The new guidelines put out by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) on March 18th has called for doctors to stop testing patients for THC when they are prescribing opiate medications for chronic pain. These guidelines were released in hopes of curbing the current prescription pill epidemic. The CDC said that it still condones urine testing for other drugs, but that THC should be excluded. One of the reasons for this shift in attitude is that the doctors aren’t sure there are negative consequences from a patient using marijuana. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC),” the guideline reads.
Passing a urine test isn’t required to be put on pain pills, but those who suffer from chronic pain are usually referred to specialists at pain management clinics. When this happens, these clinics almost always require that their patient isn’t using any illegal drugs, even if it’s medical marijuana. So this meant that patients had to choose between getting their pain pills, and getting their medical marijuana. According to the guideline, this attitude created an environment where patients were stigmatized and subjected to termination of their care. These terminations of care often lead to chronic pain patients being denied the healthcare they require.
This means that at least 21% of the time the tests were inaccurate, and yet it was still the accepted practice by pain management doctors.
“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,” the guideline states.
The Pain News Network, who originally broke this story, offered a report of their own that had some interesting data about false positives. The article claims, “False positive readings for marijuana, for example, were given over 21 percent of the time, while false negative results for marijuana also appeared about 21 percent of the time.” This means that at least 21% of the time the tests were inaccurate, and yet it was still the accepted practice by pain management doctors.
These guidelines are a major victory for the acceptance of cannabis in the medical community, and proof that doctors all around the nation are starting to see its benefits, or at least its lack of truly harmful effects. Coming just one month after Senator Warren called on the CDC to research cannabis as an alternative to opioid painkillers, these guidelines are a sign that maybe they were actually listening.