Brand SpotlightYour Healthy Family


Your Healthy Family: Honesty with your doctor about marijuana use before surgery

Posted at 9:38 AM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 09:39:03-04

Any time you go to the doctor, it's important to be honest about your lifestyle and habits; especially if you're having surgery. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine recently published guidelines that recommend doctors ask their patients undergoing anesthesia about their cannabis use.

Talking with patients before a surgery about the types of drugs they use has always been common practice, particularly when it comes to marijuana. And now that cannabis is legal in many parts of our country and marijuana use is more common, those conversations are even more important.

"I've always told people that I don't really care what it is that they use. What I care about is taking good care of them," Dr. Jennifer Kollman, the Senior Medical Director of Anesthesia for UCHealth in Colorado, said.

Dr. Kollman works in a state in which marijuana is legal. She said talking to patients about their marijuana use before surgery is critical because heavy users may need more anesthesia during their procedure to keep them asleep.

"If they let me know what they've been using and how much, I can adjust my medications to make sure that they have the best anesthetic possible," she said.

She also said marijuana users may have a tougher time with pain management after surgery. She said for many people across the country, there's a stigma around discussing drug use, and some worry there could be legal ramifications, if they tell their doctor they use marijuana.

"We're not going to turn people in to the cops, that's not our job. Our job is to be the best doctor that we can be for that one person at that one time. So be brutally honest with us, because all we're going to do is take that information and make it better for you," Dr. Kollman said.

She said in the future, there could be guidelines for marijuana use before you have surgery, like cutting back. For now, she said to be open with your doctor and not change your habits without asking him or her first.

"There is not quite enough evidence yet to tell people to stop cold turkey or to taper, and there's some conflicting reports whether it works, whether it needs to be seven days, whether it needs to be 14 days. So we need more research on that. It'll really depend on the person and on their coexisting conditions," Dr. Kollman said.