Are you a medical cannabis patient with a long standing commitment to blood donation? Perhaps you’re concerned that taking cannabis, albeit for medical purposes, will stop you from giving back to society through giving blood. In this article we’re going to put your fears to rest and explain why cannabis and blood donation are not mutually exclusive.
Why Give Blood
We all like to feel like we can make a difference in the world, but unless we’re a doctor, we rarely feel like we can save someone’s life. Apart from that is, if we donate blood. Just one donation can save up to three lives and each year there are approximately 112 million blood donations worldwide (so potentially over 300 million lives saved).
Donated blood is used for blood transfusions, which may be needed by women who have lost blood during a complicated childbirth, patients with severe anaemia, after trauma following accidents or natural disasters, as a result of complex surgical procedures or for cancer patients.
Anyone considering donating blood must go through a basic screening process. After all, the blood used in transfusions must be free from infections such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), hepatitis virus B, C and E, syphilis, and Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV). Microbiological screening is also performed.
Donated blood is also tested for blood groups so that the patients are given the most suitable blood for their blood type.
Patients with health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anaemia, epilepsy and cancer are not suitable for blood donation, neither are patients taking blood thinning medication such as warfarin.
If you are unsure whether your health condition may prevent you from giving blood, this blood donation website from the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK will give you some guidance, and for potentially problematic medications, the Red Cross has a comprehensive list.
Most countries will prevent anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol from giving blood. It’s always best to check with the blood donation service in your own country about any restrictions they may have.
So where does this leave medical cannabis?
Cannabis and Blood Donation
Firstly, neither cannabis nor any intoxicating substances are tested for during the blood screening process. The screening picks up on blood borne viruses and is not a toxicology test.
As mentioned previously, you will not be allowed to give blood if you are visibly intoxicated, which is possibly more of an issue for someone who uses cannabis for recreational use.
Many medical cannabis patients use a product containing the cannabinoids THC and CBD. What this means in effect is that thanks to the higher levels of CBD (cannabidiol) found in medical cannabis, patients rarely experience the intoxicating high associated with street cannabis or cannabis used for non-medical purposes.
Some patients may be prescribed a THC dominant strain for conditions such as sleep disorders or nausea associated with chemotherapy. As discussed previously, cancer patients cannot donate blood. However, if you are taking a high THC strain for a health condition that is accepted for blood donation (such as insomnia), it may be advisable to follow the same advice given in countries like Canada where cannabis is legal, which is to allow 12 hours to pass after cannabis consumption before giving blood.
The American Red Cross gives some sensible advice about how to prepare for giving blood. They say: “Presenting donors must be generally healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. Potential donors should get a good night’s sleep, eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids at least two hours prior to donating.”
Their words ‘generally healthy and feeling well at the time of donation’ perhaps are they key points to take away here. If you are a medical cannabis patient, consider how you are feeling in yourself on the day of donation. If your symptoms are overwhelming, then perhaps it’s not a good moment to give blood. There will be other occasions in the future when you are feeling in good health again and can make that life saving gesture once more.
Did you like the post? Give us some feedback! This post has been done based on existent research to the date of publication of the article. Due to the increase in studies based on medical cannabis, the information provided can vary over time and we’ll keep informing in further writings.