Redheads Require More Anesthesia

May 20, 2011 at 2:00 am 48 comments

By Kaye Nemec

It seems ridiculous to say out loud, but the fact of the matter is that studies have proven that redheads actually require more anesthesia than blondes, brunettes etc. In 2004 a study was published in Anesthesiology that found that up to 20% more anesthetic was needed to achieve the same result in redheads that had been achieved in the blondes and brunettes taking part in the study.

So how does this make any sense? Without getting all scientific (those details can be found here) the bottom line is that redheads have specific mutations on the MCR1 gene that not only increase expression of red pigment but may also be involved with the function of the central nervous system.

This study opened the door for scientists to learn more and more about anesthesia and how it affects different patients. Do you know people who swear Tylenol or Ibuprofen doesn’t do anything for them? How about people who swear they have to take more than the recommended dosage in order for the medicine to take effect? Perhaps there is some truth to their claims after all. This study is a breakthrough in what could be a detailed explanation of how different people are affected by different medications.

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Sources: OR.orgMedscape, Discovery Health

Photo: Johnnyalive

Entry filed under: Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , .

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48 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bekah  |  May 20, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I’m one of those people who needs to take more than the recommended dose. I even had to be given more numbing meds in the middle of my c-secion becuase I was starting to FEEL them cut and tug at me…. and I’m not a red-head.
    My daughter is though and if I go through this, being burnette, I’d hate for her to go through worse.

    • 2. Chris B  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:33 am

      Your need to take more than the required dose may reflect higher demands and lower expectations for efficacy. Case in point during spinal anesthesia it is common and usually quite tolerable to feel pressure but not pain and does not respresent a therapeutic failure.

      Source: I am a nursing student who is currently in a maternity nursing ward.

  • 3. Lily  |  May 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Interesting. I am a natural redhead (strawberry blonde actually) & didn’t know about that mutation. The need for more anesthetic seems strange to me. It would be the opposite of my usual experience with drugs, which is to be very strongly affected & thus, need less. Even my doctor has commented that I’m extremely sensitive to drugs. Antibiotics knock me out, just 1 tylenol or ibuprofen will have a noticealbe effect on me & things like nyquil or sinus tylenol make me loopy.

    • 4. Zum  |  February 28, 2012 at 6:55 am

      That’s because you are not a redhead. You are stupid though.

      • 5. Catherine Lux  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

        hey man, no need to get ugly with people. Keep your comments medical/scientific/inquisitive not rude.

      • 6. Katherine  |  February 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Strawberry blonde is a shade of red hair….

    • 7. Joshua R  |  February 28, 2012 at 6:55 am

      Any chance you’ve ever tried smoking marijuana and if so how did it effect you? I’m curious about individuals who have an extremely low tolerance for marijuana and whether or not they will have hallucinations. Marijuana is an extremely mild hallucinogen and psychedelic. Most people will never hallucinate on it beyond a flash of something in the peripheral vision when they’re smoking a really good strain but my grandmother claims that her first and only time smoking pot was hallucinogenic.

      • 8. Trevor  |  February 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

        I am a redhead and have a very high tolerance for pain medication and and local aesthetics. I usually have 5-15 doses just for cavity fillings at the dentist.

        I have a very low tolerance for marijuana and have experienced hallucinations the few times I have smoked it. I actually become quite incapacitated after just a few lung fulls, even forget where I am. It’s kind of like a longer, less intense salvia trip.

      • 9. Devon  |  March 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm

        interesting, i’m a natural redhead and the effects of marijuana on me are INTENSE. i always attributed it to my general anxiety, but i’ve hallucinated and had full blown panic attacks from smoking. and it’s hard to tell if i smoked less than everyone else (i was high, after all) but i always felt like a significantly less amount got me super high. my friends could smoke entire bowls to themselves whereas one or two hits would get me super fucked up.

