CBD: One trucker’s answer to chronic pain, opioid addiction

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Updated Oct 8, 2021

I was forwarded a statement from a drug-testing service provider that further underscores the problematic nature of Cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products for CDL drivers, even as these products enter legal status in certain states.

The statement, essentially, noted review officers would not overturn THC-positive drug test results simply because the driver reported using a CBD product labeled as such, and whether or not that product is legal in the state where it was purchased. As the statement underscored, plenty such products have been shown to contain various levels of THC, the problematic variable in the equation when it comes to a positive drug-test result.

Until such a time as such products come under consistent regulation nationally, they’re likely to remain problematic for drivers. Their use will jeopardize careers, despite medical benefits.

Perhaps unnecessarily, at least according to one trucker I talked to at length a couple weeks ago. This veteran hauler, after two decades and more as a household-goods mover through the 1980s and ’90s, experienced the debilitating, chronic pain of a degenerative form of arthritis, among other issues. It all drove him off the road for nearly a decade. His return to trucking, about a decade ago, was enabled by legal pain management through prescribed high-octane painkillers that have been kosher under DOT regs with physician sign-off, he says.

Doctors “did everything they could do to get me on that stuff,” he says, but “nothing to help me get off of it” after long use. He had to seek his own treatment for the addiction and severe withdrawal symptoms, and also found an effective method of pain management in the process.

This particular driver, based in the Southeast and who wished to remain anonymous, found his solution out west in a state where CBD and other cannabis-derived products are legal for medicinal purposes. He’s utilizing an oral CBD product with a small amount of THC in it that has been effective for more than a year since the self-described “refugee from the opioid crisis” ditched the pain pills.

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“The pain I have now is moderate,” he says, but it’s manageable. “The CBD is working.”

Given he well knows there’s a small amount of THC, too, in what he’s using, which produces no discernible psychoactive effect, he says, he’s also “playing fast and loose” when it comes to the federal prohibitions against truck drivers’ use of the drug. “If I get caught,” he says, “I’d think about taking it to court as a test case — it’s not right that a driver can drive down the road taking narcotics but not with a little THC in his blood to get him off the stuff.”

A related case has been filed against a CBD gummy manufacturer by a CDL driver after a THC-positive result, as we reported last month.

The trucker using CBD for pain management here believes it’s time for such products to be managed legally with attending physicians, not effectively criminalized carte-blanche through CDL drug-testing regimes. “I’m using something that helped me get the monkey off my back,” he says. The current system essentially asks him to “put the monkey back on my back. No thank you. I’ll just have to play hide and seek with the drug screens.”

What’s your view?

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