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Marijuana killed my son: Mother reveals how son’s four-year addiction to cannabis led to massive weight loss, organ failure and death at 17 – as increase in drug’s potency sees rise in similar cases
- Brian Smith Jr. suffered from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) and died at the age of 17
- CHS can arise in response to long-term cannabis use
- Brian’s mother, Regina Denney, said her son started smoking at the age of 13
- The syndromes of CHS consists of vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain, which can often be alleviated by taking hot showers
- Doctors say CHS is on the rise, but they are not certain why besides strains becoming more potent
- Deaths from CHS are rare, doctors say
- A study 2.75 million regular cannabis users may suffer from symptoms of CHS, though many of them may be mild
Brian Smith Jr. suffered from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) and died at the age of 17
A 17-year-old died in Indiana after suffering complications from prolonged use of marijuana as doctors say they’ve seen increase in ailments associated with using more potent strains of the drug.
Brian Smith Jr. died in October 2018 from dehydration as a result of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), according to a March autopsy report.
Brian had first gone to the hospital with his mother Regina Denney to complain about severe vomiting and abdominal pain.
He had been losing weight in the months leading up to his death but continued smoking, even after he was told the cannabis may be the root cause.
His death came as a shock to the mother.
‘He said mom I can’t breathe. I rolled him over, and my son was gone,’ the Denney explained to RTV6.
CHS is a fairly uncommon illness that comes as a result of chronic and prolonged usage of cannabis. Symptoms of CHS include extreme vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and death in rare cases.
Brian had first gone to the hospital with his mother Regina Denney to complain about severe vomiting and abdominal pain. He had been losing weight by the boatload in the months leading up to his death but continued smoking
‘His kidneys were shutting down,’ Denney described. ‘His bilirubin was high… basically, I felt like I was watching him die.’
She added: ‘You don’t hear it can cause vomiting, it can cause dehydration, it can cause death.’
Denney told the Indianapolis Star that Brian started smoking at the age of 13. Her concerns regarding his drug use were not as major as she knew his friends were doing meth and heroin.
The mother explained that her son’s use increased after two years in an effort to possibly cope with depression. Brian dropped out of school in the ninth grade and had been working at a tree-trimming business full-time to pay for his drug habit.
‘I thought, “OK, if that’s all he’s doing, smoking marijuana, pick and choose your battles,”‘ she said. ‘If this is the worst thing he’s doing, I’m OK. He’s not in any trouble legally. He’s not playing with guns, robbing people and stealing things. He’s supporting his own habit. I thought, “OK, this is what it is.”‘
‘His kidneys were shutting down,’ Denney described. ‘His bilirubin was high… basically, I felt like I was watching him die’
Doctors in Colorado and California – where cannabis is legal – shared that they’ve seen patients come into the emergency room with symptoms on a daily basis.
‘The fact that he died from this, I think that is rare,’ Dr. Christopher Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. ‘I think the syndrome itself is more common than people I think appreciate.’
Denney stressed that she supports the legalization of marijuana as it would give people room to seek help and not worry about consequences
Trial-and-error type treatment and stopped usage of cannabis are ways patients can feel better but Dr. Colwell shared that treating the condition could be difficult.
Denney stressed that she supports the legalization of marijuana as it would give people room to seek help and not worry about consequences.
‘If you’re not seeing it now, first of all, you might be seeing it and just not realize it, and if that’s not the case, you’re going to be seeing it. So let’s go ahead and address what we need to do to be ready for this,’ she said.
‘This is what took my son’s life. So I feel like if I can bring light to this and I can help another child or another family not have to go through this, then I’m doing my job.’
Dr. Colwell added that more people in California have been willing to come forward with their symptoms since they legalized marijuana.
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