Slowly but surely, stigmas surrounding marijuana use are beginning to fade. What was once seen as taboo is now being spoken of more openly.
Still though, many cannabis users – even medical marijuana patients – hesitate to let their doctors know about their marijuana use. And while this may seem benign at first, not letting your doctor understand the full picture of your medical situation, especially before surgery, can be dangerous.
According to a recent study, marijuana users may need more anesthesia to produce the same effect as a non-user. This makes letting your anesthesiologist know about your cannabis use all the more important if you want to be properly sedated before surgery or your next medical procedure.
Marijuana & Anesthesia Research
The purpose of this new study was to determine if regular marijuana use could have any effect on the dosage of medications required to achieve sedation in preparation for endoscopic procedures.
Researchers looked at 250 medical records, taking into account age and gender, to rule out any other factors. All records were sourced from a single endoscopist to minimize the chances of variation in the sedation technique.
At the conclusion of the study, a statistically significant difference in the amounts of fentanyl, midazolam, and propofol were required to sedate cannabis users, compared to non-users, with the study author noting:
Compared with non-users, cannabis users required 14% more fentanyl, 19.6% more midazolam, and 220.5% more propofol for the duration of the endoscopic procedure.
If you’re a medical marijuana patient or recreational cannabis user, this means that letting your doctor know about your marijuana use important to ensuring you get the right amount of anesthesia leading up to surgical and/or other medical procedures.
A Doctor’s Perspective
Corinna Yu, Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesia at the Indiana University School of Medicine and staff anesthesiologist at University Hospital, offers her take on the matter. Reassuring patients, Yu stated:
We’re not here to judge [… ] We’re just here to take care of you.
Regarding the larger amounts of anesthetics required to sedate marijuana users, Yu said that many of her colleagues have noted larger doses being required, sometimes “two to three times of large doses for patients who have admitted to marijuana use.”
This means leaving your doctors in the dark about your cannabis use can be a big deal, and could potentially “lead to intensive care unit stays and being on a ventilator.”
Yu notes that “in states where it’s legal, people are actually admitting to their usage”, but in states where marijuana remains illegal many patients are apprehensive about telling their doctors about their cannabis use. Yu reiterates that her “obligation to report anything to the authorities really is based on if you tell me you’re going to hurt yourself or hurt somebody else.”
So whether or not your cannabis use is deemed legal in your state, letting your doctors know about it should in no way lead to legal repercussions, and will only ensure you get the proper care.