Risk versus reward: Disclosing cannabis consumption to your doctor
From 2013 to 2020, the number of people disclosing their cannabis use doubled, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. With growing access to regulated cannabis products and more states moving towards legalization, you may wonder whether you should disclose your cannabis consumer status to your doctor.
In the past, GreenState explored this concept through a lens of privacy rights and risks associated with not disclosing cannabis use, but what about the risks of doing so?
Doctors are extensively trained, but they are still human. That means they are susceptible to subconscious bias even when fighting to remain objective. Though there are many reasons to tell a medical professional about consuming cannabis or other substances before receiving treatment, there are also some considerations worth taking before you do.
Why tell your doctor that you smoke weed?
Being honest with your doctor about consuming cannabis has its benefits. Anyone who has watched an episode of “House” knows that keeping any one thing from your doctor can throw off their diagnostic analysis. For the best diagnostic accuracy, tell your doctor that you smoke weed.
Additionally, cannabis can have contraindications with certain medications and create complications with anesthesia. Cannabis consumption or withdrawal could impact how much propofol is required to sedate a patient. Disclosing how much, what form, and how long ago you consumed cannabis to a doctor or anesthesiologist before being sedated for surgery is the safest option.
These are solid reasons to disclose cannabis consumption to your doctor, but take precautions. Telling your doctor you smoke, vape, or eat cannabis products could also have negative consequences.
America is grappling with institutionalized medical racism
A legacy of discriminatory practices and misrepresented biases in teachings has led to an American Healthcare system with a foundation in medical racism. Unchecked medical racism leads to higher mortality rates and more illness in Black and American Indian communities and other people of color. CDC data on infant mortality rates collected from death certificates issued in America from 1985 to 2013 showed Black infants died at birth at double the rate of white babies.
Recent data analysis of Black babies born to parents who received prenatal care at Michigan academic medical centers were 7.3% more likely to be selected for drug screening as compared to white newborns. These statistics highlight the prevalent difference in the quality of care for Black and white patients in a medical setting.
When advising whether or not to disclose cannabis use to your doctor, we must consider race. Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic patients might be less apt to share about their cannabis consumption for fear of impending microaggressions and reduced quality of care.
Possible prescription revocation
Many people have spoken out on Tiktok and other social apps about having their prescriptions revoked after testing positive for or divulging cannabis use to their psychiatrist. One such Reel was remixed by a certified pharmacy technician out of Washington D.C., who corroborated the story.
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In 2021, Narmin Jarrous was denied her regular chronic pain medication after testing positive for cannabis, as reported by the Detroit Metro Times. Jarrous had been honest with her doctor about managing endometriosis symptoms with regulated cannabis throughout her treatment. She had no warning of a cannabis policy change from the hospital or her doctor before the clinic denied her prescription refill.
Facing the revocation of a prescription that helps you function is a good reason to be nervous about sharing cannabis use with your doctor, but in some cases, it’s important to still do so.
If you’re nervous about how a doctor might react, ask them for their policy on cannabis use and positive drug tests. If you’re especially concerned about their reaction, consider asking about the contraindications of cannabis with the new prescription– purely hypothetically, of course.
Gauge how safe you feel, and adjust how you ask questions based on that assessment. But it is important to always share cannabis use with a medical professional before taking a new pharmaceutical. If you feel unsafe with your doctor, it may be time to seek a new one.
With these risks in mind, recreational consumers may prefer to taper off their use rather than share with their doctor, while medical patients may consider seeking a new practitioner. Regular access to quality medical care is essential, and how you disclose cannabis consumption to your doctor could impact what kind of care you receive. Even so, always consult a medical professional before going under anesthesia or considering a new prescription, but be prepared and remember the risks before doing so.