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Marijuana Use and Organ Transplantation: a Review and Implications for Clinical Practice

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Physicians of all disciplines must rapidly adjust their clinical practices following the expansion of marijuana legalization across the country. Organ transplantation teams are uniquely struggling in this gray zone with eight states having passed laws explicitly banning the denial of transplant listing based on a patient’s use of medical marijuana. In this review, we examine the clinical evidence of marijuana use in transplant patients to enable psychiatric providers to meaningfully contribute to the relevant medical and psychiatric aspects of this issue in a unique patient population.

Recent Findings

There is no consensus among experts regarding marijuana use in transplantation patients. There are extant case reports of post-transplant complications attributed to marijuana use including membranous glomerulonephritis, ventricular tachycardia, and tacrolimus toxicity. However, recent studies suggest that the overall survival rates in kidney, liver, lung, and heart transplant patients using marijuana are equivalent to non-users.

Summary

Transplant teams should not de facto exclude marijuana users from transplant listing but instead holistically evaluate a patient’s candidacy, integrating meaningful medical, psychiatric, and social variables into the complex decision-making process. Psychiatric providers can play a key role in this process. Appropriate stewardship over donor organs, a limited and precious resource, will require a balance of high-clinical standards with inclusive efforts to treat as many patients as possible.

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Acknowledgements

The editors would like to thank Dr. Kamalika Roy for taking the time to review this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gerald Scott Winder.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Complex Medical-Psychiatric Issues

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Rai, H.S., Winder, G.S. Marijuana Use and Organ Transplantation: a Review and Implications for Clinical Practice. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19, 91 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-017-0843-1

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Keywords

  • Marijuana
  • Cannabis
  • Organ transplantation
  • Transplantation
  • Legalization
  • Transplant psychiatry