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What You Need to Know About Using Cannabis Before and After Surgery in Ohio

As time goes on, more people are beginning to see the health benefits marijuana can have. These include physical benefits like anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties, along with mental benefits such as reduced anxiety. As marijuana and medicine become more, synonymous, though, it becomes increasingly important to know not only the potential upsides, but complications as well. Specifically, for those with chronic conditions that require routine pharmaceuticals or surgical intervention, it is vital to understand the how’s and the why’s of medical marijuana and what it does in the body. In this post, we will investigate the effects that marijuana can have on surgeries both pre- and post-op. 

Marijuana and Other Drugs

When marijuana first enters the body, it undergoes many changes. Whether it is vaporized, combusted, or ingested, the chemical makeup of marijuana as a flower is very different than that of marijuana in the body. Edibles, for example, are subjected to the digestive tract before reaching the bloodstream, resulting in many changes in both the stomach and liver. The same thing occurs with any other drug. This knowledge is crucial in the pharmacy world, as there are many past drugs that, while safe outside the body, are radically changed after ingestion. 

Beyond changing by itself, marijuana can also interact with other drugs once in the body. Whether it is through inhalation, sublingual application, or ingestion, there are many possible places marijuana can interact with other drugs. Notably, these drug interactions can have many different results, and may not just add together or cancel each other out. As a general example, marijuana may interact with any drugs that are processed within the liver, these include acetaminophen, alcohol, and, importantly, anesthetics. Once mixed, it can result in a range of different effects, including dizziness, nausea, and anxiety, some of the very things people turn to marijuana to help reduce!

As an aside, there is an effect in drug metabolism known as the “first pass effect”, which occurs when a drug’s concentration is lowered before reaching the bloodstream. Basically, it means that if you take 100mg of a drug, it isn’t always true that 100mg will circulate in the body. Fortunately, certain methods of application bypass first pass metabolism, including the previously mentioned inhalation and sublingual methods. Because they bypass metabolism and enter the bloodstream directly, they often have much lower doses compared to their oral counterparts.

Marijuana Use Before Surgery

The interactions we have looked at up until now have all occurred when the drugs are introduced concurrently, but what if we ingest marijuana days, or weeks before the surgery? In these cases, there may not be any immediate drug-on-drug interactions, but long-term use of marijuana can change the way drugs and anesthetic work in the body. 

Sone study found that marijuana use prior to surgery resulted in both airway obstruction and an increase in anesthetic doses needed [1]. This correlates with previous findings regarding marijuana use and surgical outcomes. Furthermore, it was found that marijuana smoke was related to both airway inflammation and increased risk of respiratory illness [2]. All of these can cause possible problems during surgery. 

Marijuana use can also have several effects on the heart and vascular system. For example, some studies have shown that marijuana use can have adverse effects on the heart over time, though current research is still lacking. In the short-term, marijuana has been shown to both increase heart rate and lower blood pressure. While this can be beneficial for some, before surgery, this can cause problems both with anesthesia dosage and the physical aspect of the surgery as well. 

These findings have come to light in the real world as well. Physicians in Colorado have started to come forward by describing their issues caused by legalized marijuana. Due to the length of time marijuana has been legal in Colorado, its use is very high across the state. Because of this, surgeons and anesthesiologists must be very aware of the physical effects caused by marijuana, along with the previously mentioned drug interactions. These doctors have also made note of the increased tolerance of marijuana smokers in regard to common anesthetics, citing possible side effects due to their higher doses including even lower blood pressure and lessened cardiac efficiency.

Marijuana After Surgery

The effects of marijuana after surgery are even less researched than its effects beforehand. For some people, it seems to be beneficial, while for others it can cause problems. For example, those who have had surgery near the abdomen are recommended to stay away from smoking marijuana due to the risk of cough which could cause further damage to the area. On the other hand, some people have had success using marijuana as a pain or inflammation reducer after surgery. In these cases, marijuana can offer some relief though it is highly recommended to speak with a physician before using it. 

In Conclusion

Overall, marijuana can have a variety of effects within the body, especially when combined with other drugs. These go beyond simple additive or subtractive effects and can include dizziness, nausea, and anxiety. During surgery specifically, marijuana can react with many common anesthetics, raise the necessary amount of anesthetic for surgery, and lower blood pressure. All of these can cause problems for both the physician and the patient. Post-surgery, marijuana may cause problems in certain cases, or raise the risk of injury due to misuse, but may also provide relief to some users. In all cases, it is vital to speak with a physician honestly regarding marijuana use both before and after surgery, including both past and present use.


Cited Works

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139487/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5542986/