Cannabis Use Increases Pain After Surgery

Summary: Cannabis users experienced 14% more pain in the first 24 hours following surgery than non-cannabis users. Additionally, cannabis users consumed 7% more opioids post-surgery.

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists

Adults who use cannabis have more pain after surgery than those who don’t use cannabis, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2022 annual meeting.

“Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and increasingly used as an alternative treatment for chronic pain, but there is limited data that shows how it affects patient outcomes after surgery,” said Elyad Ekrami, M.D., lead author of the study and 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.”

Researchers analyzed the records of 34,521 adult patients — 1,681 of them cannabis users — who had elective surgeries at Cleveland Clinic from January 2010 to December 2020. The cannabis users had used the drug within 30 days before surgery, while the other patients had never used cannabis.

The patients who used cannabis experienced 14% more pain during the first 24 hours after surgery compared to the patients who never used cannabis.

Additionally, patients who used cannabis consumed 7% more opioids after surgery, which the authors note was not statistically significant, but is likely clinically relevant. 

“The association between cannabis use, pain scores and opioid consumption has been reported before in smaller studies, but they’ve had conflicting results,” Dr. Ekrami added.

This shows a person holding a pipe
The patients who used cannabis experienced 14% more pain during the first 24 hours after surgery compared to the patients who never used cannabis. Image is in the public domain

“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 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.”

Dr. Ekrami noted that additional research is needed to further define cannabis’ effects on surgical outcomes.

“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,” he said.

About this pain research news

Author: Julia Cremin
Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists
Contact: Julia Cremin – American Society of Anesthesiologists
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The findings will be presented at the Anesthesiology 2022 meeting

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  1. More fake propaganda slang by the medical professional community. Most medical professionals want their patients to suffer and be in pain and to hurt these people are sadistic. Why do doctors want to hurt people so much these days? It’s scary these doctors know nothing

  2. As a 20+ year cannibis smoker who can stop and start as I want with no addiction to it and I suffer from chronic pain from rsi and injuries and fibromyalgia I can confirm these findings 100% accurate..I find when I stop my pain decreases’s like weed makes u experience EVERYTHING more intensely

  3. I think I had what is called a exploratory laparotomy Pancreatectomy to remove necrosis of pancreas caused be gallbladder stones leading to pancreatitis with complications and when I got home after 4 weeks in the hospital cannabis help with the pain a lot as of this post im still having complications and it still helps me sleep and function to a degree

  4. Is very interesting how many emotional comments by cannabis users , a bit like they seem offended by doctors trying to do their best to ease the pain for patients with minimun secondary effects after surgery !!
    I’m anesthesiologist and after 30 years of practice in the operating field, I try to keep me informed with the best tecnniques we have in our hands to do the best for ALL our patients no matter their médications or life habitudes..
    So please ,don’t worry ,nobody is judging anybody,just scientific facts for best practice in surgical field.
    Thanks neuroscience journal news for bringing in our daily practice the best of latest scientific publications and my best regards for all of you ,patients or not for being up to date in scientific reading ; and sorry for my english ..
    Dr De Antoni

  5. I had a 3 hour experimental thoracotomy (butchery) for removal of a neurofibroma in 1980 & was in ICU for 3 days with 100mg Demerol shots every 3 hours in my butt cheeks. On day 4 I was placed in a private room & shortly afterwards the surgeon came in to yank out the drainage tube. The Demerol only brought the pain level down to 6 out of 10. The minute the surgeon left the room I took a joint of excellent sinsemilla into the bathroom & smoked it. Instantly brought my pain level down to 0-1 level. It was a great combo to knock the pain completely out, neither drug being 100% by themselves. It was like magic it worked so well.

  6. Here’s my answer to their study: B.S.

    I’ve used cannabis post surgery, and it worked like a charm. There’s a huge group of Cannabis patients that use cannabis every day for pain management.

    Rather than write your next Cannabis hatchet piece, talk to the actual people who use it.

  7. lol, this journal should be called pseudoscience. paid for by big pharma. cannabis is the legal and safe choice for pain relief.

  8. False. My husband had multiple surgeries and cannabis did nothing but help him through the pain and lowered his opioid use. In fact he hardly needed opiates at all. Seems the researchers were biased, shocker.

