Can You Give Blood If You Smoke?
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), nearly 5 million Americans receive blood transfusions each year.
There are many reasons why someone could need a blood transfusion, such as:
- a severe accident or injury
- diseases or conditions such as anemia and hemophilia
The blood that’s used for this important procedure is collected through the process of blood donation. Donating blood is a great way to help someone who’s in need of a blood transfusion.
When you donate blood, you’ll need to answer some questions about your health, lifestyle, and travel history to determine your eligibility.
Does smoking disqualify you from donating blood? Read on to learn more.
Smoking cannabis doesn’t disqualify you from giving blood. However, the clinic is likely to turn you away if you show up to your appointment visibly high.
In a statement to Healthline, the American Red Cross said: “While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana, cigarettes or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify a person from giving blood. Potential donors cannot give while under the influence of licit or illicit drugs or alcohol. Legal or illegal use of marijuana is not otherwise a cause of deferral.”
Smoking cigarettes in and of itself doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood.
If you smoke and you want to donate blood, plan to refrain from smoking on the day of your appointment — both before your appointment and for three hours afterward.
Smoking before your appointment can lead to an increase in blood pressure. This may disqualify you from donating. Smoking afterward may lead to dizziness.
In the United States, possible disqualifiers can include, but aren’t limited to:
- using illicit injection drugs
- using injection drugs not prescribed by your doctor, such as steroids
- feeling sick or having an acute infection on or before the day of your appointment
- being pregnant or having given birth within the past six weeks
- receiving a tattoo or piercing within the past year
- getting a blood transfusion or an organ transplant in the past year
- having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
- having had leukemia, lymphoma, or other cancers of the blood
- having had the Ebola virus
- having an inherited blood clotting disorder
- being a man who’s had sexual contact with other men within the past year
It’s important to discuss these things when you arrive at the clinic to determine if any of them apply to you.
Using certain medications may temporarily disqualify you from donating blood. They include:
- acitretin, a drug used for severe psoriasis
- blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) and heparin
- dutasteride (Avodart, Jalyn), which is used for enlarged prostate
- isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis), an acne drug
- teriflunomide (Aubagio), which is used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS)
Depending on the medication, you may have to wait anywhere from two days to three years after your last dose until you’re eligible to donate blood again.
In rare cases, having used certain medications will permanently disqualify you from donating blood. This includes human pituitary-derived growth hormone and the psoriasis drug etretinate (Tegison), both of which are now banned in the United States.
Your travel history can also determine whether you’re eligible to donate blood. You may be subject to a waiting period if you’ve recently traveled to a country with a high risk of malaria, such as Brazil, India, or parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
You may not be eligible to donate if you’ve spent an extended amount of time in places where variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is found, such as many countries in Europe. vCJD is a rare condition more commonly known as “mad cow disease.”
Having previously received a blood transfusion in France or the United Kingdom, both areas where vCJD is found, would also make you ineligible to donate.
Even though smoking doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood, it can eventually lead to conditions that can be disqualifiers for blood donation. These can include:
- Cancers. You can’t donate if you’re currently being treated for cancer or if you’ve had leukemia or lymphoma. People who’ve had other types of cancer may need to wait one year after successful treatment.
- High blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high at the time of donation, you may not be able to donate.
- Heart and lung disease. If you’re actively having symptoms of a heart or lung condition, you’re not eligible for donation. Additionally, if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you may need to wait up to six months before donating.
There are certain stimulants and drugs that can disqualify you from giving blood, but can you donate blood if you smoke? In many cases, the answer is yes. Learn more about the factors that determine whether you’re eligible to give blood. We'll tell you what you can do and how you can be a donor, even if you do smoke.
Can you donate blood if you smoke weed?
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- Are cannabis users disqualified from giving blood?
- Do blood banks test for THC?
- What can disqualify someone from donating blood?
- Other requirements for donating blood
- How you can still help if you’re disqualified from giving blood
- Bottom line
In the unprecedented time of Covid-19, donating blood has never been more essential. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2020 that people may be less inclined to donate blood due to social distancing or concerns about contracting the virus, but that blood donations are imperative to save the lives of millions of people across the globe every year.
Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, illustrated the importance of donating blood during the pandemic, saying, “During this time of Covid, donating blood and plasma is an excellent, free way to give back to your community.”
Donating plasma, in particular, is a vital way that an individual who has recovered from Covid-19 may be able to help others. The part of the blood that contains antibodies, convalescent plasma from formerly positive Covid-19 patients may help save the lives of people currently battling the novel coronavirus.
Are cannabis users disqualified from giving blood?
Although some cannabis users may believe they are ineligible to give blood, Dr. Bone asserted, “According to the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor.”
According to the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
According to FAQ literature published in September 2020 on the Red Cross website, “The use of cannabis does not disqualify an individual from blood donation, but potential donors cannot give if their use of cannabis impairs their memory or comprehension.”
High levels of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid present in cannabis, could temporarily affect these cognitive functions. So, if you’ve recently smoked a high-THC strain like The Toad or Amnesia Haze, then it’s possible that you will not qualify as a blood donor.
On the other hand, if you have recently smoked a high-CBD strain such as Ringo’s Gift or Cannatonic, the comparatively lower levels of THC are less likely to impair cognitive functioning.
Do blood banks test for THC?
Regardless of cannabinoid concentrations in your preferred strains, blood banks do not generally test for THC. As Dr. Bone shared, “It goes without saying that you cannot be high while you donate. Currently there is no rapid THC test done to be certain that you have nothing in your system.”
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require blood donation centers to test for THC, as reported by the Red Cross. So, as long as you are not high at the time of your blood donation appointment, the presence of THC in your system should not directly disqualify you. Rather, any observable psychoactive effects of THC could be a disqualifying factor.
As long as you are not high at the time of your blood donation appointment, the presence of THC in your system should not directly disqualify you. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
What can disqualify someone from donating blood?
Not everyone is eligible to donate blood, including those who have synthetic marijuana in their system. Dr. Bone elaborated, “If you use synthetic marijuana, either as K2 or Spice, or as a prescription medication such as Marinol, you cannot donate blood.”
According to guidelines set forth by the Red Cross, other restrictions for blood donors include:
- A piercing or tattoo within the last year
- Pregnancy or recent childbirth
- Steroid use
- Weighing less than 110 pounds
- Any illness presenting with fever
- Low iron levels, which may signify anemia
- Traveling to a malaria-risk country within the past 3 years
- HIV or hepatitis infection
Other requirements for donating blood
In addition, whole blood donors must wait at least 56 days between blood donations. Whole blood donors must also be at least 16 years of age and in good overall health. Convalescent plasma donors must be at least 17 years of age and fully recovered from Covid-19 before signing up to donate.
How you can still help if you’re disqualified from giving blood
If you can’t give blood or plasma for any reason, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact during Covid-19. Blood drives are more crucial than ever, so take the opportunity to host a blood drive if you have access to a large open space and the ability to recruit qualified blood donors.
As an alternative, you can organize a campaign for a virtual blood drive through the SleevesUp program of the American Red Cross. Channeling the power of social media, you can send blood donation invitations to family and friends across the country. Choose to dedicate your campaign to someone else’s honor, or opt to request blood donations in lieu of birthday or wedding gifts.
Making a financial donation and volunteering at a blood drive are other valuable ways to contribute if you are unable to give blood.
Being a cannabis user does not automatically disqualify you from donating blood, but you should be aware of blood donor requirements before scheduling an appointment. For questions and specific recommendations, contact your nearest blood donation center and consult with your physician before making the decision to give blood.
According to the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor. That's the short answer. The long answer is a bit more complicated.