Pennsylvania officials have given doctors the legal right to treat anxiety with marijuana for their patients who suffer from the disorder, a decision that could impact thousands of the state’s residents.
Medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania in 2016, with sales starting in 2018. Before the recent decision by the state Department of Health, there were 21 conditions for which a physician would prescribe the use of medical marijuana (including CBD products).
The decision to treat anxiety with marijuana – along with Tourette Syndrome- was made after a lengthy investigation of the research around the disorders.
“I do not take this decision lightly,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who played a major role in the change, said in a statement. She added that she only reached her decision “after a careful review of the medical literature available about these conditions.”
Not First Line Treatment
The decision adds anxiety disorders and Tourette Syndrome to the list of other conditions that are legal to treat with medical marijuana. They include cancer, epilepsy, intractable seizures, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis. post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illness.
About 111,000 state residents have signed up for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program. Also, more than 1,600 doctors have signed up to participate in the state-regulated medical marijuana program, with 1,160 getting approved as practitioners.
Levine sought opinions on the issue from physicians, dispensary pharmacists and patients. She said in the case of both conditions, cannabis will not be a first line treatment that replaces traditional therapies. Instead, she said it should be used in tandem with therapies such as counseling and other medications.
Levine also noted that marijuana products with high CBD levels but low THC levels seem to work best with patients. THC is the chemical ingredient in marijuana that causes the high feeling.
Doctors are not advised to treat children or pregnant women with medical marijuana.
Anxiety Disorders Widespread
Anxiety is considered a normal part of most people’s lives. There are certain situations where feelings of anxiety are expected. However, as noted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an anxiety disorder takes the issue to a higher level.
When someone has an anxiety disorder, they may experience persistent and overwhelming anxiety that is triggered by even the most routine situations. The anxiety is often irrational and uncontrollable.
When this happens, anxiety can prevent people from going about their normal daily activities. The ADAA reports that as much as 18.1% of the population in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only 37% seek treatment.
The organization calls anxiety disorders “the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.”