CDC Says Don’t Test Opioid Users for Marijuana

CDC Says Don’t Test Opioid Users for Marijuana reports the CDC is discouraging testing chronic pain sufferers for THC.  The Hearst-owned website, which is a sister-site of the San Francisco Chronicle, published the following this week.

Faced with an FDA-manufactured opioid painkiller overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control has revised its guidelines to avoid something possibly making the epidemic worse — the routine screening of opioid users for marijuana use.

Today, the CDC 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.

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.”

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Authored by: Staff

There are 12 comments for this article
  1. Jenifer at 10:12 pm

    While medical marijuana is a great choice it does not work for everyone’s pain just like opiates do not work for everyone. In my case I can see the writing on the wall and I am wanting to taper my med however my doctor does not approve using both. She has also told me if I go on the medical marijuana and it does not work she would not put me back on my medication. Trying to find someone who will prescribe long acting morphine these days is impossible. While I like what the CDC is suggesting doctors are making too much money drug testing patients on opiates to change.

  2. Lb at 1:37 pm

    I have been on n every side of this. Because of multiple back surgeries early on, I was on opiates, cut off, addicted to heroin, got clean, mostly because of pot! Stayed clean, more surgery, more surgery.. Now I have had over 10, and have had implanted pain pump for 20 years. Been a pain mgmt patient that long. In last year’s as I deteriorated, it seems my physician has begun to try to complain because I am closely associated with those who regularly consume marijuana.. I have always told him this. And in over 20 years have never been “short” on pill counts because I use relaxation, meditation and other tools he taught me to not overtake oral MEDS. Suddenly now, after all these years, in the last year he bought a in house spectrograph and is testing every visit. I was told it was barely enough to register as even positive on several visits. I explained my exposure. And he decided to punish me by taking my oral meds even though I now have a 12″cyst, facing another major surgery, and confined to bed again.
    Dr.’s who preach compassion, have lost theirs if this is the response. A natural medicine that you can not overdose on…
    I agree with the lady who said options, not restrictions are needed in pain management. And why these so called pain pioneers are not leading the charge in
    Medical marijuana research to prevent opioid addiction is crazy.

  3. BL at 10:16 pm

    HJ, employers in all the states that have legal Medical Marijuana can and almost always, if not always, fire employees if they test positive for marijuana. So it isn’t just one state.

  4. Penny Miller at 6:08 pm

    There are strains of mm just that contain less than one per cent of THC and 15 per cent of Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that relieves pain and inflammation and is legal in at least 40 countries. I have used a strain of mmj like this for my pain (due to fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis in my spine) with great success. CBD is also a muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, and has numerous other medicinal properties. It does not impair one from being able to work or drive. I believe this is a viable alternative to opioids for those who wish to avoid the impairment of high-THC strains of mmj.

  5. Regina Marella at 1:38 pm

    I wish they could jump into my body for just an HOUR. They would see what RSD/CRPS feels like which I got AFTER they removed my First rib in a surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Leave my pain medicine alone please. I am already losing my quality of life, I can’t imagine not having the medicines I need to be able to walk a little.

  6. MargaretC at 1:18 pm

    The use of the term addicted to describe pain patients is erroneous. Pain patients are dependent upon opioids and can be tapered off them without the psychological craving that true addicts have. However they continue to have pain. Recent guidelines have unfortunately resulted in discontinuation of opioids for pain patients. Failure to prescribe medications for the relief of pain is malpractice. Appropriate legislation should be enacted to address this problem after consultation with those afflicted with chronic pain.

  7. Candice H at 10:00 am

    What I find strange, along with MJ being an illegal pain medication, is the govt’s policy of patients following the rules of opioid use which leaves most patients still in pain while Medicare refuses to pay for the alternative options such as Lidocaine pain pump for perioperative and postoperative pain for extensive reconstructive surgery on the foot. It has been proven that this pump allows surgical patients to use minimal opioids for surgical pain yet Medicare refuses to pay for the pump that costs $400.
    It’s apparent that one hand of the govt doesn’t know what the other is doing.

  8. Robert Kutzner at 11:27 pm

    Physicians are not cops and should not think from that perspective. We have enough tools to help our patients no matter what their socioeconomic situation is. Superior or got-you attitudes have no place in pain mgmt or addiction medicine. MMJ is nor more of a gateway drug that beer is to alcoholism. Diversion and abuse needs to be monitored by us with the patients voluntary cooperation. The biggest door for presecription drugs to get on the streets is through the back alley of the local methadone clinic not MMJ parties. CDC is right in that, if you don’t provide all the psych, interventionalist, and physical therapy in an integrated manner then you should refer your patients and stop pretending that you know anything about pain or addiction management.

  9. BL at 8:53 pm

    If marijuana is illegal in a state and someone tests positive for it that means they are engaging in illegal drug activity and unfortunately, this is seldom, if ever, restricted to marijuana alone. The risk of the patient abusing pain meds and being around others that could steal them or the patient giving their pain meds to others, makes testing for marijuana very important. I don’t see many, if any, of the drs not testing for marijuana, even if it is legal in their state.

  10. Robert Russell Kutzner at 3:11 pm

    Let us put this into practicle perspective:

    Medical Marijuna is used as a medication to help with a multiplicity of symptoms and pathologies to include pain. As such it should be part of a UDT to document compliance otherwise, CDC is correct, MMJ as a standard UDT is not helpfull.

    Remember that UDT’s are done to help identify abuse, compliance, and diversion of narcotics. When narcotics are refered to they represent an addictive substance, that is why they are classified as a scheduled drug. Narcotics cause narcosis so this includes opiates and benzo’s at the least.

    UDT’s guide pain management and should not be used to exclude patients treatment who are suffering from pain. Addicts can have pain also.

    MMJ should continue to be used as a medicine and further research is needed. We have only just identifed the endocannabinol system so why would we suppress research money by removing its identification as a medication. We have anecdotal evidence over centuries that MMJ is a safe and pretty innocuous medication but as long as it is used as a medication we should be able to test for it.

  11. HJ at 2:34 pm

    Am I going to be wrong because I DON’T want to use marijuana? Am I going to be called an opiod addict because I want to keep using what has worked for me all these years?

    I find it all shameful. Honestly. Pain patients need access to options. Not just ONE option.

    I don’t think I’d be an effective employee if I used marijuana during my workday. That’s when I most need pain relief. Besides that, the latest that I heard about a law that was going to allow folks in Pennsylvania to have access to medical marijuana is that employers can still fire someone if the employer alleges that marijuana use has affected their employment.

    Not everyone wants on this particular band-wagon. Only allowing one option for treatment (medical marijuana) is irresponsible. In all other disease processes, the need for various treatment options is valued and necessary. And don’t say that anti-depressants are the other option… those and neuroleptics both have an entire slew of potential side-effects. I went that route and wanted them to work… desperately wanted them to work… but I had liver issues, worsening depression, vision issues, oppressive fatigue.

    I fought to try to stay on Lyrica but couldn’t tolerate the minimum therapeutic dose so we started tramadol, which has given me my life back. Granted I’m on the low end of the opiates but my mother has had two back surgeries for aggressive osteoarthritis and stenosis and will need another on her upper back and another on her lower back, possibly also the thoracic levels… and she needs and deserves access to options.

    I don’t want to suffer… but now that I know what my pain is like and that I can’t imagine her pain, to see her suffer would put me over the edge. This is so incredibly wrong. All of it.

  12. HAZZY at 2:23 pm


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