CDC tells pain management doctors testing patients for THC isn’t necessary

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated set of guidelines for prescribing opioids to patients suffering from chronic pain. Buried inside the language of the 37-page report, which is an attempt to put a leash on the prescription painkiller epidemic, the CDC urged doctors to modify their drug screening policies in an effort to prevent those testing positive for THC metabolites from being disqualified from treatment.

Although the guidelines say it’s still important to use urine tests to discover any undisclosed use of illicit substances it specifically states that this rule no longer applies to THC.

“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” reads the statement. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”

Though the guidelines won’t affect the majority of patients who see their doctor for temporary pain relief, patients who end up passing through the corridor from the family doctor to a pain management clinic are often held to a higher standard in order to continue receiving these medications. Typically these patients are required to test free of any illegal substances, including medical marijuana (whether they are a legal patient in their state or not), before being allowed to participate or continue in a pain treatment plan.

Testing for THC can lead to patient abandonemnt

However, the latest CDC guidelines suggest that this old philosophy leads to “stigmatization” and “inappropriate termination of care,” which inevitably creates additional hardships for those patients in need of these types of treatment programs.

“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 CDC guidelines reads.

Interestingly, the latest guidelines for prescribing painkillers come just a month after Senator Elizabeth Warren fired off a letter to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden urging his agency to research the “effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal.” The letter also asked the CDC to study “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”

More information

You can read the new CDC guidelines below or click here to download a PDF version.

24 thoughts on “CDC tells pain management doctors testing patients for THC isn’t necessary

  1. I have spoken to others with Myasthenia Gravis and chronic pain autonomic small fiber neaurapathy in other states that also receive low THC cannabis as part of their treatment. Why do we not have approved here in Georgia?

  2. This state, GA is backwards concerning common sense. The evidence for Cannabis medical use has been studied since it was put on Schedule 1, meaning it is the most dangerous drug with no medical value. The Feds have been growing, studying pot for over 40 years. Thousands of Doctors prescribe Cannabis all across the USA.
    There are scientific research data reaching back to the early 60s in Israel where the active compounds were discovered. The papers are still there waiting for some reviews. There are literally thousands of studies that show Cannabis is medicine.
    So how is Cannabis still scheduled 1? Dumb, stupid. Remove Cannabis and Hemp from Schedule 1.

    1. It would solve the opioid problem if states legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. Each state should consider cultivating it in their state to generate revenue. Georgia is crazy to have medical marijuana and not reap the benefits of getting income off the sales of it! There is also employment possibilities. With the world so high strung these days they need to let people unwind with marijuana instead of allowing them to murder people.

      1. But in Georgia, their philosophy is murders are good and it creates jobs for idiots working in police stations and courts, if marijuana was completely legal, so many horrible terrorizing groups of people working for the government would lose their jobs, then what would those monsters do with their lives?

        1. Marijuana should be legal in Ga because it does help with pain and with seizures. Doctors should consider marijuana as it would cut down on opioid use

      2. I am on probation and have a low thc card, I worry if I get drug tested and come up positive for thc can I be revoked.

      3. I have a drastically different view point. I was born and raised in California, spent almost all my life there. Medical MJ was legal in 1996 in California. It basically saved my life, recreational MJ became legal in 2016. Now due to family issues I am in GEORGIA …HORRORS !!!! I can’t believe how short sighted this state is. MJ is a natural substance that is NOT addicting like the Heavy Opioids that I was prescribed for many years. I believe the best use for pot is ONLY in my own home at night. I wouldn’t drive with it in my system for love nor money. I get benefits from it for 16-20 hours. How can any rational person argue that ????

      4. I will say that California makes a TON of money from pot sales. First medical pot in 1996 then recreational in 2016. It’s a HUGE revenue source, for the legal states. I know this subject well due to 24/7/365 severe pain

      1. Absolutely, and talk to our representatives and senators. I know my rep and sort of know my senator. My rep is a good guy, good as gold though I don’t know what his stance on this might be, I know he would listen. One of my senators is an ass. An ex-banker and his wife is worse. One of the main concerns getting him elected was people’s dislike of his wife. The other is really straight laced and conservative religious. I think that will give him prejudice against the idea but I think he would listen. I truly don’t think he cares. I am going to talk to all of them and to some who are not in my district. REMEMBER that the guy from Macon who got the stupid little useless pill approved is dead set against legalization. He helped somewhat but isn’t the “guy” we need. The GA house had included chronic pain as a use but the GA senate stripped it out of approved uses. Concentrate on the Senate but don’t forget the house. This needs to change. If we can just get them to allow PM doctors to use the CDC guidelines, that would help more than enough and they would not be seen as approving marijuana, just as agreeing with the CDC. That would be seen as a good thing. Most people respect the CDC. To me THAT seems the best course of action. Get them to do a resolution agreeing with the CDC guidelines for PM doctors. It might get it done…

    1. I have medical marijuana card and there’s are little to no place to purchase the oil, reply if you can help, thanks n advance

      1. I have cancer, in remission for now but have horrific pain from pelvic radiation. No life! My doctor found traces of THC after prescribing me pain medication for six months that allowed me to leave my home to grocery shop etc…Anyway, he told me he would not longer prescribe pain medication due to THC in my system eventhough in GA medicinal CBD oil with no more than five percent THC. I even had my bottle with me and showed him this article. Said he didn’t care!!

      2. I too, have a medical card but do not always have access to oil. I see you wrote this over a year ago. Have you come across any solutions?

  3. I would not be having to spend so much money on drugs that have many side effects..if we Ga Americans were able to try God given marijuana cannibas oil instead of the 18 pills I take a day for Fibromyalgia and periphial neurothopy

      1. Unfortunately Trump is anti Marijuana, just about the only thing I don’t like about him. He is not perfect as a president by a long shot but at least he isn’t hillary.

  4. Will these new guidelines protect me as a pain management patient in Georgia even though we don’t have legal traditional medical marijuana?

  5. Common sense is gaining ground, wish it just would be legalized and controled/taxed like booze, wine n beer! Besides all the pain and nausea relief, hemp products rule!

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