In a report released by the CDC on how to properly prescribe opioid painkillers, the authors advises doctors not to test patients for marijuana.
To qualify for a pain management regiment, many clinics in the United States test for illegal drugs to determine if a patient has a penchant for abuse. Some doctors ban patients who test positive THC, even if marijuana is legal in the state. The CDC’s new guidelines seek to avoid “inappropriate termination of care” as a result of a doctor’s personal biases.
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear.”
The authors of the guidelines recognize the dangers of turning away patients in need of pain management, as the opioid epidemic helps patients to acquire painkillers outside of the healthcare system.
“Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety, potentially including the patient obtaining opioids from alternative sources and the clinician missing opportunities to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder.”
In addition, the report also highlights the inconsistency of urine tests for THC. “…experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”
Previously, Pain News Network reported on the inconsistencies of drug tests for THC as well as opioids. “One study found that 21% of POC tests for marijuana produced a false positive result. The test was also wrong 21% of the time when marijuana is not detected in a urine sample.” Another study also revealed that incorporating cannabis into pain management treatments does not increase risk of substance abuse.
While the CDC report does not suggest marijuana is an alternative to an opioid painkiller, despite a report indicating a reduction in opioid deaths in states with reformed marijuana legislation, it was released not long after Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plea to the CDC to study the effectiveness of marijuana for pain management.