Home Cannabis Marijuana And Motion Sickness: Here's What We Know

Marijuana And Motion Sickness: Here’s What We Know

The portent of bad things to come. The clammy cold sweat, the dizziness, and the iron-like flavor sensation at the edge of throat and the sudden rush of blood away from the head, just before the untimely re-emergence of lunch. And somewhere the plaintive longing for the merciful oblivion of death.

Motion sickness occurs when the movement your eye perceives doesn’t jibe with the motion detected by your inner ear. Depending on your mode of movement, you might suffer from seasickness, airsickness, or carsickness. You might even get motion sickness when you’re perfectly still but watching the frenetic activity of a video game, a flight simulator, or The Blair Witch Project. But whatever the proximate cause, it’s all the same thing.

Cannabis is commonly recommended to ease the nausea associated with chemotherapy, but can it relieve the more familiar sensation of motion-induced nausea? There is not a vast body of literature here, but we searched, and we have found.

In a study from 2010, a research team of Germans (who have a track record of being extremely talented in sadistic medical experimentation. Just saying.) analyzed blood samples taken from human volunteers before, during, and after parabolic flight maneuvers. (Parabolic flight is a means of simulating the weightlessness of space travel. It is achieved by nose-diving an airplane for about half a minute, then sharply pulling out for another half minute—at a toll of almost two g-forces—before careening, weightlessly, downward again. A typical training run consists of three sets of ten such drops. It is so grueling that the original astronauts dubbed parabolic flights taking a ride on the “vomit comet.”)

Among the the volunteers who were most sick, researchers found lower levels of endocannabinoids, which continued to drop during maneuvers.

Among the the volunteers who were most sick, researchers found lower levels of endocannabinoids, which continued to drop during maneuvers. On the other hand, the levels rose among individuals who did not get sick.

So far there seems to be no movement toward manufacturing a cannabis-based alternative to Dramamine. But these results are supported by at least one lab study.

In 2008, British researchers injected Asian house shrews with varying doses of THC, CBD, or a placebo and then exposed them to “horizontal motion stimulus (i.e. they shook them) for 10 minutes. Afterward, they counted how many of each cohort barfed. The team concluded that CBD had no effect, but that THC significantly reduced “the episodes of emesis”—although the highest dose reduced this effect, implying that THC can make house shrews sick in its own right.


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