So is was something that I experienced a few doctors visits ago. My doctor was slightly uncomfortable at the end of our session and then asked me if I would mind taking a urine test. He decided that he was going to start screening his patients that were on pain meds for illicit substances. I readily agreed of course because I didn’t have anything in my system to hide. The problem that comes from this is because I live in a state that has passed a medical marijuana law allowing it for conditions such as chronic pain. So here is my main question: what if I had legally bought and used medical marijuana? Does that mean that he would stop my entire pain regiment due to this? At what point does getting help from one source preclude you from another? I would love to hear your opinions on this in the comments!
FAIRBANKS — Tanana Valley Clinic has instituted a new policy requiring some patients taking certain pain-killing medications to be marijuana-free.
The clinic started handing out prepared statements to all chronic pain patients Monday, said Corinne Leistikow, assistant medical director for family practice at TVC.
The statement reads, in part, “We will no longer prescribe controlled substances, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, to patients who are using marijuana (THC). These drugs are psychoactive substances and it is not safe for you to take them together. Your urine will be tested for marijuana. If you test positive you will have two months to get it out of your system. You will be retested in two months. If you still have THC in your urine, we will no longer prescribe controlled substances for you.”
TVC patient Scott Ide objects to the clinic’s new policy. Ide takes methadone to control chronic back pain and uses medical marijuana to ease the nausea and vomiting caused by gastroparesis. He thinks TVC decided to change its policy after an Anchorage medical marijuana clinic spent three days in Fairbanks last month, helping patients get the necessary documentation to obtain a state-sanctioned medical marijuana card.
“I’m a victim of circumstance because of what occurred. I was already a patient with her — I was already on this regimen. We already knew what we were doing to get me better and work things out for me,” Ide said. “I think it’s wrong.”
Ide said he was addicted to pain killers, but with medical marijuana, he has been able to wean himself off of all medications except methadone. Ide is a former Alaska State Trooper who was caught forging prescriptions for pain medication in 2008. He pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying business records and received an 18-month suspended sentence, was fined $500 and placed on probation.
The policy is something the clinic has considered for some time, according to Leistikow.
“We’d been talking about consistency and how we as a clinic can deal with chronic pain patients overall. When that came up, it did bring up a question of what we were going to do with patients who get a card from a different doctor. It may have helped us come up with a policy sooner, but we were going to come up with this regardless of that,” Leistikow said.
The new policy will only affect chronic pain patients who are in the clinic’s controlled substance program, according to Leistikow.
“If somebody comes in with acute back pain or breaks their leg and needs medications for that, they’re not going to get tested,” she said.
Leistikow acknowledged some patients may have to seek treatment in Anchorage because there is a limited number of chronic pain specialists in Fairbanks, but she said the policy change was necessary.
“What we have decided as a clinic — we’re setting policy for which patients we can take care of and which ones we can’t — patients who use marijuana and opiates together are at much higher risk of death, abuse and misuse of medications, of having side effects from their medications, and recommendations are generally that patients on those should be followed by a pain specialist,” Leistikow said.