By: Jordyn Raymon
Date: August 25, 2021
Although cannabis has a number of health benefits, when interacting with other drugs it can be extremely dangerous. When it comes to cannabis and anesthesia, the combination can be very harmful.
When undergoing a procedure, it is extremely important to tell your doctor if you have recently consumed cannabis. In many state’s marijuana is not legal, or only legal for medical uses, so patients may be hesitant to be honest. Because of the HIPAA Privacy Law, the information you tell you, doctors, is confidential and cannot be disclosed. Health care providers are only permitted to tell your protected health information to law enforcement agencies under very specific circumstances. Therefore, it is crucial to talk to your anesthesia provider about your habits because cannabis can have effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems that may pose higher-than-normal risks while under anesthesia.
These risks include spasms of the vocal cords or small airways of the lung, which can be very dangerous. Additionally, cannabis users may require higher doses and/or the use of other anesthesia, so it is important for your doctor to take all the correct steps to ensure safety while undergoing a sleeping procedure.
In addition, THC and CBD react differently to anesthesia. In particular, the effects between the two in the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems are nearly opposite. “THC is more likely to lead to fast heart rhythms and high blood pressure, whereas CBD slows the heart rate and brings down blood pressure,” said Dr. Daniel King, a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). “In the gastrointestinal system, THC stimulates appetite but has also been linked to slowed gastric motility with long-term use—this could increase the risk for adverse events such as aspiration pneumonia.” THC is broken down in the body by a similar cellular process as common anesthesia drugs, so there is concern that a high THC tolerance may require higher doses of anesthesia drugs. Therefore, you must be honest about your habits, so your doctor can dose you with the correct amount of anesthesia drugs and limit any potential risks.
Studies have even found that cannabis consumers exhibited higher pain and a greater need for pain-relieving medications after surgery. Some recommendations for pre-op and post-op include absence from smoking for 24-72 hours prior to surgery in order to decrease airway reactivity and improve wound healing, but ideally for as long as possible. Patients also should not continue to consume cannabis until the effects of their anesthetic and pain medications have completely worn off after surgery. It is important not to mix cannabis with other opioids or alcohol for health safety measures and possible long-term effects.
In conclusion, it is very important to tell your doctor and anesthesiologist if you are a cannabis user, to ensure safety during surgery. Although cannabis has several health benefits, when mixed with other drugs it can be harmful.
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