Tell Your Anaesthesiologist If You Smoke Weed

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty

It’s arguably fine to tell little white lies to your friends and family. Many of us routinely lie to ourselves. But there is one person on this earth with whom you must be 100 per cent honest: your anaesthesiologist.

Even before you get to the surgeon, you are putting your life into your anaesthesiologist’s hands. They will use a complex cocktail of chemicals to bring you to the brink of death, and then back again as if nothing had happened. If you have been doing your own experiments with brain chemistry, their calculations will be off.

As Shayla Love recently reported at Vice, researchers in Colorado have found that people who routinely use cannabis require higher doses of sedatives than people who don’t.

You don’t want to be the person who stays awake despite dose after dose. In extreme cases a procedure may need to be called off because it’s not safe to give you those high doses. On the flip side, cannabis can augment the effects of anaesthetic drugs — for example, it can depress your cardiorespiratory system, which means it can be dangerous to combine with anaesthetic drugs that do the same.

Your anaesthesiologist can often adjust dosages safely if you are honest, but they would also prefer if you stopped using cannabis in the days leading up to your procedure. (You should still tell them that you have used it in the past.)

This warning isn’t just about cannabis. Be honest about any substances you’ve used recently or habitually, because cannabis isn’t the only one that can affect how your body responds to anaesthesia (and to pain, and to post-op painkillers). If you use opioids, for example, your team’s whole pain management plan may have to change. Your anaesthesiologist isn’t going to narc on you, they just want you to be safe.


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