The first study of its kind has uncovered the impact of cannabis use on postoperative recovery. The results are mixed.
In recent years, many US states have relaxed laws regarding the medical and non-medical use of cannabis, prompting ongoing research into the health effects of cannabis. Now, a first-of-its-kind study has found a link between different patterns of cannabis use by patients and how well they recover from surgery .
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After alcohol, cannabis is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States. As of November 2022, 21 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have adopted laws to regulate the non-medical use of cannabis by adults. Legislative changes in Massachusetts between 2012 and 2016 led to an increase in the prevalence of cannabis use among patients undergoing surgery.
There has been a lot of research on cannabis and its health effects, both negative and positive. Studies of non-surgical patients show that cannabis use increases the risk of psychiatric as well as adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Research like this shows that chronic cannabis use can lead to higher levels of health care in general.
However, there is little evidence on how cannabis use affects postoperative patients and their postoperative recovery.
In a recent new study, a team of anesthesiologists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BCMD) in Boston, Massachusetts hypothesized that cannabis users are more likely to require a higher level of care after surgery, including unscheduled intensive care hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU), readmission, or discharge to the emergency department.
The researchers examined de-identified data from 210,639 patients who underwent non-cardiac surgery between January 2008 and June 2020, and those diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder accounted for 13.4%.
Cannabis use disorder is a recognized mental health disorder, which is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSMMD-5) as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use resulting in clinically significant impairment or distress”. Simply put, people with a cannabis use disorder cannot stop using, despite the health, occupational, and social problems that drug use causes.