You know the feeling: You’re about to go into surgery, and you’re feeling a little nervous. There’s so much you don’t know! What will it feel like, exactly? How bad can the pain be? And—oh no—does anesthesia actually make you high? It turns out that getting a general anesthetic can produce some pretty trippy side effects. But while they’re not dangerous or even very weird in most cases, these hallucinations can be rather unsettling. And that doesn’t even take into account the other things that might come to mind during your recovery… Yet if this is the first time you are going under for surgery, then read on to learn more about what happens when you get anesthetized.
Does Anesthesia Make You High?
There are a few different types of anesthesia, but most of them work by depressing the central nervous system (CNS). This causes a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. It can also cause feelings of euphoria and disorientation. However, the level of anesthesia required to achieve these effects is usually quite high, and most people do not experience them.
How Is Anesthesia Administered?
- Your doctor or anesthesia provider will start by giving you a general anesthetic. This is a drug that knocks you out, so you don’t feel anything during the surgery.
- The anesthetic is administered intravenously (through a vein) or via the inhalation of gas (either nitrous oxide or oxygen).
- It usually takes about 30 minutes to reach full effect, and then it begins to wear off. You may feel groggy and nauseated when this happens, but this feeling usually goes away in a few hours.
- Your doctor may give you medicine to help ease your pain after the surgery, but that’s up to them you can ask for it if you want it!
- Your doctor will likely tell you to follow up with a post-anesthetic checkup. This can be done at your local hospital or clinic.
- You may also be prescribed painkillers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or aspirin. They’re usually taken before you go to sleep for the night, and they help reduce the pain from your surgery.
What Happens When You Get Anesthetized?
Your Brain Gets the Anesthesia
You’ve probably heard that anesthesia works by blocking pain signals from reaching your brain. The way it does this is by blocking the transmission of electrical impulses through your nervous system. Your body still gets messages from your brain to tell it what to do, but they don’t get through. This is why you can be awake while you’re having surgery, even though your body is numb from head to toe.
You Can Lose Consciousness
A state of unconsciousness means that you are not conscious of your surroundings and are unable to respond to external stimuli such as pain or touch, but you remain aware of yourself and your own thoughts and feelings. During general anesthesia, a patient loses consciousness—that is, he loses awareness of his surroundings—but can still be aware of himself as a distinct person with his own thoughts and feelings (i.e., not just as part of a larger whole). This means that he can be aware of pain and discomfort, but not the fact that he is having surgery. He may or may not be aware of external stimuli, depending on how deep the anesthesia is.
You’re Not Awake, But You’re Not Asleep
Most people think that when you get anesthetized, you’re asleep. But you’re not completely unconscious and not completely awake. You are in a twilight zone between sleeping and waking: your brain is still active (though under anesthesia), but your body is at rest. This means that you can still move your limbs, talk, hear sounds around you (and perhaps even remember some things from the day before), read, watch television, and so on. nicely tucked in bed, dreaming of unicorns. You’re awake, but you’re not awake.
You Lose Control Over Your Body
Even though you’re still conscious of yourself as a distinct person, you don’t have complete control over your body while anesthetized. Your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure are all under the control of the anesthesiologist—or those who assist in his work.
You Can Feel Pain Without Feeling Painful
People who are conscious during surgery often feel pain or discomfort while they’re under. This is because their bodies still send pain signals from their nerves to their brains through a process called nociception (pain sensation). When patients are anesthetized, however, these pain signals don’t get sent to their brains (and thus don’t get processed by them), so they often feel nothing at all during lazily snuggled in bed, dreaming of dinosaurs and Team Fortress 2. You are unconscious, but you’re not asleep.
What Are The Side Effects Of Anesthesia?
- You might see or hear things that other people don’t.
- You might have a near-death experience.
- You may see, hear, and even smell things that you can’t explain.
- You might feel like you’re dead for a while after coming out of anesthesia. This is called “anesthesia awareness,” and it can last up to 15 minutes after you wake up from surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic. It isn’t dangerous—but it can be unsettling if you don’t know what it means!
- Your memory may be scrambled or fuzzy for a while after surgery (up to three days).
- You might have some strong dreams when you come out of anesthesia (this is normal).
- Some people also report having disturbing thoughts and feelings about their loved ones who aren’t there when they wake up from anesthesia (this is normal, too).
- You may feel depressed or angry for a few days after your surgery. This “anesthesia reaction” can last up to a week after surgery, but it’s not dangerous.
- Some people say that they feel like there is something very wrong with them after coming out of anesthesia. This isn’t normal and can be treated by talking to a doctor or counselor.
- Your stomach might hurt for a while after surgery (this is normal, too).
- Some people report being really hungry afterward (this is also not normal and is probably related to the “anesthesia reaction” described above).
- In rare cases, some people report feeling like they are in a dream when they wake up from anesthesia (this is not normal and should be explained to your doctor).
Anesthesia is a necessary medical procedure that most people don’t think twice about. However, a lot goes into it, and it’s not as simple as sticking someone with a needle and waiting for them to fall asleep. Anesthesia is an incredibly useful tool used to put people to sleep during surgery, as well as for other medical procedures. It can have adverse effects, and there are some risks involved, but when administered properly, it is a safe procedure. If you have to get the surgery done, make sure you know what type of anesthesia you will receive. If you have a choice, ask your doctor if you can get regional anesthesia. While general anesthesia is much safer for the people who administer it, regional anesthesia is safer for you.