    • 10. ka stanford  |  February 28, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Natural redhead. Same as Lily. My experience is that I don’t need much anesthetic to go to sleep during operations and procedures. Who has done this research?

      • 11. blake  |  March 1, 2012 at 11:28 am

        How would you even know this? It’s not like you are administering it to yourself.

        Also, take into account body fat percentage and total body mass. Small people naturally require smaller doses due to their body size.

        Finally, not all people that show red pigment in their hair have a complete mutation of the MCR1 gene (I happen to have a full mutation). Remember that when dealing with biology, things are rarely black and white. There is plenty of room for grey :)

    • 12. MichaelHaneline  |  March 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      Who let the twelve-year-old on here?

      • 13. MichaelHaneline  |  March 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        (In regard to Zum’s comment)

    • 14. chriscp  |  September 24, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I don’t know why antibiotics would knock you out, except maybe some kind of allergic reaction. Your doctor should know about that. Nyquil can make anybody loopy. Look at the active ingredients. I’m a brunette and I can’t take a full dose of Nyquil if I want to function afterward.

  • 15. Cole  |  May 23, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Huh. Drugs that make others sleepy have no effect on me. Something similar maybe?

  • 16. markymark  |  June 27, 2011 at 9:06 am

    when it comes to red head woman, there is no average red head woman, their either butt ugly or super fine hottie….it’s true, i never seen a average red head before….

  • 17. Vanessa Coulter Tower  |  July 13, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Well, Markymark, I’ve said the same about red headed men too! I had a defibrillator implanted in my shoulder for a heart problem. My Doc kept me awake but told me he’d keep the lidocaine close. The next day he told me he had NEVER given that much Lidocaine to any one and he couldn’t understand why I could feel it when he gave it to me. I have awakened early from a laporoscopy and a procedure of getting an injection in my neck. I first knew something was amok with us carrot-toppers when I was 8 and I felt the dentist digging a bad molar out of my gum! YEEOOUUCCHH!!

    • 18. J  |  February 29, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I felt the dentist yanking my tooth out as a child, she was very surprised I needed more anaesthetic! I may be a small woman but I am a ginger so this makes perfect sense to me.

    • 19. Clara Cochran  |  August 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      I am a natural redhead. I do believe I require substantially more anesthesia. I have waked up during surgery after general anesthesia. I also have “come to” immediately after my other two surgeries, surprising the medical personnel. I am currently having chronic back pain problems, and have found that it takes large doses of pain killing meds (and ultimately by i.v.) to get relief, which has me quite scared.

  • 20. Renee  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I’m a natural redhead and have always wondered why I have to take at least twice as much aspirin for headaches, or Aleve for my back pain, and now I know why!

  • 21. Rich  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I believe this is caused by the need to fill the void where their souls should be.

    • 22. Cody  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:20 am

      I believe that spiritually that would be a correct statement to make; however, the physiology and potential pathophysiology behind this would be very unique to discover! I challenge all medical board members to work with different religious groups to discover this medical phenomenon!

  • 23. Lauren  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Makes sense to me. I’m a redhead. When I was going under for my appendectomy, I was told to count back from ten, and I’d be lucky to hit five. I hit zero, the guy laughed and told me to do it again. Hit seven and don’t remember after that. Tylenol really doesn’t do anything for me, neither do low doses of ibuprofen.

  • 24. he heheheh  |  February 28, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Do they have a higher alcohol tolerance?

  • 25. Mazie H  |  February 28, 2012 at 3:16 am

    I am a redhead, and I am only 15, I have many friends who take codine tyonel and one does the trick, but not with me, I have to take over the recommend dose all the time when I am in pain for anything. I normally have to take around 5 in 20 mins just for it to work for. 3 hours, and as far as I know I am the only one in my family that has this problem, mind you I do get most of my traits ( I guess you can say genes too) from my father, he is a redhead but from what I remember he would only take one tyonel and it would work, so I’m not sure if its a readhead thing or just mutated genetics, I find it fasinating tho how much people of newer(younger) generations are more mun to pain killers. I thought I would put my input into this, hope no one minds

  • 26. Shauna  |  February 28, 2012 at 3:41 am

    This totally makes sense.
    A friend of mine can drink twice as I can.. I always knew there was something odd in him…

    • 27. caitlin  |  February 28, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Noooo, he’s just Irish.

