Regular Cannabis Users Should Always Inform Their Surgeons About It, A New Study Suggests

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According to a new study published in the Annals of the American Osteopathic Association, frequent marijuana users getting surgery may need higher levels of anesthesia.

Between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2017, Dr. Mark Twardowski, an internal medicine specialist, practicing in Colorado, and his research team reviewed the medical records of 250 Colorado-based patients who recently underwent through various endoscopic procedures, including colonoscopies.

It turned out that 25 out of the screened 250 patients used marijuana often. Based on the findings, the scientists concluded that patients who used cannabis regularly needed more than twice the amount of propofol, a powerful anesthetic, compared to the others who do not use marijuana.

As Dr. Twardowski pointed out, despite that marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes has been legalized in some states across the country, it has been not well-studied yet. Therefore, medical professionals cannot be sure of its potential effects on other medications and substances the patients need for their recovery.

Dr. Twardowski highly recommended patients to inform their surgeons about cannabis use so that they can adjust the sedation accordingly. One of his greatest fears related to that is that sometimes increasing of the sedation medication might affect the patient's respiration without controlling the paid.

Dr. Ajay Wasan, a professor of anesthesia at the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh said he was not surprised by his colleagues' findings. As he said, every brain-altering substance, such as marijuana, may affect another brain-alternating drug.

Dr. Wasan was not also concerned about the small sample of the research, consisting of only 25 cannabis users. He confirmed its findings were in line with similar small previous works suggesting that long-term marijuana use could have an impact on anesthesia care.

According to Dr. Wasan the researchers could use California and Colorado as learning labs to investigate the increasing health problems that recreational marijuana use can cause.

As the DEA designated cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance alongside LSD and heroin, the scientists have not been able yet to study marijuana in many details. 

Dr. Anthony Watkins, a professor in medicine and an abdominal transplant surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, further studies on the effects of recreational marijuana is much needed. 

Given the widespread stigma about marijuana, do you think that people would openly admit to their surgeons that they are frequent cannabis users?