  9. From the look of these comments it looks like there’s a lot of people who just don’t want to give up their devil’s weed! Types like that will never tell the truth!
    After an operation for cancer I had a twinge of pain on the first day, took a pill and was fine and no more pain. I had no problem when the pills ran out. Pot users use every excuse!

    1. I used it the last time I had surgery and it allowed me to stop opioid pain meds completely. I’ve had both knees replaced, shoulder surgery, blown out Achilles’ tendon and broke a wrist and fractured several vertebrae. Opioids messed with my digestion, put me in a terrible mood and I never felt good on them.
      My last surgery was a knee replacement and weed had been made legal so I bought it prior at a family members suggestion. Post surgery I used the prescribed pain meds the first 24 hrs and then decided no more. Switched to weed and never took another pill worked great.
      I was never a weed user mainly do to career and legality of it but my experience has changed my opinion on it 100%.
      I’d much rather use a natural product anyway.

  10. I have known several people who use pot (and have had at least one surgery) who after surgery have had a great deal of pain. This study has filled a great need and the people behind it are doing a great service to others.

  11. Still not true. 34yr old female. Abdominal surgery. NO MEDICATION POST OP. Was up and back to normal at day 4. CANNABIS USE DAY BEFORE AND SAME DAY HOME FROM SURGERY. Pain was relieved by 1 joint.
    Article is just another piece of bs. The government and big pharma all work together like many other large entities in the US. Nothing is about the well being of the people. It’s about making pockets fatter. If you dont know this by now then your a lost cause.

  12. I recently had my medial meniscus repaired. Ganja helped tremendously
    with controlling my pain, afterwards.
    I actually was surprised my surgeon wasn’t quick to prescribe opiates.
    I would have declined them even if he had offered. I, along with everyone else seem to agree this isn’t accurate. At all…….

  13. A few questions. What strain of cannabis was being used. Dosage’s of the controls. Dosage’s of the non-controls. Many questions. Where you giving a lower dose of pain meds to the cannabis user etc. Look. I’ll speak for any CBD User. It stops every side of pain with microdosing by inhalation or extended release through oil/food. Where the subjects already heavily medicated or where they new. It take 6-9 months of use to benefit.

  14. I had surgery 2 years ago and only ate cannabis edibles and never poisoned my body with opiates, never experienced pain. This “research” is flawed. Where are your sources?

  15. You guys, no duh it is biased. They admit it’s statistically insignificant. Then, what does this website do? Publish under a misleading title. Nobody is acting in good faith.

  16. The reason they are saying that we users feel more pain is that in my experience if I take pharmaceutical painkillers and then smoke cannabis I find cannabis negates the effects of the pharmaceuticals. It brings its own pain relief but for the first half hour it can be slightly more painful. They are focussing on a extemely small period of time and blowing everything out of proportion. And I smoke when I feel like it surgery or not.

  17. That’s a bold face lie. I went through a bicep repair surgery early this year and I did it with zero opiates after surgery. The only reason I was able to do that was because of my cannabis use.

  18. My anesthesiologist told me I would have a lot of pain because I smoke pot. I had none. This study is a joke and they did not actually talk to people that use weed.

    1. I completely agree I had major back surgeries without cannabis and opioids were literally killing me. I switched to cannabis and went through 2 more surgeries and had less pain and recovered faster because of cannabis.

    2. More than likely you kept ingesting Cannabis, and more than likely the folks in the study did not

      they didn’t even bother to mention that factor in this

    3. I am a cannabis user and it helped with pain control. I used less opioids after my bowel resection. I used more after my ball bladder surgery when I wasn’t using cannabis. This is a study without actually talking to users. I call this nonbeleivable from personal experience.

  19. I don’t even use cannabis to know this is stunningly bs. I am so fed up with the “Opioid Crisis” just to force chronic pain patients to suffer. Now it is a war on Cannabis? FFS people with chronic pain cannot afford the bogus surgeries that just makes everything worse, or the For awful epidural injections (receiving a conference training & that’s it!) that should be illegal since the Pharma Companies have put right on the vials of those steroids NOT FOR EPIDURAL USE” (Arachnoiditis) yet we are being milked for all we’re worth & still left to anguish in pain.
    Start treating us like actual patients & not account numbers! 🤬

    1. Can I use or pot as we always called it, isn’t just a benign weed. While I have problems with 5he opioid witch hunt and I think it is wrong, I also have problems with the mindset in this country that pot is a safe alternative to practically every other drug plus alcohol. THAT is what is BS.

