The CDC recently instructed doctors to stop routine testing of pain patients for marijuana use. The costly tests have dubious health benefits, high potential legal ramifications for the patient, and could actually increase overdose deaths.
Of major importance is that medical marijuana availability seems to cut painkiller overdose deaths by 25%, researchers have found, because cannabis allows pain patients to take less opioids or stop taking them altogether.
Cannabis — an alternative to pills for some patients — also has no lethal overdose level, while painkiller overdoses kill about 19 Americans — per day.
California NORML reported this week that new CDC guidelines tell pain doctors to stop testing their patients for THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis. Marijuana testing of pain patients is routine, and often used to force patients to either quit marijuana, or face the loss of opioid painkillers to which patients are addicted.
Indeed, Cal NORML regularly hears from patients who are terminated from pain management medications because of their use of medical marijuana,” California NORML states.
The CDC now states that THC might have no bearing on pain management.
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” the CDC states. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC).”
Medical marijuana activists believe the U.S. needs to immediately legalize medical cannabis to save lives from the opioid epidemic.
“We applaud the CDC’s reasoned approach to the use of urine testing and its drawbacks when used on pain patients,” said Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML. “Considering that opioid overdose deaths are significantly lower in states with medical marijuana programs, we are sorry the agency apparently didn’t read the letter Elizabeth Warren recently sent to its chief calling for marijuana legalization as a means of dealing with the problem of opiate overdose.”
Doctors order routine drug tests of pain patients to monitor potential abusive behavior like taking too many opioids — which are highly addictive and cause the body to develop tolerance, resulting to ever-higher-dosage levels and an increased overdose risk. “These [drug tests] are often where THC is detected.”
A CDC spokesperson told Ellen Komp at California NORML in a follow-up email that a positive test for THC might not be helpful information for a doctor, but could have legal ramifications for the patient.
“It is prudent for clinicians to restrict use of any medical test to situations when results of the test would be helpful in decisions about patient management. This is particularly important when testing or test results might have unintended negative consequences for patients. Some experts noted that in some cases, positive THC results might have legal or other consequences for patients but might not inform patient care decisions. While CDC is not stating that urine tests for THC should never be used, the guideline recommends that clinicians should only test for substances (including THC) if the clinician knows how he or she would use the results to inform patient management,” the CDC representative stated.
In other news this week, a now-routine THC screening of a new mom and infant in Houston, TX resulted in the state charging the 19 year-old new mom with felony chemical child endangerment. Critics note that women are not charged for exposing their children to alcohol, tobacco, anti-depressants, opioids, or prescription drugs.
Original article here.