Medical marijuana for ADD? Washington State considers it

State officials will consider a request to allow medical marijuana for people with ADD and OCD, nearly two years after denying the drug to depressed and bipolar patients. The petition is the latest attempt to add a mental illness to Washington’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Three other petitions, for depression and other mental health disorders, have been denied. Passed by voters in 1998, Washington’s law allows patients with terminal or debilitating conditions to use marijuana. Qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and “intractable pain.” It also includes anorexia, as a disease that results in nausea, vomiting and wasting away.

The latest request involves an Edmonds man who petitioned authorities in September to include attention deficit disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, conditions he said he has suffered from for years. The man said he had seen a psychologist regularly with little relief. He said various medications — stimulants, depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and anti-convulsants — have not helped. “At this point, my psychiatrist … has recommended that I write a letter asking for an opinion on medical marijuana, as other options have been exhausted,” the man wrote.

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery will consider the man’s petition at a hearing on Jan. 11. “What they’re looking for is some clinical and scientific basis for adopting it,” Blake Maresh, the osteopathic board’s executive director, said Tuesday. ‘Incredibly complex issue’

In February of 2010, the medical commission denied a request from a man who had suffered from a social anxiety disorder since the fifth grade. He said cannabis had helped him more than any other treatment. Other patients with bipolar disorder, severe depression and other anxiety disorders also told the commission that pot was the only thing that helped. But the commission found insufficient scientific evidence that showed pot helped patients with those conditions. It found that no rigorous, controlled, randomized, peer-reviewed and published trial had been done on the issue.

That denial followed the rejection of two other similar requests. In 2001, the commission denied medical marijuana for patients with manic or chronic depression. In 2004, they again denied it for people with depression and severe anxiety. The issue has raised unanswered questions for mental health advocates and health-care providers. While many patients report feeling better with marijuana, many doctors say the drug’s mood-altering qualities can mask and worsen symptoms. “Marijuana usage among individuals who live with serious and persistent mental illness is an incredibly complex issue,” said Christine Lindquist, executive director of the local National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter.

“Many people who self-medicate with marijuana report significant relief from their symptoms, although for others, complete abstinence from drugs or alcohol is necessary for stability in their health.” The last qualifying condition added for medical marijuana in Washington was chronic renal failure in 2010.

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