Can You Get a Medical Card for Anxiety in PA?
More than 18% of the American population lives with an anxiety disorder, and a growing number—including many Pennsylvania residents—are turning to medical marijuana. Governor Tom Wolf legalized medicinal cannabis in April of 2016, and Pennsylvania is now notable for being a state whose medical marijuana program caters to anxiety sufferers—with a few restrictions and caveats.
How Medical Marijuana May Treat Anxiety
Multiple clinical reviews have examined the body of cannabis research as it relates to anxiety, and the results have largely been inconclusive. That’s because the various studies have yielded wildly different results due to varying quality and methodologies.
Nevertheless, there’s at least some evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may be effective for a majority of patients. One study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, surveyed more than 400 patients and asked them to rate the effectiveness of cannabis for treating their anxiety symptoms. The survey asked patients to rate their experience using a Likert Scale of 0 (no effectiveness) to 10 (extremely effective). The average score was 8.03, indicating that patients rated cannabis very highly for managing their symptoms.
The research does have its limitations, of course, the biggest of which being that all results were self-reported. The study notes that more research is needed, but the results do indicate an intriguing trend. Most patients have an extremely positive impression of how cannabis addresses their anxiety.
The reason for the benefit may have to do with how cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids bind to and influence cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which in turn influence feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This process may work to mitigate anxiety in the short term.
Medical Marijuana Card for Anxiety in PA
You can get a medical marijuana card for anxiety in Pennsylvania if you have an appropriate clinical diagnosis. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recognizes anxiety disorders among its list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The primary anxiety disorders include:
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
• Panic Disorder
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Social Anxiety Disorder
In order to obtain your medical marijuana card, you’ll need to meet some basic qualifications. First, you must be a legal Pennsylvania resident. Minors can qualify for the program, but patients under the age of 18 must have a parent apply as a caregiver on their behalf.
Most importantly, you must have a clinically recognized anxiety disorder. Everyone experiences generalized anxiety from time to time, but the National Institute of Mental Health has specific guidelines for what constitutes an anxiety disorder. For example, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is broadly defined as “excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances.”
How to Get a Medical Card for Anxiety in PA
To obtain a medical card for anxiety in PA, the first step is to schedule a physician’s evaluation. You can only obtain a medical marijuana card if you have a recommendation from a physician who is licensed to certify cannabis patients in Pennsylvania.
You can obtain your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card online via telemedicine. Just schedule your appointment and speak to a physician virtually via your smartphone or PC. You’ll need to provide your legal Pennsylvania ID along with any medical records related to your anxiety diagnosis. Valid records may include doctors’ notes, written medical documentation, or old prescription bottles for an anxiety-related drug like Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan.
If you qualify as a patient with an anxiety disorder, you’ll receive a written certification from the physician. Once you have your recommendation, proceed to the Pennsylvania Department of Health website, complete the application, and pay the $50 registration fee. It should take 7 to 10 days to process your application.
Can You Use CBD for Anxiety in PA?
If you can’t get qualified for medical marijuana in PA, or if you’re looking for a simpler solution, you may have considered cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is just one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, and it’s legal for anyone in the state to purchase without a medical marijuana card.
CBD products are derived from the hemp plant (low-THC strains of cannabis that can’t get you high). A full-spectrum CBD product will contain trace amounts of THC, CBN, CBG, and other cannabinoids, but the cannabidiol is the dominant ingredient. Some research indicates that CBD alone may offer some benefit.
A New York University School of Medicine review concluded that “CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.” A more recent case series looked at 104 adult patients and found anxiety reductions in 79% of cases.
However, while CBD may have its uses, you may find that the limited cannabinoid profile is less effective overall for treating anxiety. Research has found that THC—far more than CBD—is responsible for the behavioral and psychological effects of marijuana. This is, in part, because THC binds to the brain’s CB1 receptors. CBD influences the activity of cannabinoid receptors but doesn’t bind to them.
So, if CBD alone proves ineffective for addressing your anxiety, you might still want to consider medical marijuana.
How to Use Medical Marijuana for Anxiety
When using cannabis for anxiety, it’s important to start with a low dose, preferably as low as 5mg of THC. Cannabis has a biphasic effect on the brain, so while low doses may alleviate your anxiety, high doses may make your anxiety worse. So, start with a micro-dose, and only increase the dosage a couple of milligrams at a time until you achieve the desired effect.
Also be mindful of what type of cannabis you’re using. The dominant cannabis subspecies are sativa and indica, and a cannabis strain may be pure sativa, pure indica, or indica-sativa hybrid. Sativa-dominant strains may be ideal for addressing anxiety, as they’re known for producing a so-called “head high” that energizes and invigorates while reducing anxiety.
If you struggle with nighttime anxiety that keeps you awake, consider an indica-dominant strain. Indica’s can induce restfulness and sleep. Try different strains until you find the one that produces the desired effect.
In addition, cannabis works best when it’s just one part of a larger effort to address anxiety. When combined with factors like healthy nutrition, yoga, meditation, and other stress-mitigation techniques, you might find that medical marijuana is just the icing on the cake.