Contemporary Policies Regarding Alcohol and Marijuana Use Among Liver Transplant Programs in the United States

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Abstract

Background

Alcoholic liver disease is a common indication for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Although OLT has been shown to confer survival benefit to patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis (AAH), historically most programs require a 6-month abstinence period before OLT which excludes patients with AAH. Marijuana has become legal in more than half the states in the United States. This survey of liver transplant programs was conducted to evaluate current policies regarding alcohol, marijuana and methadone use.

Methods

A questionnaire was distributed to 100 United Network for Organ Sharing–approved liver transplant programs in North America that have performed at least 30 liver transplants/year in the last 5 years.

Results

Forty-nine programs responded. Only 43% of the programs required a specific period of abstinence before transplant for alcoholic liver disease and only 26% enforced 6-month abstinence policy. For patients with AAH, 71% programs waived the 6-month abstinence requirement and considered psychosocial factors, such as family support, patient’s motivation, or commitment to rehabilitate. Few programs used validated instruments to assess risk of relapse in AAH patients. Fourteen percent of programs transplant patients actively using marijuana and an additional 28% of programs listed patients using marijuana provided they discontinue by the time of OLT. Active methadone users were accepted in 45% of the programs.

Conclusions

Policies regarding alcohol use have become more flexible particularly toward patients with AAH. Marijuana use is also more accepted. Although policies regarding alcohol and marijuana have changed significantly in the last decade, they remain highly variable among programs.

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