The top question on the list: 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.
Most would agree that preparing for surgery is an anxiety-laden task, and with fair reason—whether elective or not, surgery is a serious matter. For the cannabis lover, it may seem obvious to turn to a toke to soothe the nerves in preparation for the big event, but is it wise to do so? Are there any contraindications to smoking before surgery?
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.
Why it’s not a good idea to smoke before the surgery?
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 therapeutic and recreational effects of smoking cannabis usually last from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. For most surgeries, patients arrive at the hospital more than three hours prior to the surgery.
However, smoking can cause increased sputum production; for that reason, I would recommend not smoking cannabis for several hours prior to the surgery.
It’s very important that if a person is regularly using cannabis that they make sure they let the anesthesiologist know, so the anesthesiologist is aware of all of the medications they’re taking, including cannabis. It’s not the doctor’s job to judge you or report you to the authorities. But, the practitioner needs to know.
In terms of people who are using oral administration, the effects are going to last 3-6 hours. The night before surgery you are instructed not to eat anything after 10:00 p.m., so if you follow pre-op instructions, any effect from oral use would be gone well before the surgery.
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.”
What to do?
Interestingly enough, historically if you go back to the 19th century, and certainly before that, cannabis was used as a childbirth anesthetic. One of the things we know about the cannabinoids is that many of them have analgesic properties, and THC has the most. It may decrease the dosage of pain medication that the person requires post-operatively.
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.