Dr. Green Relief – Blood Donation While Using Medical Marijuana
According to the United States Red Cross, someone in the United States requires a blood transfusion every two seconds. Yet, only 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood or platelets. A grimmer statistic is that only 3% of those who are eligible to donate their blood do so.
Though there are other suppliers of blood and platelets, the Red Cross supplies most of the demand for blood in the United States.
When you go to donate blood, you will be asked to fill out a health questionnaire which is used to determine your eligibility to give blood. Potential disqualifiers include, but are not limited to:
- Use of illegal injectable drugs such as heroin or cocaine
- Use of injectable drugs not prescribed by a physician, like steroids
- Feeling sick or having an acute infection the day before or the day of your appointment
- If you are pregnant or have given birth within the past six weeks
- Having gotten a piercing or a tattoo within the past year
- Having had a blood transfusion or organ transplant within the past year
- Testing positive for HIV or Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
- Having had leukemia, lymphoma, or any other blood cancers
- Taking blood thinners or having an inherited blood clotting disorder
- Being a man who has had sexual contact with another man in the past 12 months
In addition to the things listed above, taking certain medications and having traveled to certain areas of the world may also disqualify you from donating. For example, if you traveled to Great Britain between Jan 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996, you may be ineligible to donate due to concerns about variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, also known as Mad Cow disease. If you ever received a blood transfusion in Great Britain, you may also be ineligible to donate.
What if I Smoke Cannabis?
Stoners are, in general, a generous bunch who love to share. That sharing extends to blood donation, but many abstain for fear of being rejected, or in the case of states where cannabis is still illegal, being reported to the police. Well, rest easy.
The Red Cross and other blood donation centers aren’t going to test your blood for the presence of THC or other cannabinoids. They’re mostly concerned with making sure that your blood is healthy and free of cancers and other blood-borne infections.
So, It’s Okay to Spark Up a Joint & Go Donate?
You might not want to go that far. If you arrive at a blood donation center or event visibly high, you might be turned away. Besides the visual cues of being high – bloodshot, glassy eyes, and other physical clues, smoking too close to your donation appointment may cause your blood pressure to be too low, which may disqualify you from donating. Cannabis can remain in your bloodstream for up to two weeks, so if that is a concern, you might want to abstain for at least that long before donating. However, the metabolites responsible for the “high” are usually cleared from the body within a few hours.
If there’s a concern that donated blood might cause the recipient to test positive for cannabis later, you can put those fears to rest as well. This might get a little complicated, but here’s the science behind why you probably don’t need to worry that your recipient may lose their job because they’ll test positive for marijuana due to receiving your blood.
THC is lipid-soluble and generally goes to tissues that are lipid-rich first to be stored. In plasma, peak THC levels occur within seven to ten minutes of use and begin falling rapidly thereafter. Marijuana metabolites are found more often in the plasma and not the red blood cells. One unit of packed blood cells has 50-100 mL of plasma. Once transfused, that plasma is diluted by about 30- to 60-fold.
Further, the THC concentration will continue to break down while the blood is in storage, especially the blood stored in plastic containers, such as the kind used in blood banks. Therefore, the chances of the blood of a cannabis user causing a recipient to test positive are highly unlikely.
What Do They Test the Blood For?
After a blood donation, several tests are mandatory before the blood is declared safe and banked for future use. They will first, of course, test your blood in order to type it and determine the Rh factor. Further tests include:
- Testing for infections such as HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B and C
- Testing for syphilis, West Nile virus, Chagas disease
They will also test for and remove T-lymphocyte cells, which can cause a reaction when transfused.
Blood is needed by someone every few minutes. If you’re eligible to donate, go ahead and donate as many times as you can. Even just one pint can help up to three people once your blood is separated into components. There’s no need to worry that police are going to show up at your house after donating if you’re a cannabis user. There’s little to be concerned about the THC in your blood affecting the recipient. So, go ahead. Give blood. Just save the cannabis smoking for afterward to congratulate yourself on doing a good deed.