Is it Safe to Use Cannabis to Aid in Recovery After Surgery?

Marijuana bud and pills on hand

Going under the knife is never a fun thing to be doing. Whether serious or minor, surgery recovery can be painful and long. Doctors will often prescribe opioid painkillers to treat pain after the procedure, but the drugs that they prescribe can be addictive and come with many side effects. Because of that, many people want a different pain reliever.

For cannabis lovers, it may seem obvious to turn to cannabis to soothe the nerves and pains, but is it wise to do so? Are there any contraindications to smoking after surgery? Does cannabis make a good post-op pain reliever?

Avoid Opioid Overdose And Addiction 

Most consumers try opioids for the first time after undergoing surgery. Out of them, six percent continue using opioids for at least three months after their surgery.

There’s a reason to believe the replacement of opioids with cannabis can reduce the possible addiction to opioids. It’s not just the risk of dependency that is worrying, there is also a potential risk of an accidental overdose.

 In contrast to opioids, the risk of overdose with cannabis is almost non-existent. Opioid addiction can do a lot of harm to your practice.

Despite the hesitancy of many regulatory bodies and prescribing physicians, there are clear benefits to the use of cannabis. Indeed, cannabis can be highly effective for the treatment of certain types of pain, even when compared to currently available prescription medications. Because of an opioid epidemic and high rates of chronic pain, effective alternatives for treatment must be sought.

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Decrease Pain And Increase Appetite

In addition to the benefit of avoiding an overdose, cannabis can decrease pain and increase your appetite. Consuming foods that are high in protein can also contribute to wound healing. Cannabis reduces pain, nausea, and vomiting, whereas opioids can intensify nausea and vomiting. Cannabis is very useful for treating pain post-operatively. Patients can also try vaporizing, sublingual spray or other routes of oral administration instead of smoking it.

Historically, if you go back to the 19th century, and even before that, cannabis was even used as a childbirth anesthetic.

CBD Versus THC 

For those of you who are worried about prescribing a medication that will make patients “high,” there’s an alternative that can avoid that stigma behind cannabis. 

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of many active ingredients that can be found in cannabis. The more commonly known chemical compound is tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. When using a cannabis strain that is higher in CBD than THC, the typical paranoia and euphoric effects of the cannabis high are significantly reduced. But at the same time, its beneficial effects (less pain and nausea) still remain. 

CBD controls inflammation and the pain response by increasing anandamide levels. Anandamide, which is one of the endocannabinoids produced by our bodies, calms down the pain and inflammation in damaged tissue.

CBD has been used to help with many other conditions, such as:

  • seizures
  • inflammation
  • pain
  • mental disorders
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • nausea
  • migraines
  • depression
  • anxiety

 Safest Ways to Consume Cannabis After Surgery

The medical industry and marijuana policy still have a long way to go before everyone can get a cannabis prescription after their surgery. In the meantime, those who just had surgery and are looking to use cannabis to treat pain can consider alternative methods of consumption such as edibles, tinctures, or oils.

 Edibles refer to any food, candy or baked goods that contain cannabis in some form that can be ingested, rather than being smoked or vaporized. Edibles are often found in the form of baked goods and sweets like cookies, gummies, chocolate bars, or brownies.

 Cannabis tinctures, an alcohol-based cannabis extract, can also be referred to as a green or golden dragon.

 Coughing can interrupt the healing process, especially if recovering from breast surgery or abdominal wall reconstruction. By choosing something like edibles you might keep your body more relaxed and open to healing.

No matter what, be sure to work with your doctor when choosing what works best for you and your pain management.

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No Nicotine Equals Better Wound Healing

Nicotine before or after surgery can constrict blood vessels and negatively affect wound healing. Cannabis, on the other hand, does not contain any traces of nicotine. Additionally, the risk of lung cancer seen with tobacco products is almost non-existent when using cannabis instead. 

A healthy immune system is needed to help your body fight any illness and infection, especially when you have a fresh wound. Smoking is very good at harming the system.ee73

As a result of smoking, the cells, and antibodies that usually protect your body and wound against bad bacteria become weak which makes it much easier for your wound to become infected. An infected wound is hard to heal and can last many months or even years.

 No Constipation

 With either short or prolonged use of opioids, patients often complain of constipation. This is a vicious cycle to get caught up in. As patients take more opioids for pain, resulting constipation can cause more pain and the vicious cycle begins. That is not an issue with cannabis. It can be used to treat digestive disorders, including constipation. You can use it to substitute or reduce the dosage of certain medications which are causing constipation, such as opiates. This indicates cannabis may not only treat constipation itself but some underlying causes.

 

The Possible Side Effects

 While many of the euphoric side effects of using cannabis might sound appealing after surgery, some potentially dangerous effects should be a concern to anyone recovering from major surgery.

The improper use of cannabis during recovery can:

  • Reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure. Because anesthesia is a depressant, and you will be using a prescription pain medication, which can have sedative effects, it’s best not to mix it with another possibly depressing component.
  • THC is known to affect the respiratory, cardiovascular, and heat regulation systems of the body. Smoking cannabis can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your cells, which can affect your blood quality and the ability for tissues and organs to properly respond to stress.
  • Smoking anything increases the risk of coughing, and that could mean a variety of bad things like developing hematomas, or opening up incisions.

 

It is completely normal to feel anxious or scared about having surgery. If you normally use cannabis to calm your nerves, talk to your surgeon about alternative ways to reduce anxiety and manage stress in the weeks before your procedure. It is better to avoid smoking any substance and instead take cannabis in other available forms. Overall, there is excellent recovery potential with edibles and oils for patients who already have experience with these drugs.

Any patient undergoing surgery should be upfront with his or her surgeon, and honest about their previous cannabis use. These days most surgeons have a better understanding of cannabis’ variety of benefits for the human body, and they can guide you in determining the effectiveness of using cannabis as a part of your recovery.

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