People With Anxiety Disorders Can Soon Get Pa. Medical Marijuana Cards

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And that opens the door for a whole lot of people to apply to the program.

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A whole lot more people are about to become qualified for a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health added anxiety disorders — as well as Tourette syndrome — to its list of approved medical conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program.

The change, which goes into effect on July 20th, comes after a research-based recommendation by the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, followed by Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s “careful review” of the medical literature available about the conditions.

“I do not take this decision lightly, and do have recommendations for physicians, dispensary pharmacists and patients in terms of the use of medical marijuana to treat these conditions,” Levine said in a statement this week. “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.”

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately 19 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders — the most common type of mental health conditions — include generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia (or a fear of certain places), post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety disorder and other types of phobias, including social anxiety disorder.

Levine advised patients with these disorders to pursue (or continue pursuing) counseling and therapy to manage their conditions. She added that short-term use of medical marijuana with low THC and high CBD content has been shown to be most effective in treatment of anxiety disorders. Plus, she said medical marijuana is not recommended to treat children, adolescents, or pregnant women with anxiety disorders.

About 200,000 Americans are estimated to have the most severe form of Tourette syndrome, which is typically first noticed in childhood, according to the National Institutes of Health. As many as one in 100 people exhibit milder and less complex symptoms, like chronic motor or vocal tics, per the organization.

Pennsylvania now lists 23 qualifying conditions in its medical marijuana program, of which there are 111,000 active patient certifications. You can learn more about the program here.

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