarawy, Gokulakrishnan Balasubramanian, Thangam Venkatesan
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


In recent years, the legalization and social acceptability of cannabis use have increased in the United States. Concurrently, the prevalence of cannabis use has continued to rise, and cannabis products have diversified. There are growing concerns regarding the health effects of regular and high‐potency cannabis use, and new research has shed light on its potentially negative effects. Here, we review evidence of the gastrointestinal (GI) effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system might contribute to various GI disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome and cyclic vomiting syndrome, and endocannabinoids have been found to regulate visceral sensation, nausea, vomiting, and the gut microbiome. Cannabis has been shown to have antiemetic properties, and the US Food and Drug Administration has approved cannabis‐based medications for treating chemotherapy‐induced nausea and vomiting. Yet, chronic heavy cannabis use has been linked to recurrent episodes of severe nausea and intractable vomiting (cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome). Given the considerable heterogeneity in the scientific literature, it is unclear if cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is truly a distinct entity or a subtype of cyclic vomiting that is unmasked by heavy cannabis use and the associated dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system. The changes in cannabis legalization, availability, and public risk perceptions have outpaced research in this area and there is a need for robust, prospective, large‐scale studies to understand the effects of cannabis use on GI health.

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