Should You Take Cannabis After Surgery?

Should You Take Cannabis After Surgery?

Stress is a common experience in everyday life. Doctors call the stress you feel before surgery preoperative stress or preoperational anxiety. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • Fear of the unknown or loss of control
  • Concern the surgery may not be successful.
  • Fear of the anesthetic, pain, or death
  • Fear of not recovering to your current ability
  • Being in a strange environment


Stress can trigger physical effects on your body and emotions, which may tempt you to smoke cannabis before surgery. But like smoking cigarettes, it is best not to smoke before surgery because it can increase the amount of sputum or phlegm your lungs produce, which can be dangerous during surgery. Smoking before surgery can also increase the risk of developing pneumonia.

If you want to use cannabis before surgery to help relieve anxiety, it’s best to choose a method other than smoking, such as vaporizing, tincture, or edibles.

Although it may not seem worth mentioning to your doctor that you use the best cannabis sativa strain, that would be a mistake. Marijuana causes different effects on the body and brain that in turn changes the medication needed during surgery. Whether you smoke hash, vape, or take an edible, the anesthesiologist will want to know how often and how much cannabis you use. Regular cannabis users may need a larger dose of anesthesia to stay asleep during their operation.

Is it Safe to Use Cannabis After Operation?

The decision to use cannabis after surgery is based on different factors. For example, if you had abdominal surgery, your surgeon likely wants you to keep air moving throughout your lungs and breathing deeply to reduce the amount of sputum production. This, in turn, helps lower the number of times you cough and puts less strain on your stitches.

The surgeon will close the incision on your stomach with stitches or staples. But internally, you have stitches to help keep the muscle and subcutaneous tissue together, which dissolve over time.

Since smoking hash can produce more sputum and cause you to cough, your doctor may discourage you from smoking until your incision is healed. Consistent coughing can put pressure on the stitches and increase the possibility of tearing.

However, once your body has metabolized the anesthesia, you may consider using cannabis in another form as you could before surgery, such as oils, vaping, tinctures, edibles. After your doctor clears you to exercise, they will likely also clear you to smoke again.

What About Pain Control?

The human body has an endocannabinoid system that’s involved in maintaining health. Receptors are found in the connective tissue, immune cells, brain, and organs. Researchers call the system “a bridge between body and mind.”

Cannabis is an effective pain reliever since it works within the body’s endocannabinoid system by reducing pain sensory neurons that block the transmission of signals going to the brain. Think of it like a topical anesthetic that stops pain signals from reaching the brain. It’s not that the pain goes away, only that you don’t feel it anymore.

When these receptors were identified in the early 2000s, it triggered the growth of studies evaluating how cannabis and pharmaceuticals could take advantage of the system to reduce pain and affect a variety of other health conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Huntington’s disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Osteoporosis

Cannabis Is Also Effective for Chronic Pain

Doctors often prescribe opioid drugs for the treatment of chronic pain. However, they are rarely effective and often trigger nausea and sleepiness. Over time, the user develops a tolerance to the drug and needs higher and higher doses to get pain relief.

The addiction rate to opioids is so great that although there has been a reduction in the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers, the number of related deaths has continued to rise through 2020. It may be that cannabis, which effectively helps control chronic pain, can reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths.

Cannabinoid analgesics, which are pain medications developed from cannabis, are well-tolerated and have fewer side effects. Researchers believe they may be a potential addition to the treatment of cancer pain. Another literature review of orthopedic studies found there were generally positive conclusions for use to control pain.

The Bottom Line

Researchers are continuing to look at using cannabis to help reduce pain, anxiety, and many other medical conditions that respond to the endocannabinoid system. This may help reduce dependence on opioid medications for pain control and positively affect the growing opioid crisis.

Be sure to tell your anesthesiologist you have used cannabis before surgery since it affects the type and amount of drugs used in surgery to keep you asleep. After surgery, work with your doctor to use cannabis for pain control and choose a method that enhances your healing process.

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