Pennsylvania medical officials have given the thumb’s up to doctors to prescribing medical marijuana for patients with anxiety disorders. This decision happens just one month after Ohio officials refused to do the same.
The new regulation from the Pennsylvania Department of Health went into effect this month. While the measure allows for prescribing marijuana, it also mandates that cannabis not be the first choice, but rather used in tandem with traditional treatments.
In the same measure, the state is allowing medical marijuana to be used by those with Tourette’s Syndrome. That brings the number of conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana in Pennsylvania to 23, including cancer, epilepsy, intractable seizures, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis. post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illness.
There are 111,000 state residents currently signed up for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program.
A decision not made lightly
State Department of Health officials made the change on the recommendation of the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, as well as from state Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
Levine said in a statement she made the decision “after a careful review of the medical literature available about these conditions.” She also sought opinions on the issue from physicians, dispensary pharmacists and patients.
“For both conditions, medical marijuana is not first-line treatment and should not replace traditional therapies but should be used in conjunction with them, when recommended by a physician,” Levine said.
Other key points in Levine’s statement include the following.
- Levine advised patients with anxiety disorders to continue counseling and therapy to manage their illness.
- Levine also said research indicates medical marijuana with low levels of THC and high levels of CBD is the most effective for anxiety but is only recommended for short-term use
- Medical marijuana is not recommended to treat children and adolescents with anxiety disorders
- Levine also warned pregnant women should not use medical marijuana as the potential impacts on the fetus are unknown.
The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that Levine met just before the announcement with representatives from eight Pennsylvania universities and cannabis producers who will partner with the schools.
A history of cannabis and anxiety
Cannabis can impact different people in different ways. However, many have advocated for its use to combat depression and anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 18.1 percent of the United States population suffers from anxiety disorders, making it the most frequent common mental illness in the country.
While anxiety disorders are treatable, only about 37 percent of those with them seek treatment, according to the association.
The State Medical Board of Ohio decided not to approve cannabis for use with anxiety in June, saying further study is needed. That decision can even after a board committee recommended weed for anxiety earlier this year.