A new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that primary care doctors screen patients for unhealthy drug use.

Unhealthy drug use, strangely, includes any and all use at all of cannabis. On the other hand, it does not include the use of alcohol and tobacco. Screening in this recommendation does not mean a blood or urine sample, but simply asking a patient whether they use drugs.

The UPSTF is a ostensibly an independent panel of 16 experts who offer recommendations for U.S. doctors. However, it is funded, staffed, and appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the best indications that UPSTF is not so independent is its stance on cannabis. Despite the fact that the drug is approved for medicinal use in the majority of states, the panel goes along with the federal stance that cannabis is a drug with no medicinal value. Their recommendation was published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

This is not just another case of bogus statements about weed from the federal government. Reports from the UPSTF can both influence how doctors behave and set policies which affect patients across the country.

As Leaflywrites, the UPSTF’s “recommendations matter because they help set healthcare industry standards. Their conclusions influence company policies in nationwide systems like Kaiser Permanente (Northern California), Mercy (St. Louis), Banner (Phoenix), and others.”

These recommendations are also worth some extra scrutiny because, by the panel’s own admission, they don’t know if screening for drug use does any good for some patients.

“The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for unhealthy drug use in adolescents,” the recommendation states.

Natalie