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Should I tell my doctor I smoke cannabis?

Should I tell my doctor I smoke cannabis?

Getting the right answers in your cannabis journey can be tricky. But with The Cannigma’s Ask the Expert, you can find questions from readers like you, answered by a real cannabis pharmacist. 

Question: I’m getting to the age where I’m periodically having medical “procedures,” and on the various forms that have to be completed they always ask if you  “smoke.” Just the generic question. In years past I always assumed they were asking about tobacco usage. Now that cannabis is becoming widely used, how do the medical professionals want us to answer the question? Do we need to disclose that we smoke cannabis when procedures may include sedation? FWIW I normally abstain from smoking 36-48 hours prior to any procedures. 


Great question! 

The answer to your first question is yes – “do you smoke” means any kind of smoke. I always encourage patients to be honest about durg, alcohol, nicotine and cannabis use with healthcare professionals. I cannot speculate about your procedures specifically, but here is some info on procedures (minor and major) and smoking.

The concerns around smoking tobacco and smoking cannabis are different, though. Tobacco users are more likely to have respiratory and oxygen retention issues than weed smokers. This leads to known increases in the risk of death and complications for cigarette smokers, both during surgery and after surgery.

As far as cannabis is concerned, chronic use of Type I (high-THC) cannabis use has been associated with an increased need for sedatives during procedures and surgery. And indeed, there are a number of studies to support this correlation. There are also many anecdotal reports of heavy tokers requiring more sedation and even waking up during surgery. Of course there are lung concerns around anyone smoking or vaping anything regularly, but so far no strong connection has been made between cannabis use and negative lung/heart outcomes during surgery.

Bottom line – always tell your doctor about drugs, herbs, and substances that you’ve been consuming; prescription or otherwise. This will help the doctor managing the sedation prepare, but generally speaking cannabis does not appear to be a major risk factor for bad outcomes during or after surgery.

Codi Peterson, PharmD
Scientific advisor, The Cannigma
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