Is Cannabis Use a Concern for Surgical Patients?


When preparing for surgery, it’s crucial to consider all aspects of health, including the use of substances like marijuana. But how does marijuana use impact surgical outcomes and anesthesia requirements? This question is particularly relevant given the widespread legalization and increasing acceptance of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

According to Harvard Health, marijuana can significantly affect the type and amount of anesthesia required during surgery. Marijuana and anesthesia both influence the central nervous system, and regular marijuana users might need different anesthesia dosages. The interaction between marijuana and anesthesia might lead to intense nausea and vomiting post-surgery, as noted by anesthesiologist Randhawa, who advises patients to stop using marijuana at least a day or two before surgery.

Is Cannabis Use a Concern for Surgical Patients?

Moreover, a study highlighted by the Harvard Gazette indicates that surgical patients with cannabis use disorder may face higher risks of complications, including sudden cardiac death, after receiving anesthesia. The study found a correlation between cannabis use disorder and increased odds of 30-day hospital readmission.

It’s not just about the interaction with anesthesia. Marijuana use can have other health implications. It may lead to or exacerbate cardiac and lung issues, such as rapid heart rate and bronchitis. There’s also the risk of addiction and the potential for harmful drug interactions, especially with CBD. High dosages can cause or worsen anxiety, sometimes leading to panic attacks. Furthermore, the operation of heavy machinery, including driving, is impaired after cannabis use. The dangers are notably higher for teenagers, for whom marijuana use can be particularly harmful.

While smoking cannabis is the quickest way to feel its effects, it shares many toxins, irritants, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, contributing to heart disease and cancer risks. Alternatives to smoking, like under-the-tongue tinctures, edibles, topical products, or dry herb vaporizers, are recommended. However, it’s important to note that holding cannabis smoke in the lungs for more than a second or two doesn’t enhance its effect but rather irritates the lungs more.

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With all these considerations, it’s essential to approach the use of cannabis, especially before surgery, with caution. While there is still much to learn about the full impact of marijuana on health and surgery, current evidence suggests a need for careful evaluation and possibly abstaining before undergoing surgical procedures.

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