  • 28. someone  |  February 28, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Dave Mustain… now I know it was not your fault.. it was your haircolor!

  • […] […]

  • 30. Madison  |  February 28, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I’m really sick of these overarching generalizations about redheads. The only time I’ve experienced this was with nitrous oxide when I was at the dentist, but I was also bigger for my age and she was probably giving me too little for my size. When I got my wisdom teeth taken out, it took 2 seconds to knock me out. I’m perfectly fine taking the recommended dose of OTC painkillers. I know plenty of redheads that are the same as me. I’m curious to know if the researchers are inadvertently gathering their data from a specific ethnic group which happens to carry the mutation as well as the hair color (possibly Irish vs. Russian). I would really be interested in seeing if there are differences in the reactions of redheads from different ethnicities.

    • 31. me  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

      while everyone can make mistakes, I would imagine the researchers haven’t somehow taken samples from people who all happen to be from the same small ethnic group

  • 32. Tammy  |  February 28, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I am a redhead. I woke up in the middle of arm surgery to tell the doctors that it hurt where they were cutting into my wrist. Then during a C-section, it took forever to get numb enough to start surgery, and wore off before the first twin was out. I do stay numb for dental procedures though.

  • 33. Ivan  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Maybe this is just a placebo study, and now that this is out, people find comfort in random reasoning. However, a very interesting post.

  • 34. me  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I would have to chime in that my experience is matches the study. Having had a few surgeries; every time I needed additional meds to achieve the same results – both anesthesia and pain. I would also mention that I am pretty pain tolerant and don’t often opt to take pain meds for ‘the little stuff’. So I don’t think I am being a weenie on pain. Just as an aside: alcohol and intoxication… I can drink more than my friends by a good margin and not show signs of intoxication like they do. But, as we joke, I’m of Irish descent.

    Long story short – I agree with the article based on my personal experience. But being humans, we are all different regardless of how we are categorized. YMMV

  • 35. me  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:48 am

    oh – and keep in mind – men have an extra enzyme that breaks down the alcohol in digestion… which is why women usually aren’t quite as tolerant of the same amount.

  • 36. Lulu  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I’m a redhead, and have had one filling, which I found absolute agony at first. The dentist clearly thought I was afraid (not the case), which was why I kept asking her to stop – but really the anaesthetic just did not kick in for a much longer time than it apparently normally takes. After that, it was fine.

  • 37. Kaylee goins  |  February 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I have red hair. In order for any pain relief, I have to get prescription-strength meds from my doctor. I thought I was a freak! But I am just a mutant. :)

  • 38. Gingy B.  |  February 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Natural redhead, married to a redhead, with 4 redhead KIDS…all delivered CESARIAN…The first was an emergency after the common way failed, so I had an EPIDURAL in already. It didn’t surprise the docs when they kept having to add to the dose during the procedure. (supposed to take 20-30min) My dentist in the 90’s discovered I had a “high metabolism” to anesthesia and I had warned them. But the SECOND baby-anesthesiologist told me “no no, a TAP (spinal) for this planned one will do it’s job”- DORK. I felt the cut open, and a bunch else I’ll spare you. Could lift my legs (when they assumed I’d only be able to wiggle my toes) 10min out and into recovery room. By the 3rd time, I had already written letters to anyone involved and met with the anesthesiologist. He loaded that TAP and I had such a blast I was ok having another baby some day…So the 4th (same guy) it wore off 30-40min into other procedures after the birth and they had to KNOCK ME OUT. At least he was prepared to do so. There is no “adding” to a TAP. Once it’s done, it’s done. So my redhead girls- take note and at least it’s getting attention now-

