Illicit Drug Use and Endoscopy: When Do We Say No?

John P. Gallagher, Patrick A. Twohig, Agnes Crnic, Fedja A. Rochling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Illicit drug use (IDU) is often encountered in patients undergoing elective ambulatory surgical procedures such as endoscopy. Given the variety of systemic effects of these drugs, sedation and anesthetics are believed to increase the risk of cardiopulmonary complications during procedures. Procedural cancelations are common, regardless of the drug type, recency of use, and total dosage consumed. There is a lack of institutional and society recommendations regarding the optimal approach to performing outpatient endoscopy on patients with IDU. Aim: To review the literature for current recommendations regarding the optimal management of outpatient elective endoscopic procedures in patients with IDU. Secondary aim is to provide guidance for clinicians who encounter IDU in endoscopic practice. Methods: Systematic review of PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, and Google Scholar for articles presenting data on outcomes of elective procedures in patients using illicit drugs. Results: There are no clinically relevant differences in periprocedural complications or mortality in cannabis users compared to non-users. Endoscopy in patients with remote cocaine use was also found to have similar outcomes to recent use. Conclusions: Canceling endoscopic procedures in patients with recent IDU without consideration of the type of drug, dosage, and chronicity may lead to unnecessary delays in care and increased patient morbidity. Healthcare systems would benefit from additional guidelines for evaluating the patient with recent illicit drug use for acute intoxication and consider proceeding with procedures in the non-toxic population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5371-5381
Number of pages11
JournalDigestive Diseases and Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Ambulatory surgical procedure
  • Appointments and schedules
  • Endoscopy
  • Illicit drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology


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