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Friday, September 22, 2023

Patients must be honest about marijuana usage

By Veita Bland, M.D. / September 8, 2023

Some older adults are turning to cannabis as a way of treating many ailments. It is important to inform your healthcare provider about your cannabis usage to avoid drug interactions that may cause negative side effects.

One of the most important things a patient should do is be totally honest with his/ her healthcare provider. As the world turns and there are more and more people using cannabis (marijuana), full disclosure is very important. This is doubly so as we see more older adults turn to cannabis to treat their anxiety, pain, insomnia, decreased appetite and other ailments.

Cannabis is legal in 38 states. However, currently, it is not legal in the state of North Carolina. Studies have shown that cannabis use in people, who are 65 and older has grown sevenfold in the last decade. In the last decade, the use of cannabis in California has increased 1,808 percent. As a result, many emergency rooms across the Golden State have experienced an increase in ER visits by older adults who are using cannabis.

To prevent unnecessary side effects or drug interactions, patients must tell their healthcare providers that they are using cannabis.

If a cannabis user needs surgery, it is important that the healthcare provider be informed about such usage because marijuana will increase the anesthesia needs of people who use it. So, if your anesthesiologist is unaware, you may not receive the proper amount of anesthesia during a surgical procedure.

Anticoagulant medications like Warfarin (Brand name Coumadin) are affected by marijuana. This medication can cause internal bleeding when marijuana is involved. Cannabis use can also affect theophylline, which is used to treat respiratory symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. This bronchodilator helps relax the bronchial tubes of the lungs. Cannabis can also negatively impact the effectiveness of medications such as: Sympazan used for seizures; Clozapine and olanzapine (anti-psychotics) which are used in patients with mental health issues such as psychosis and can result in more mental health issues.

Dr. Thomas Kosten, professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas believes more older people have been turning to cannabis because they worry about getting older and being alone. This may not be the whole answer to the problem as older patients may still need to be prescribed an antidepressant for care.

So, these are just some of the interactions between some medications with Cannabis. Healthcare providers must be more proactive, nonjudgmental and ask our patients if they are using cannabis. Patients must be honest with us about their marijuana usage. Safety must come first to guard against negative drug interactions.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at


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