Does regular cannabis use affect our medical care?

cannabis use

A first-of-its-kind study from the USA looked at whether regular cannabis use affects how we respond to other drugs used in a hospital setting.

The legalization of cannabis in Canada and 10 states in the USA has been a contentious issue. Recent observations in the clinical setting that beginning to reveal how regular cannabis use can affect how the body responds to other medications.

Drugs exert their effects in the body by finding and attaching to specific receptors. The same applies to cannabis; the concern is that cannabis will attach to the same receptors that other drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines (drugs including and similar to valium), also attach to. Researchers have suggested that the receptors in people who use cannabis regularly may become altered, making the body respond differently to opioids and benzodiazepines.

A group of researchers from the USA looked back at the medical records of patients who were given opioids and benzodiazepines for sedation during routine endoscopic procedures, such as colonoscopy. Their results were published The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. They compared the dose of the drugs that was required for patients who self-identified as regular cannabis users (users on a daily or weekly basis), with those who did not use cannabis. In total, the records of 250 patients were evaluated.

The results revealed that patients who regularly used cannabis needed significantly higher doses to be adequately sedated compared with those who did not. The researchers suggest that it is important for doctors, nurses, and anesthetists to determine cannabis use prior to sedation for medical procedures. This will allow for proper planning of patient medical care, and increased risks related to drug dosage.

Written by Nicola Cribb, VetMB DVSc Dip.ACVS

Reference: Twardowski M, Link M, Twardowski N. Effects of Cannabis Use on Sedation Requirements for Endoscopic Procedures. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2019. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2019.052.

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