Pain Medicine

Using Cannabis Increases Postoperative Pain in Patients

Patients who use cannabis may experience an increase in pain after surgery when compared to patients who do not use cannabis. These findings were presented at the Anesthesiology 2022 annual meeting in New Orleans, LA.1

Although cannabis remains the most used illicit drug in the United States, little is clear about its association with perceived pain, and postoperative pain.

The researchers analyzed a total of 34,505 patients and identified 1683 individuals who were cannabis users. Adult patients underwent elective surgeries at Cleveland Clinic lasting more than 1 hour and stayed at the hospital following surgery for at least 24 hours. The data spanned from January 2010 to December 2020. Individuals who used cannabis were exposed to it within 30 days before surgery.

For the study, the researchers examined the amount of opioid consumption in morphine equivalents during the first 24 hours post-surgery. During the first 24 hours post-surgery, patients who used cannabis experienced 14% more pain compared to those that didn’t use cannabis. Further, cannabis use was associated with 12% higher opioid consumption—during the first 24 hours after surgery—compared to patients who did not use cannabis.

The researchers concluded that “physicians need to consider that patients using cannabis may require higher doses of opioids after surgery.”

“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, MD, lead author of the study and clinical research fellow of the Outcomes Research Department at Cleveland Clinic’s Anesthesiology Institute in a press release. “Our study shows that adults who use cannabis are having more—not less—postoperative pain. Consequently, they have higher opioid consumption after surgery.”2


—Jessica Ganga


  1. Ekrami E, Ozturk SS, Kopac O, et al. Association between cannabis use and postoperative opioid consumption. Presented at: Anesthesiology 2022 annual meeting; October 21-25, 2022; New Orleans, LA. Accessed November 7, 2022.