Drug test before routine surgery?
January 19, 2020 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Do hospitals drug test before minor procedures/surgeries?
posted by jitterbug perfume to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
My experience has been that they do not. They will ask you a lot of questions about your medical history including stuff like "Do you smoke" but that's mostly for recovery info and anesthesiology details.
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 PM on January 19

Not for any minor surgery I have had. I also processed the blood samples for the lab at the regional hospital in high school, and drug tests were rare outside of the ER.
posted by rockindata at 7:54 PM on January 19

My experience (with a few minor surgeries under my belt) has been no, drug screenings aren't done. (I assume that you're talking about screening for drugs other than those a patient is prescribed).

However, my medical charts don't indicate issues with substance use/abuse so my doctors weren't worrying about any problems that drugs in my system (that they don't know about) might cause.

I might advise someone having surgery to be upfront about what they're taking so medical staff can mitigate any dangerous interaction those drugs could have with anasthesia or pain meds.
posted by Poeia8Kate at 7:58 PM on January 19 [6 favorites]

From my nurse friend: They most likely won't test you. If you have any substances in your system, please tell them. They dont want to get you in trouble, they do care about you not dying on the table because you took something before that will interfere with what they are giving you for the surgery.

Stay away from grapefruit, or grapefruit containing things. Seriously.
posted by ananci at 8:10 PM on January 19 [26 favorites]


But ... don't hide anything. They're not law enforcement, they're doctors. Even if for some reason they wanted to report you to the cops they would be bound by confidentiality.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:44 PM on January 19 [11 favorites]

It will impact pain management, which you really really don’t want going wrong. If you are under sedation, it will also impact that. Doctors want to know so they can keep you safe. Don’t lie about your use, even if it’s not current. If you are worried about your medical records, many times it’s possible for them to respect a request not to chart something.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:35 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

Pot stays in your system for quite a while, so if you use pot, and are concerned about a positive test affecting legal or work issues, call the hospital and possible the anesthetist beforehand. You can say you are Pat Smith, but ask for clarification. The hospital may have a patient advocate; if they do, call them. If you use prescribed drugs that you don't want work or family to be aware of, same. Medical personnel are way more vigilant about confidentiality, but medications will show up on bills, and things can slip out easily. You can talk to the nurse in charge of the unit and declare concerns, and you should get increased vigilance. For other recreational drugs, I'd lay off for at least 48 hours minimum, in case of anesthesia issues. If there's an issue of addiction, talk to the anesthetist.
posted by theora55 at 6:26 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

The only time I have ever been drug tested by healthcare is in routine urinalysis as a condition of a pain management practice.

I have had numerous nerve blocks and two surgeries and have never been drug tested for any of those.

This is over a 6 year period full of interactions with healthcare in Texas.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:02 AM on January 20

If the concern is something like “will they be able to tell that I smoked pot last week,” this isn’t something to worry about. But if you’re currently taking something you should find some way to check with the medical team so they are aware of all possible interactions. You can ask hypothetically whether it would matter for this procedure if a patient had taken XYZ. (I’m guessing they will say no, or else you would be aware by this point.)
posted by sallybrown at 7:11 AM on January 20

No. But If they think you are on something, they will ask, and then won't believe you, ergo quickie blood tests. I know this because one of my fabulous siblings went for surgery high off his ass on coke.
posted by james33 at 7:16 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

I heard of a case where a podiatrist learned from a blood test during the workup that the patient used cocaine and postponed the surgery. As a generality, if you give a blood sample, you dont necessarily know everything they are looking for.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:16 AM on January 20

No, they don't explicitly test for drugs, but please please tell the anesthesia team every drug you take, prescription and not. Thanks to legalization in certain states, they're finally focusing on the effects of marijuana on various kinds of anesthesia, and some preliminary results all point to the idea that it does effect your reaction to anesthesia.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:42 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

The only time I’ve seen a hospital drug test anyone without their explicit knowledge is when there is an issue of child endangerment and the parent clearly has a drug problem. Usually this is meth, crack, heroin, or opioids. If you aren’t endangering children, the doctors don’t care about what drugs youve done except as it affects your health and their care plan. So you should be honest with them, unless you like took two hits off a joint a month ago and that’s it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:02 AM on January 20

Another thing to be wary of is anything you're currently taking [some anti inflammatories for example] that can act as a blood thinner. This can result in excess bleeding during surgery - you definitely want to disclose anything like this.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:17 PM on January 20

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