Nausea Mitigation

Nausea is a sensation of unease in the stomach, with an involuntary urge to vomit. In some, it may precede vomiting, but many may feel nauseous without vomiting. Nausea is a common aspect of many conditions and illnesses, as well as medications and treatments, e.g. chemotherapy, antibiotics, colds and flus, narcotic pain medications. Common causes of nausea include low blood sugar, gastroenteritis (stomach infection), food poisoning, morning sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy, migraine, motion sickness, dizziness and fainting.

Anxiety, depression and disgust (e.g. seeing or smelling something particularly nasty) may also cause nausea. There is also a rare condition known as “cyclic vomiting syndrome” (CVS), which may cause sudden, repeated attacks of nausea and vomiting.There are a huge number of conditions, both on and off this list, that cause nausea. Persistent nausea and vomiting can lead to a dramatically reduced quality of life, dehydration, a loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue. Medications used to prevent and treat nausea are called antiemetics. The most commonly prescribed antiemetics include promethazine (a strong sedative with weak psychoactive effects), metoclopramide (Primperan, Reglan) and ondansetron (Zofran).

There are four pathways that trigger nausea. Antiemetics tend to work by working on the receptors and transmitters that trigger or stimulate these pathways.

  1. Central nervous system (CNS): Stimuli can affect areas of the CNS including the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. These areas are activated by elevated intracranial pressure, irritation of the meninges (i.e. blood or infection), and extreme emotional triggers such as anxiety.
  2. Chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ): Located in the area postrema in the floor of the fourth ventricle within the brain. This area is outside the blood brain barrier, and SO IS readily exposed to substances circulating through the blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Common triggers include metabolic abnormalities, toxins, and medications. Activation is mediated by dopamine (D2) receptors, serotonin (5HT3) receptors, and neurokinin receptors (NK1). TRPV1 (vanilloid) receptors may also play a role in nausea.
  3. Vestibular system: Activated by disturbances to the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear. These include movements that cause motion sickness and dizziness. Histamine (H1) receptors and acetylcholine (ACh) receptors trigger this pathway.
  4. Peripheral Pathways: These pathways are triggered via chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as other organs such as the heart and kidneys. Common activators of these pathways include toxins present in the gastrointestinal lumen, and distension of the gastrointestinal lumen from blockage or dysmotility of the bowels. Signals from these pathways travel via multiple neural tracts including the vagus, glossopharyngeal, splanchnic, and sympathetic nerves.

Signals from any of these pathways travel up through to the brainstem, activate several structures within the brain, including the nucleus of the solitary tract, the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, and central pattern generator.

Value of Medical Marijuana

405 out of 4,276 (9.47%) of patients surveyed said they use medical marijuana for nausea mitigation. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD represent a novel therapeutic medication for mitigating nausea. Furthermore, they may do so with fewer side-effects than other medications.


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Indicas were generally preferred, with 32.59% of patients picking indica or indica-dominant strains. Sativas were preferred by 23.7% of patients, and hybrids by 17.53% of patients. Though this suggests that people might be going CBD-hunting to an extent, it seems that THC is still a major player in the antiemetic game – only 1.73% of patients surveyed sought CBD specifically. CBD may help to an extent, but it seems that THC is the main antiemetic, and other terpenes more commonly found in indicas such as linalool and myrcene could be more sought-after for their sedative and analgesic effects.

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