Marijuana is known to reduce pain and anxiety. But, you absolutely want to avoid smoking weed before surgery. It presents a risk with the anesthesia, the surgical, and healing procedures.
So, you should stop smoking weeks before any scheduled surgery and inform your doctor of your habit of smoking occasionally, weekly, or daily. It’s not the doctor’s job to judge you or report you to the authorities. But, the practitioner needs to know.
If you have been smoking weed recently before an emergency surgery, you need to inform the healthcare givers if you are able.
What’s the problem?
If the surgery requires anesthesia and you have been smoking, you have a dangerous combination at work. The usual marijuana benefits come with a lowering of the blood pressure and pulse. The trouble is that anesthesia is also a depressant. So, you risk depressing too many systems. According to Steven J. Dickerson, R.N. in an article for the Journal of American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, “Of primary importance to the anesthetist are the effects of THC upon the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, the heat regulating system, and acetylcholine.”
The effectively doubled anesthesia sedates, but also depresses respiration and neurology. You’ll be under the influence deeper and longer than you should be. Writing for Cannabis.net, Dana Smith warns, “Going under the knife is scary enough as it is. Don’t make it more dangerous and increase the risk that you might stop breathing because of consuming cannabis before the procedure. Using cannabis the day before especially in the hours before your expected surgery can lead to drastic effects. Resist the temptation to smoke before surgery because you can complicate what could be an otherwise normal procedure.”
Propofol is the most commonly used anesthetic with amnesic benefits. And, anesthesiologists find themselves administering larger doses on patients who use cannabis regularly. In addition to these cardiovascular influences, marijuana prompts increased oxygen consumption. This affects the blood’s quality. And, this affects the responsiveness of tissues and organs.
The local anesthesia used for dental procedures and light surgery will increase the heart rate. But, this conflicts with the marijuana influence, thinning the blood, and increasing the risk of post-surgery bleeding.
According to Lifeline to Modern Medicine™, “Anesthesiologists are the heart and lung specialists in the operating room, and they are responsible for the total-body health of patients. Therefore, they directly witness the immense toll smoking takes on a person’s body and must manage smoking-related complications…It is important that your anesthesiologist knows about your smoking so he or she can take precautions to reduce your risk of having problems.”
Both tobacco and marijuana smokers suffer from airway problems. They cough, wheeze, and aspirate. Top Surgery claims that even the coughing “can lead to internal bleeding after surgery that can cause hematomas and other complications.”
What to do?
Dr. David Berman, author of Drugs Are Not the Devil’s Tools and co-founder of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, and much more, takes an authoritative but common sense position. on Leafly, he says, “Is it safe to consume cannabis before a surgery? The answer, as one may expect, is not a simple yes or no, but instead relies on a few variables.”
- The first variable relates to time. With cannabis strains that produce effects lasting 1.5 to 2.5 hours, you must plan around that window. As he points out, most patients arrive hours before the scheduled procedure, so if you stop at least 2 to 3 hours before arrival, you will have also reduced the sputum in the fluids in your sinuses and lungs. Better yet, if you follow the doctor’s orders to fast after 10:00 PM the previous night, you could be safe.
- Without entering the debate on if and how marijuana affects heart conditions, if you are suffering from heart disease and expect surgery to work on cardiac issues, you should abstain from smoking altogether. Effects are real although they are a function of the patient’s height, weight, body fat index, medical history, and much more. Regardless of the size of the impact, it’s not worth the risk. If, for example, you are elderly and scheduled for heart or vascular surgery, and if you use cannabis edibles regularly, you must review this thoroughly with your surgeon and anesthesiologist.
- And, a final consideration is the nature of the strain, its chemical makeup, and its reputed effects. Steven Dickerson said, “As with any other drug the systemic level would be determined upon the amount ingested and the potency of the drug, the half-life, and the concomitant use of other drugs which may affect the metabolism of the ingested drug. With a prescribed medication, the anesthetist generally knows exactly what he is working with or against. With cannabis, however, the amount of the drug absorbed is probably impossible for the anesthetist to determine by himself.”
The choice is yours!
How you prepare for your surgery is your choice, just like your decision to smoke in the first place. But, if you do, you need to use your head if you have surgery scheduled. Anything that interferes with your prime condition before and recovery after is not your friend.
Since everyone’s body and smoking habits are different, the best idea is to give yourself a maximum opportunity. The best advice in these terms is to stop smoking weed cold as much as six weeks ahead of a scheduled procedure. Even then you need to disclose your history to your doctors. That information lets them adjust for effects and influences, and prepares them to avoid surprises.