Study Suggests Regular Cannabis Users Require More Anesthesia For Surgery

A new study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association is showing a link between regular cannabis use and an increased amount of anesthesia required for surgery.

For the study, researchers in Colorado analyzed medical records from 250 patients who received endoscopic procedures after 2012 when voters in the state legalized cannabis.

Researchers found that patients who used cannabis on a daily or weekly basis required 14 percent more fentanyl, 20 percent more midazolam, and 220 percent more propofol to achieve optimum sedation for routine procedures.

“Some of the sedative medications have dose-dependent side effects, meaning the higher the dose, the greater likelihood for problems,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Twardowski in a statement. “That becomes particularly dangerous when suppressed respiratory function is a known side-effect.”

According to Twardowski, cannabis has some metabolic effects that are not currently understood by the medical community and is concerned as legalization has spread rapidly without much research having been done. He says that patients need to know that using cannabis could make other medications less effective.

The researchers conclude that a strong correlation appears to exist between regular cannabis use and a need for higher doses of fentanyl, midazolam, and propofol during endoscopic procedures.

They state that knowledge of a patient’s cannabis use prior to sedation can help endoscopists, nurses, and anesthesia providers to prepare for the possible need for more anesthesia, increased costs, and potential dose-related risks.

Dr. Twardowski says that the study marks a first small step in discovering the mechanism behind the need for higher dosages of anesthesia, which is essential in finding better care management solutions.