Be Honest with Your Physician About Cannabis Use

Be Honest with Your Physician About Cannabis Use

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Doctors need to know what you're taking when administering surgery or medicine to avoid complications.

My best friend recently underwent surgery. She needed a ride home so I patiently drove her to and from the hospital. As she was filling out the questionnaire that all physicians require, she suddenly paused when it came to the question of drug use. She sheepishly whispered to me; “Should I put on here that I smoke weed?”

My background is in the legal profession so my immediate answer was of course. Doctors need to know what you are ingesting in your body when administering surgery or medicine to avoid complications. In addition, we live in California where cannabis is legal on a recreational and medicinal level. Sadly, my friend is not alone. Many patients still avoid being honest with their medical providers due to the stigma of cannabis use. We’ll discuss in detail why the pros of being honest significantly outweigh the cons.


Recreational marijuana is legal in California, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts. In fact, you can purchase marijuana for medical reasons in these states as well. That alone should put your mind at ease when disclosing cannabis use to your doctor. Of course, that doesn’t cover the other 41 states in the U.S.

If you happen to live in a state where marijuana is illegal, there is still no need to worry about disclosing cannabis use to your doctor. You are protected under HIPPA, which stands for (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Physicians are required to follow rules implemented under HIPPA. This includes doctor-patient confidentiality. Your health care provider is not allowed to disclose information that you give in confidence. If your physician violated doctor-patient confidentiality, you have grounds to sue, this includes illicit drug use.

The government realizes that without this protection to patients, people may put their lives in jeopardy for fear of fines or jail time. It’s crucial that patients trust their doctors enough to be honest, which enables their physician to give them the best medical care available.

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Avoiding Side Effects

If you fail to disclose your cannabis use to your physician, you could be putting your health in jeopardy. Aspirin is frequently administered at hospitals to patients. Acetaminophen-propoxyphene can have negative side effects in conjunctions with cannabis use. Side effects can include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor coordination, judgement and thinking among the elderly

Disclosure of marijuana use is also very important before surgery. According to one study, cannabis users needed a higher amount of sedation when undergoing anesthesia than non-cannabis users. The study also found that cannabis users needed 220.5% more propofol, 19.6% more midazolam and 14 % more fentanyl when undergoing procedures. All of these drugs are commonly used when administering sedation to patients. This is just the tip of the iceberg, according to, cannabis is known to interact with 614 other drugs. 485 of these drugs have moderate interactions and a whopping 129 can cause major interactions.

You Could Be Pregnant

Obviously, this one only applies to women. One of the first things the doctor asks you at the beginning of your appointment is; “When was your last menstrual cycle?” The question is asked to make sure you are not pregnant. If it has been a while, the doctor may decide to administer a pregnancy test. If you are indeed pregnant, the doctor will probably advise you to discontinue your use of cannabis for the duration of your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The following negative side effects that can be passed to your baby during breastfeeding and cannabis use are:

  • Less weight gain
  • Low birth weight
  • Underdeveloped strength, coordination and movement
  • Stunted intellectual development
  • Higher chance of SIDS

Abstaining from marijuana while pregnant, may seem like a no brainer that doesn’t even need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to a study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis use while pregnant rose to 7% in 2017, which is double the percentage from 2002 at 3.4%.

Change Doctors

Physicians are human just like everyone else. People including doctors may have their own biases towards the use of cannabis for whatever reason. If you get the impression that your doctor has negative views of cannabis users you may want to change physicians. You deserve to receive the best medical care possible. The last thing you want is for your doctor to dismiss your health concerns due to negative biases that they have against people who partake in cannabis use.

On the other hand, don’t be quick to dismiss concerns your physician may have, especially if they have sufficient evidence that your cannabis use is harming you for some reason. Everything must be done in moderation, too much marijuana is known to cause negative side effects if taken in excess. The job of your physician is to give you medical advice based on the overall benefit to your health whether you like the message or not. At the end of the day, you only get one body and it’s up to you to give your physician all the information they need to give you the best medical care possible.

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