AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Inside the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Roland Flores is no stranger to asking patients tough questions.

As an anesthesiologist, Flores needs to know everything he can about each patient, as he prepares a mix of drugs to put them to sleep for surgery. But there’s one question Flores said patients aren’t always honest with: Do you use marijuana?

“I think people are kind of uncomfortable with it because of the quasi-legality of it between the federal and state laws,” Flores said.

Flores said it’s an important question to answer truthfully because it can have a major impact on your treatment.

He’s discovered regular marijuana users require significantly more medication — not only to put them to sleep but to keep them asleep during surgery. He said patients who use marijuana also require more medication after surgery to remain comfortable.

Doctors recommended to ask about cannabis use

The reason is still not entirely clear, Flores said, because it hasn’t received extensive research.

“The problem is that we’ve not been able to study this properly,” he said. “It’s illegal on the federal level, so studying it is still a difficult thing for us to be able to do.”

That appears to be changing, however. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine is now recommending that doctors across the nation ask about cannabis use before surgery. It’s the first time guidelines like this have been released. 

Flores said his team has already been asking the question for a number of years, but he hopes more people will choose to answer honestly.

“There’s nothing you can tell us that we haven’t already heard from somebody. You’re not going to surprise us,” he said. “We just want to know everything possible so we can care for you.”