  • 40. Taylor Coffman  |  March 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I am a redhead, and i have to say i am now frightened to have surgeries and/or babies. Lol.
    I have also had issues with anesthesia, i.e. needing more pain meds at the dentist, waking up early while getting my wisdom teeth extracted, and i have also had hallucinations with marijuana. I do not have a high tolerance for oral pain medication, if anything i have a very low tolerance. That also includes alcohol. I’m stumblingly drunk after only 3 drinks, but i also only weigh 115lbs. However, i also have MS, so i always attributed most of my idiosyncrasies to that. I heard a long time ago that a lot of these things have much to do with being a redhead and i am glad to see there has been research into understanding this.

  • 41. KL  |  March 4, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I am a natural fire engine redheaded female. 5’4″ and 118 pds. It takes about double the normal dose of anesthetic for me to have any pain relief. Starting with my first filling as a young girl up to my heart surgery a few months ago. I could actually feel them burning tissue in my heart…not good. I have only tried pot a couple of times many years ago and hated it because I felt so disoriented which freaked me out. I don’t know about alcohol, I don’t remember since I haven’t drank in over a decade but I don’t remember it taking more or less than anyone else for me to be intoxicated. I do not think alcohol is necessarily an anesthetic or in the “caine” family which are the two things I’ve found do not work on me. I try to tell medical professionals before hand that it will take a much higher dose to have any affect on me but they usually don’t listen and we get to find out the hard way together. With my heart surgery I ended up having the same dosage as a 300 pd man before I stopped feeling what they were doing. I’m glad that they are starting to research this. It is a terrible curse to be in significant pain and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

  • 42. chriscp  |  September 24, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I’d like to know how the researchers even knew if they were dealing with real blondes vs. reheads & brunettes. or even real redheads, for that matter.

  • 43. Angela  |  October 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I am a natural red head. I have fought with doctors over the last decade to accept that I don’t respond to normal anaesthetic. What I have figured out on my own is that most of it will work….if I am willing to wait up to 4 hours after the dose is given before any cutting starts. I have had up to 13 needles to freeze one section of my mouth and then 2 hours later was unable to feel anything for the rest of the day. I have woken up during surgery under general anaesthetic. Local anaesthetic doesn’t take affect for a very long time; therefore, I have felt every bit of the 6 colonoscopies, 3 endoscopies, 1 DNC, and carpal tunnel surgery. During one C-section, I was under general and they gave me soooo much that I woke up 7 hours after my son was born. During another C-section, I was kicking the doctor’s instrument tray after what they considered the max dose of anaesthetic they could give me as he made the first cut. It was a 4hr 30min C-section. About 2 hours after my daughter was born, I could no longer move my legs or feel anything from the chest down…just when I needed to care for my new born.
    I wish doctors would believe me when I tell them I don’t want locals…they don’t work for me unless you are prepared to wait. But I guess all my history isn’t enough proof for them.

  • 44. mary  |  February 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I am a true redhead. I had a pace maker put in a week ago, and I felt it when the doctor cut in to put it in. It hurt so bad. I have made a copy of this, I will have it in my purse if I have to go under the knife again

  • […] 12. Redheads require up to 20% more anesthesia to be knocked out (compared to people of other hair colors). – Source […]

  • […] Redheads require up to 20% more anesthesia to be knocked out (compared to people of other hair colors). – Source […]

  • 47. Reddened  |  March 8, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    I’m another redhead that can’t be put down. I was awake during my last colonoscopy. Ya, we’re “special”, us gingers. Always been personally very-sensitive to cannabis, and love pairing it with a fine bottle of wine ❤️

  • […] 12. Redheads require up to 20% more anesthesia to be knocked out (compared to people of other hair colors). – Source […]


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