What Is Scromiting and Why Are More Teens Developing It?

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Scromiting is a new term for a disturbing health trend related to teen marijuana use. It combines two words: screaming and vomiting. Teens suffering from this marijuana-induced condition experience episodes of violent vomiting, which are often so severe and painful that they cause the person to scream.

When teens use marijuana daily or regularly over a long period of time, the risk of scromiting increases. With daily marijuana use among teens now at the highest level recorded since 1991, a growing number of teens are visiting emergency rooms with these bizarre symptoms.

What Is Scromiting?

The official name for scromiting is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. It was first included in scientific reports in 2004. Since then, researchers have determined that scromiting is the result of ongoing, long-term use of marijuana—particularly when the drug contains high levels of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. Some experts believe that the receptors in the gut become overstimulated by THC, thus causing the repeated cycles of vomiting.

2018 national research review on CHS called the syndrome “an increasingly prevalent and complicated problem for health care providers and patients.” The review also noted that scromiting is “becoming a commonplace and costly occurrence in hospitals nationwide.” Research also shows that people who begin using marijuana as teenagers are most likely to experience scromiting.

Symptoms of Scromiting

The primary cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome symptoms include:

  • Recurrent nausea, which progresses to severe nausea
  • Excessive vomiting, as often as five times an hour
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Dehydration
  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Weight loss over time, as symptoms repeat.

CHS is sometimes described as cyclical vomiting because the severe cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome symptoms usually go away and then return after a period of days, weeks, or months. While a hot bath or shower can provide temporary relief for symptoms, only stopping cannabis use entirely will prevent recurrence of scromiting.

The Link Between THC Levels and Scromiting

The high levels of THC in marijuana contribute to the increasing number of teens suffering from scromiting. Whereas the THC levels in cannabis products 20 years ago were around 2 or 3 percent, levels today can be as high as 90 percent.

Moreover, the availability of cannabis gummy edibles makes it easy for teens to ingest extreme amounts of THC. Cannabis gummy edibles take longer to act, which means teens may consume more of them, and the THC also stays in the system longer. Weekly or more frequent vaping and smoking can also cause scromiting episodes.

Consequently, marijuana legalization may be a factor in the increase in scromiting. One study found that reports of CHS doubled in two different emergency rooms in Colorado shortly after legalization in the state.

How Common Is Scromiting?

Statistics on the frequency of CHS are not easily available. In one survey of ER patients, about a third of those who smoked marijuana at least 20 days a month had experienced cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome symptoms.

Almost all teens who develop the condition use marijuana at least once a week. A 2017 review of studies found that 97 percent of those who experienced scromiting reported using marijuana weekly, and three-quarters had consumed cannabis regularly for more than one year.

It’s not yet known why some frequent marijuana users develop CHS while others do not. Another strange aspect of the condition is the fact that marijuana is often used to alleviate the symptoms of nausea.

The Long-Term Effects of Chronic Teen Marijuana Use

Teens who abuse marijuana regularly, particularly marijuana with high THC levels, have a more significant risk for a number of physical and mental health conditions in addition to scromiting. Below is some of the research on the long-term impact of teen marijuana use.

  • Consuming cannabis with THC levels over 10 percent increases the likelihood of a marijuana-related psychotic episode, according to a 2019 study.
  • Teen marijuana use can have damaging effects on adolescent brain development.
  • A review study published in September 2020 found that cannabis use in adolescents is associated with an increased likelihood of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
  • People who use marijuana prior to the age of 12 are more likely to experience a serious mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, compared to those who first use marijuana at age 18 or older, according to SAMHSA.
  • An American Academy of Pediatrics report noted that heavy teenage marijuana use is associated with a higher risk of psychotic, mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
  • Participants in a study that followed 1,000 people from birth to age 38 found that those who began smoking marijuana as teenagers lost an average of eight IQ points.
  • The CDC reports that students who use marijuana are more likely to do poorly in school and to drop out of high school.

Signs of Teen Marijuana Use

Teens who are regularly using marijuana might show any or all of the following warning signs:

  • Talking loudly
  • Increased appetite outside of usual mealtimes
  • Red eyes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sleepiness
  • Marijuana paraphernalia on their person or in their room
  • Scent of marijuana on their clothes or in their room
  • Acting silly and out of character
  • Irritability
  • Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Spending time with a new friend group
  • Difficulty remembering and concentrating
  • Red eyes
  • Stealing money from friends or family members.

Parents should be aware of these red flags so they can ensure that teens get the help they need to address marijuana abuse and the underlying mental health issues that catalyze substance use disorder.

Treatment for Teen Scromiting

The only way for teens to avoid or recover from scromiting is to stop smoking marijuana or consuming cannabis gummy edibles. Because CHS typically occurs after regular use over several years, teens who develop the syndrome most likely have become addicted to marijuana. Therefore, they will need treatment not only to stop using the drug, but also to address the root causes of their marijuana abuse.

At Newport Academy, we guide teens to uncover the trauma, anxiety, depression, and lack of self-worth that catalyze marijuana abuse. Teens in our outpatient and residential programs also learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the inevitable stressors of life. In addition, our clinical model focuses on healing the family system, so that teens feel safe turning to their parents for support when they are struggling.

Contact us today to learn more about Newport Academy’s approach to healing teen substance abuse.

 

Sources:

Lancet. 2019 May; 6(5): 427–436.

BCPT. 2018 Jun; 122(6): 660–662. 

Am J Ther. May/Jun 2018; 25(3): e357-e361.

J Med Toxicol. 2017 Mar; 13(1): 71–87.

 Acad Emerg Med. 2015 Jun; 22(6): 694–9.

 PNAS. 2012 Oct; 109(40): E2657–E2664.