A New Study Says Smoking Weed Can Mess With How Your Body Responds To Anesthesia

by Mika Doyle
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If you smoke weed regularly, you might want to tell your doctor the next time you have a surgical procedure. According to a new study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the effects of smoking weed on the body could include how you respond to anesthesia, NBC News reports. The researchers say their findings emphasize why it’s so important to be open with your doctor about whether you’re using marijuana on the regular, NBC News says.

The researchers studied the medical records of 250 patients in Colorado — where recreational marijuana use is legal — who underwent colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures, NBC News reports. They found that the patients who regularly used marijuana needed more than twice as much of the anesthetic propofol, says NBC News, as well as 14 percent more fentanyl and 20 percent more midazolam.

“Cannabis users cannot assume that their use will have no effects on their medical care,” Dr. Mark Twardowski of Western Medical Associates in Grand Junction, Colorado, who was lead study author, told Reuters in an email. “Clearly the fact that use affects the effectiveness of these three medicines certainly raises myriad questions about potential effects on other medications (pain medicines, anxiety medicines etc.).”

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According to the study, marijuana use in the United States is on the rise, with 33 states legalizing medical marijuana use, six states and Washington, D.C., legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and 10 states allowing you to possess but not buy marijuana. Cannabis use in the United States increased by 43 percent between 2007 and 2015 as more states legalized it, CNN reports. That means more and more people who might be using marijuana are also seeking medical care.

But the researchers say one of the limitations of their study is that it’s a retrospective medical record review, rather than a clinical study. Dr. Roderic Eckenoff, a professor of anesthesia at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study, told CNN he agrees this limits the study’s results and that a more thorough investigation is needed. Dr. Eckenoff also told CNN the trial size was quite small and that patients aren’t always reliable when it comes to telling their doctors everything they’re taking, which might also influence the results.

"Some people who use marijuana also take other drugs recreationally,” Dr. Eckenoff told CNN. "I would consider this a pilot study that maybe somebody should pick up on and do a more complete trial.”

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The study authors agree that more research with a larger population of cannabis users undergoing a wider range of procedures is needed to confirm these results, according to Reuters. But these results still suggest that doctors and patients need to work together to discuss marijuana use when planning patient care, surgical procedures, or medications, says Reuters.

“Because cannabis has such a long life in the body, it may take months to ameliorate the effect,” Dr. Twardowski told Reuters. “Patients absolutely need to inform their providers about cannabis use prior to any procedure.”

The results of this study might be preliminary, but the message is pretty clear: Be honest with your doctor about what you’re putting in your body. It could seriously affect your health if you hold back.

Readers should note that the regulations and data surrounding marijuana, CBD, and other related products are still developing. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as medical or legal advice. Always consult with your doctor before trying any substance or supplement.