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Cannabis Use Can Increase Pain After Surgery

Adults who use cannabis are having more — not less — postoperative pain.

Cannabis use actually increases pain after surgery, a new investigation has revealed. Researchers found that cannabis users experienced 14 percent more pain in the first 24 hours after surgery, versus those who had never used the drug.

They also consumed seven percent more opioids after surgery. Despite cannabis being a common method of chronic pain relief, researchers said the increase in pain users experienced after surgery was the likely cause of increased opioid use.

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Study lead author Dr. Elyad Ekrami, of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, recommended doctors take their new research into account when assessing patients’ pain relief after surgery, potentially prescribing more opioids to those who use cannabis. He also advocated physicians explore a “multimodal approach” to post-operative pain relief.

There was limited data on cannabis’ effects post-surgery until this research was presented at the Anesthesiology 2022 annual meeting.

“Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and is increasingly used as an alternative treatment for chronic pain, but there is limited data that shows how it affects patient outcomes after surgery,” said Dr. Ekrami, clinical research fellow of the Outcomes Research Department at Cleveland Clinic’s Anesthesiology Institute.

“Our study shows that adults who use cannabis are having more — not less — postoperative pain. Consequently, they have higher opioid consumption after surgery.”

The team analyzed records from 34,521 adult patients who had elective surgeries at the Cleveland Clinic from January 2010 to December 2020. Of the group, 1,681 were cannabis users who had used the drug within 30 days before surgery.

Ekrami emphasized the study did not include patients with chronic pain diagnoses. “The association between cannabis use, pain scores, and opioid consumption has been reported before in smaller studies, but they’ve had conflicting results,” he said.

“Our study has a much larger sample size and does not include patients with chronic pain diagnosis or those who received regional anesthesia, which would have seriously conflicted with our results.

“Furthermore, our study groups were balanced by confounding factors including age, sex, tobacco and other illicit drug use, as well as depression and psychological disorders.”

He added: “Physicians should consider that patients using cannabis may have more pain and require slightly higher doses of opioids after surgery, emphasizing the need to continue exploring a multimodal approach to post-surgical pain control.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

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