  20. As someone who has had multiple major spinal surgeries this is BS. I’m an avid cannabis user and my pain was significantly less this after this surgery compared to previous ones before I started using cannabis. I had to 1/4 of the amount of pain meds most people use post surgery. I stopped using pain meds 3 days after surgery and only used cannabis and cbd products. But what else is new? More medical misinformation as per usual. Anything to keep you on medications that make them money and not actually help you in the long run.

    1. Another total anti-cannabis BS article. Dubious research — too many variables.

      I had been smoking weed daily for 50+ years when I had total shoulder replacement surgery at age 82. One night in hospital, and the only pain meds I needed were high dose aspirin — can’t use Tylenol because of kidney issues.

    2. 100% not true, at least not for everyone. I’ve had several surgeries, and was able to find pain-dulling comfort in cannabis. This supposed “study” reeks of hidden agenda. $$$$$$$$$

      1. What the comments show is the pot users didn’t bother to thoroughly read and or weren’t capable of fully comprehending the article.

    3. This screed is a bogus pile of Big Pharma dung!
      I am a NYS medical cannabis patient under doctor’s care and have nothing but praise for the program, the products and the positive effects, cannabis has had on my well being at 71 years of age! Get the Big money out of mediciane and politics!
      Start by repealing “Citizens United!”

    4. I had back surgery and was offered opiates afterwards but I declined. This study is B.S. in my opinion and extremely biased. How many of the group had mental health/depression issues? A lot of those types often want not only cannabis but ANYTHING that will give them a euphoric response. So the key issue here had nothing to actually do with marijuana, but mental health issues instead!

      1. “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.” This means they made sure to have an equal percentage of patients with depression in both the experimental and control group.

  21. Naturally they are going to defend opioids big business and they don’t like to lose money, And naturally aenethists are going to defend opiods as most doctors do because of kickbacks .It’s just “Big Pharma ” fighting back

  22. I think this correct. I think that the cannabis users are used to lower pain on a daily basis. When they experience a surgery, the pain level is well above their normal pain level, and they then label it “painful” until all of the pain is gone. Those that are not using cannabis have a higher normal pain level. After surgery, they may not reply “painful” when they return to their normal pain level.

  23. Another “study” angle… bought & paid for by what entity? I do not see the credits for the funding.

    One thing we all know — each person has differing experiences with marijuana vs pain. Like any prescription drug or alcohol, every body processes it in its own way.

    Bottom Line Result: Some people receive pain relief from marijuana; some do not.
    Some experience a degree of intensified pain; some do not.

    Sorry, but this limited research is far from convincing of anything at all. Although I’m almost convinced to apply for research/study funding!!

    This Study Rating = Zero

    1. What people appear to be completely missing with this post is that the patients are obviously not able to consume marijuana either pre or post op. Withdrawl from cannabis often is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity. Perhaps the findings suggest halting marijuana consumption during the pre/post op stage enhances pain sensitivity, therefore increases pain following a surgical procedure.

      To clarify, the assessments were taken 24 hours post-operation. It does not suggest long-term, just during those first few hours post op. As others have said, perhaps adding cannabis therapy for those who frequently use cannabis for pain management would improve pain levels and reduce the need for opioids. Just a thought.

      1. withdraw from using cannabis…that’s a new one…
        Make up some more information and maybe someone will actually believe you, lol.

        1. Agreed, I quit smoking marijuana after a decade of heavy use and had absolutely ZERO withdrawal symptoms. I believe that some people may experience psycho-somatic fallout from discontinuation but nothing remotely physical!

      2. Then docs need to prescribe cannabis after surgery for users and they will get to their normal pain level faster. They are just watching people suffer and not caring for the patient just wanting money!

    2. Thank you for your rational thought. You were the only person to bring up individual experience. No drug works the same on people. Pot makes me feel pain more intensely. However I recognize that others have a different experience.

  24. Oh pulleeeez! trying to scare people away from using cannabis so they continue with big pharma. Big pharma is losing because of their greed and crappy products that cause more side effects than the good they do for the initial issue.

    1. Unfortunately Big Pharma has been diving into the medical marijuana trade. They just won’t let you find that documentation.

