Why does Ohio recognize medical marijuana as an effective treatment for PTSD, but not for other anxiety disorders?

Last week, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) met via video conference and denied further consideration for Autism Spectrum Disorder and Anxiety, leaving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as the only mental condition that the state recognizes. What makes PTSD different than the rest?

Many indicators of PTSD are shared with other anxiety and depressive disorders—trouble sleeping, emotional instability, and chronic worry, to name a few. It may be surprising to learn that PTSD is a single mental health disorder that is approved by OMMCP.

More Questions Than Answers

Other anxiety disorders do not currently qualify for medical cannabis intervention and there are no depressive disorders on the qualifying conditions list. If the conditions have so much in common, why don’t the similar diagnoses qualify?

Based on self-reporting, many individuals use marijuana as a form of self-medication for their anxiety and depression. In their own words, many claim using cannabis “to relax or relieve tension.” People living with anxiety and depressive disorders are all looking for a common form of relief, for what’s really just a biochemical malfunction.

When one suffers from anxiety or depression, they are suffering from a chemical imbalance in their brain, no matter the specific diagnosis. Anxiety and depression, in all of their currently recognized flavors, can be managed effectively with the right chemical intervention.

There is sufficient evidence to support the role of cannabis as helpful in treating other mental health diseases, so why isn’t the Ohio Medical Marijuana Card approved for all disorders that include anxiety as a symptom? Or at least the disorders specifically classified as Anxiety Disorders, such as Phobic Disorders or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

PTSD’s Relationship with CB1

According to a study in New York, people with PTSD are more likely to have more CB1 endocannabinoid receptors in their brains, specifically within the brain regions linked to fear and anxiety. There is also an indication that these receptors play a part in our brain’s ability to process and integrate memories, an area of high focus when researching effective treatment of PTSD.

Is there more to the stereotype of cannabis users being forgetful? In some way, is medical marijuana helping people with PTSD “forget” their trauma… at least for a few hours?

More research is needed on medical marijuana applications for other anxiety and depressive disorders. Right now, potential benefits for treatment point to a regulation of the body’s endocannabinoid system which can be affected by chronic stress.

What we still don’t know:

  • How integrated are these systems?
  • What similarities do these disorders share in regards to neurochemistry and mood?
  • Could we find a root cause among these mental health disorders that can be helped by the regulation of the endocannabinoid systems?

Precedent in Other States

Other state’s medical cannabis programs accept depression and/or anxiety as qualifying conditions for treatment. In some states, it’s itemized like anxiety in New Jersey. In others, these conditions are categorized under the catch-all phrase of “any condition for which treatment of medical marijuana would be beneficial.” This categorization includes numerous approved qualifying conditions in MMJ states.

Maine set a precedent by allowing MMJ to be prescribed by any medical physician for any condition they deem to be positively affected by medical marijuana treatment. Should more states rewrite their guidelines in a way that better protects patient privacy through medical discretion?

Surely, not everyone who would be served by MMJ is receiving that benefit today. We could be better off with higher research standards and broader qualification measures. As the industry grows, states will need to work closely together in sharing peer reviewed research to pivot their strategies quickly as information outpaces legislation.

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