DEC 03, 2019 1:46 PM PST

Cannabis Dependence Poses Danger for Post-op Heart Attacks

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

People undergoing common surgeries are immediately at an increased risk for post-op heart attack and potentially stroke if they have any link to cannabis dependence, abuse, and/or cannabis use disorder. Researchers involved in a new study that yielded these results warn that cannabis use might not be as safe as some people think.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed the medical records of more than four million American adults who underwent one of 11 common elective procedures between 2006 and 2015, including:

  • Knee/hip replacement
  • Gallbladder removal
  • Caesarian section
  • Hysterectomy
  • Hernia repair

They found that active cannabis dependence and abuse increased the risk of heart attack after surgery nearly twofold; researchers also observed potential increased risk for stroke. However, scientists involved in the study did not observe a significant difference in overall outcomes between patients who had a cannabis use disorder and patients who did not.

The number of surgical patients struggling with cannabis use disorder has increased significantly in the past ten years, experts find. Despite information spread in the media about the purported benefits of cannabis and cannabis products containing phytocannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBD), researchers involved in the study are concerned that there is not enough reliable scientific evidence to truly understand the effects of cannabis on health. Understanding the specific effects of cannabis seems to be especially important for vulnerable patients like those recovering from surgery and for people who consume a large amount of cannabis, nearing the definition of “abuse,” and those who depend on the drug to function normally.

At the very least, explained lead author Dr. Karim Ladha, “the results of this study make it clear that we need to pay more attention to cannabis users undergoing surgery.” Further research is needed to fully develop the relationship between cannabis use disorder and outcomes of surgical patients before, during, and after their procedures.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the definition of “cannabis abuse” is outdated. Rather, “cannabis use disorder” is defined by “nine pathological patterns classified under impaired control, social impairment, risky behavior or physiological adaptation.”

Sources: St. Michael’s Hospital, Anesthesiology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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