  25. This is the most skewered misleading BS study out there on cannabis use for post surgical pain yet! What’s the strains used? Are they hybrid, sativa, or indica? What was the delivery method used with patients. I, to date have received 36 surgeries from a military injury. The last 6 surgeries have solely been cannabis pain control for post surgical pain. These were not small surgeries either. Of course if you’re stupid enough to do bong hits after surgery you’ll increase your pain there Einsteins lol. Rick Simpson oil, extract, Nitto powder is all I use and very strain an indica specific ones. I’m up and around before most patients quit whining and have documentation to back it up. If we’re going to have studies like this can we at least use knowledgeable people

  26. Makes sense that big pharma would push larger doses of opioids as cannabis use is cutting into their profits. The fix is… “up the doseage.”

  27. Yes, but what if they (I) were allowed to use cannabis in the 24 hours after surgery? Don’t train doctors to give us more opioids; make them permit us to self-medicate.

  28. It could be that these people have a tendency to seek pain medication by exaggerating their pain. it could also be tied to a lack of fortitude found in marijuana users. Lastly, it could be tied to the victim mentality possessed by so many drug users.

  29. Maybe it’s because cannabis users are DEALING with chronic pain to begin with!!! And, the surgery is supposed to RELIEVE the pain but RIGHT after surgery is when you decide to pay attention to the pain levels of a cannabis user??
    THAT is it right there…we run around in chronic pain trying NOT to get hooked on opioids yet here you are making it look like cannabis isn’t helping us already!!!
    GTFOH with your twisted up “facts”.

    1. I think this is an astute statement. My other thought is that when I consume mj, my thoughts are often limited categorically. If I were to focus on the pain it would be hard to break that focus. At least harder than if I were not to consume marijuana.

  30. The study sounds beyond biased. The image is also discriminatory as the hand holding the pipe is olive skinned and has a tattoo. Absolutely politically biased, offensive, and most certainly not scientific related.
    Cannabis is a pain killer. It might quite be very simply that patients have lower resistance to pain because they generally numb any they might feel with cannabis, without obviously realise.
    Amazing how politically biased research eschews any scientific approach at will. Yet, the gaps and bias remain as clear as light.
    The shame is spending money on such studies in the face of a historical moment in which true medical emergencies are being sacrificed to publish these sort of studies without real purpose.
    As a tax payer, it really feels wrong.

    1. I totally agree. I had surgery on my shoulder in July. I HATE opioids and only took them 3 days the rest of the time I ate THC yummies and was AOK. I told my doctor at my 2 week post-op and he was totally fine with it.

  31. They we’re obviously not smoking the right kind of marijuana. There are many different strains and finding the right one for pain can be the issue here

  32. This article is so wrong. My husband had several surgeries in which very strong pain pills were prescribed for recovery, and I had some issues also. We NEVER took the pills prescribed by the doctors, but smoked marijuana instead. I know many people who have done this, and no risk or opiod addiction. Just another attempt to continue with the pill pushing profit motivation of the legal drug industry.

  33. They gave my dad opioids after cancer treatment and cannabis actually worked better. Also he did not have to get addicted to this awful medication as he chose cannabis over one of the worst medication to get someone hooked on… so this story is completely wrong.

  34. I have used cannabis for over 50 years. I recently had bilateral total hip replacement and never used the prescribed opioid prescription I was given for pain. I was walking without assistance the day following surgery and hiking over two miles within four weeks. You might want to do some more research.

  35. Were they allowed to get high in those first 24 hours? Taking away something that is normal might allow the mind to concentrate elsewhere, like pain. Are people who use marijuana more likely to use opioids than the general public, aka can a few cases of addiction or the search for highs possibly taken at a larger rate in one group effect the numbers to account for a 7% increase overall.

  36. Horse Manure…I use cannabis as well as many others I know for pain and suffering from years of growing old.
    The research is either a lie or it is just horribly flawed…still it is in error…haha.

  37. Sounds like a complete load of bovine excrement. Same sort of “research” for profit that declared “safe and effective.”

  38. I call bullshit on this “study”!
    I have never heard of anyone being in more pain after consuming THC/CBD in my entire life or personal experience.

  39. I have 9 surgery I smoke it help ease my pain it help my nephew as well when he had eye surgery so mb you need to redo your research

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