Should doctors screen patients undergoing anesthesia for cannabis? According to the Americans Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA), the answer is an unequivocal yes.
These doctors and other medical professionals base their conclusions on a single study. According to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, cannabis users experienced 14 percent more pain the day after surgery than non-cannabis consumers.
Researchers concluded this after analyzing pain and opioid records from 35,000 patients, including 1,600 people using medical cannabis at least one month before their operations.
They also found cannabis consumers are seven percent more likely to use opioids to ease pain. But researchers admit this statistic is not significantly higher than non-cannabis consumers.
Based on the results of this single study, the “experts” are demanding a loss of civil liberties, specifically, the privacy of cannabis consumers.
It’s becoming increasingly common for “experts” to recommend that governments rescind Western civilization’s traditional concepts of liberty and freedom. Public health and safety have become the highest political goals.
If you want a historical parallel, look at medieval Europe when the Catholic Church was the absolute spiritual power. Just replace “holy scripture” with “scientific study,” and “priests” with “experts,” and it all makes sense.
What is the Relationship Between Anesthesia & Cannabis?
First, we should note that you’re not supposed to eat or drink for six to eight hours before surgery. This is due to aspiration, where substances can get into the lungs, causing complications and even death. For this reason, surgeons also suggest you don’t smoke before surgery.
This is good advice. But what the ASRA says (and what cannabis prohibition groups are parroting) is different. They’re suggesting a direct, toxic relationship between anesthesia and cannabis.
But is this science or scientism? Are doctors explaining how anesthesia and cannabis conflict, or are they lecturing us about purgatory and the virtues of the Catholic Church?
You may think comparing the medical establishment with religion is asinine. One is a scientific body. The other is spiritual woo. So what is the actual relationship between anesthesia and cannabis?
“The association between cannabis use, pain scores and opioid consumption has been reported before in smaller studies, but they’ve had conflicting results,” said Elyad Ekrami, M.D., lead author of the study.
“Our study has a much larger sample size and does not include patients with chronic pain diagnosis or those who received regional anesthesia, which would have seriously conflicted our results. Furthermore, our study groups were balanced by confounding factors including age, sex, tobacco and other illicit drug use, as well as depression and psychological disorders.”
Sounds conclusive. The researchers certainly did their homework. But a study using a large sample size doesn’t translate into objective, scientific facts. This study also didn’t indicate the timing, frequency or type of cannabis consumed.
Suppose cannabis and anesthesia are diametrically opposed, and you want to confirm this in a study. Shouldn’t you know if the cannabis consumed has been smoked or eaten? Is it a high-CBD low-THC strain, or something else?
Anesthesia & Cannabis: What Exactly is the Problem?
“There is some evidence that cannabis may be beneficial for chronic and nerve pain. However, early research suggests that this is not the case for acute pain such as for surgery of a broken leg,” said Ian Holmen, M.D., another lead author of the study.
“We now understand patients who chronically use opioids prior to surgery often have exaggerated pain responses, and need increased pain medication after surgery because they have an increased tolerance. We speculate that cannabis use may cause a similar effect, but we need more research to determine if this is the case.” [emphasis added]
More research. The forever dangling carrot of these types of studies. What exactly would “more research” reveal? So far, all researchers have suggested is that regular cannabis consumers may have a lower tolerance to pain.
Is this surprising? That people who regularly consume pain-alleviating drugs, such as cannabis or opioids, have lower tolerances for pain?
An anesthesiologist may notice involuntary body movements, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure or increased breathing rate. These are signs the patient is experiencing pain; therefore, the anesthesiologist increases the level of sevoflurane during surgery.
How does that translate into: “Every patient in America must be screened for cannabis use before surgery?”
Cannabis raises a person’s heart rate and lowers blood pressure. During surgery, this can be a deadly combination. People should not walk into a surgeon’s office high as balls. Just like they shouldn’t eat a big meal the night before.
If America has a common sense problem, look at the education system. Don’t blame cannabis consumers.
Warning! Anesthesia “Misinformation” Below
More American States are legalizing cannabis. Polls estimate that one in 10 Americans are regular cannabis consumers. The ASRA warns that these cannabis consumers, due to their lower pain tolerance, will likely get hooked on opioids after surgery.
So, instead of blaming the large pharmaceutical companies (and their government lapdogs) for the opioid crisis, let’s blame the little guy—the cannabis consumer who prefers to eat an edible for pain relief.
When it comes to cannabis and anesthesia, it’s not cannabis we should be criticizing. After all, we know cannabis contains plant cannabinoids that mimic our body’s endogenous cannabinoids.
We know there is no lethal overdose nor adverse side effects for healthy people beyond feeling uncomfortable with large amounts of THC (which you can mitigate with other cannabinoids, like CBD).
But what is anesthesia?
While researchers have a good understanding of how anesthetics work at a cellular and molecular level, they understand little about its exact nature.
For example, we know, like cannabis, anesthetics bind to specific proteins in the brain called receptors, which are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses.
However, the specific details of how this binding leads to inhibiting neurotransmitter release and the blockage of pain signals are not fully understood.
Perhaps instead of suggesting governments violate the privacy rights of cannabis consumers, the ASRA should continue to research just what the hell is going on with anesthesia.
The Number One Issue with Anesthesia & Cannabis
Of course, this entire study was nonsense for two reasons. One, it was not a randomized control study. There is a replication crisis in scientific research. This anesthesia and cannabis study did not root out the implicit bias of its researchers.
Second, the researchers of this study believe they can objectively measure pain. Remember when they said cannabis users were 14 percent more likely to experience pain and 7 percent more likely to take opioids for the pain?
The problem is pain is subjective. It is perceived and experienced differently by each individual.
Pain is a personal and unique sensation that cannot be directly measured or observed. It is influenced by various factors, including the person’s physical condition, emotional state, cultural background, and past experiences with pain.
Some people may be more sensitive to pain than others, and the same stimulus that causes pain in one person may not cause pain in another. How a person copes with and expresses pain can also vary greatly.
Which is another way of saying: this study is garbage.
Smoking or eating cannabis before surgery is a bad idea because smoking or eating anything before surgery is a bad idea.
But is there a direct, toxic relationship between anesthesia and cannabis? There may be. But no objective scientific method currently supports that despite what the ASRA or the corporate press headlines may suggest.