Regular marijuana users may need more anesthesia for medical procedures

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By Linda Carroll

Patients getting surgery may need higher levels of anesthesia if they are regular marijuana users, a new study suggests.

After reviewing the medical records of 250 Colorado patients who got colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures, researchers determined that regular marijuana users needed more anesthesia than those who didn’t use cannabis, according to the study published in the Annals of the American Osteopathic Association. In fact, marijuana users needed more than twice the amount of propofol, a powerful anesthetic, compared to others, the researchers found.

“Although marijuana use has been legalized for recreational and medical use in many states, it’s been a very poorly studied substance,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Mark Twardowski, a specialist in internal medicine who is in private practice in Colorado. “So we can’t say it doesn’t have an effect on other medications and substances that patients might be using. Our study demonstrates that it seems to have an effect on at least the classes of medication used for sedation for simple endoscopic procedures.”