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Can Marijuana Help OCD?

By on May 7, 2013

Summary (click to view)

  • OCD is a disorder that causes repetitive thoughts and behaviors
  • Animal studies show that CBD and THC can reduce obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Case reports show that THC provides relief from OCD symptoms
  • Clinical trials show that THC can also reduce tics
  • OCD can cause excessive hand washing. – OCD is a relatively mild disorder that seems to pose very little threat to a person’s physical wellbeing. On the other hand, for those who suffer from severe forms of OCD, the disorder can wreak havic on social and mental stability.

    And despite the many advancements made by modern science, approximately half of OCD patients fail to obtain relief from traditional forms of treatment.

    Interestingly, research has slowly turned to medical marijuana – an age-old medicine that seems to hold promise as a treatment for this disorder.

    What is OCD?

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes repetitive thoughts and behaviors.

    Symptoms of OCD can range widely from one individual to next. OCD-like behavior may include excessive washing or cleaning, repeated checking, extreme hoarding, fear of particular numbers and nervous rituals, but the list goes on and on.

    Interestingly, OCD is believed to be more common in individuals with above-average intelligence. And while there are various pharmaceuticals and behavioral therapies available for dealing with OCD, approximately 40-60% of cases do not respond to first-line treatment.

    Case Studies

    In 2008, a group of German researchers wrote a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry documenting their clinical experiences with using marijuana derivatives as a treatment for OCD. The researchers outlined two cases in which patients with treatment-resistant OCD obtained significant relief from dronabinol – a THC-based pill.

    The first case was a 38 year old woman who suffered from recurring major depression and OCD, despite 8 months of traditional pharmaceutical and cognitive behavioral therapy treatments. Based on the patient’s personal experiences of using marijuana for symptom relief, the researchers encouraged her to try a 10mg dose of dronabinol taken three times a day in addition to her current pharmaceutical regimen. Within 10 days, the patient reported a significant decrease in OCD-related symptoms.

    The second case was a 36 year old man with schizophrenia and OCD who was experiencing an increase in psychotic and obsessive symptoms. Despite receiving a variety of antipsychotic medications and a course of 18 electroconvulsive therapy treatments, the patient’s OCD symptoms remained resilient. However, a significant reduction in OCD symptoms was observed within 2 weeks of adding dronabinol to the patient’s pharmaceutical regimen.

    Animal Studies

    In addition to case reports, evidence from animal studies also provides support for the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for OCD.

    So far, a number of studies have investigated the effectiveness of various cannabinoids at reducing obsessive-compulsive behavior in rodents. These studies relied on the marble burying test as a measure of OCD, which is widely used as a screening tool for anti-OCD drugs.

    Between 2010 and 2011, two studies were published by a team of researchers from Brazil, both of which demonstrated a reduction in obsessive-compulsive behavior following treatment with cannabinoids.

    The first study involved 30mg/kg doses of CBD and the second study involved 3 mg/kg doses of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55212-2 – a chemical that mimics the effects of THC but is significantly more potent. Both studies pointed to activity of CB1 receptors as the cause for reduced obsessive-compulsive behavior.

    Another study published in 2011, this time by a team of British researchers, was able to confirm the effect of CBD in reducing the obsessive-compulsive behavior of mice.

    Tic Disorders

    Tics, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome seem to share a number of common underlying factors. While tic disorders are more strongly associated with Tourette’s syndrome, genetic studies have also linked tics to OCD. Furthermore, it is believed that around 30% of Tourette’s patients also suffer from OCD.

    As of today, 2 clinical trials have set out to investigate THC as a treatment for tic disorder, both of which revealed positive results. Although the subjects were recruited based on a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, the results demonstrated that THC was not only effective in reducing tics in patients with Tourette’s, but obsessive-compulsive behavior as well.

    ABC News: A Patient’s Story

    Despite the lack of clinical trials, parents with OCD children have witnessed the benefits of medical marijuana first-hand. On the other hand, a significant portion of doctors continue to remain hesitant about prescribing the drug.

    • Andy Botwin

      interesting! i will pass this information on to a friend!

    • Eric Murray

      From my personal experience with OCD I came to realize when im in a deep depression, if im obsessing over having an illness, the marijuana just diluted my thoughts and the obsession and thought became real life.. I have a very high tolerance to THC unfortunately and I think that may be the reasoning behind my experiences. I almost felt schizophrenic, although my grandfather is a paranoid schizophrenic.. I am only 18 so I suppose we’ll see where life will take my psychological well-being lol.

      • Preston

        consider not smoking since your dad has schizophrenia. nearly the only significant downside to marijuana is for people who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. I am very educated and very passionate about legalizing cannabis and giving people this incredible medicine, but for people who have this disorder in their family history to be doing it, and the fact that you are feeling these symptoms, means you should stop asap

        • Mental Health Practitioner

          There are a multitude of different opinions on this. With the horrible side effects of psychotropic meds causing the statistic, that Mental Health clients die 25 years sooner than their counter parts, and articles that actually support the use of medical marijuana with high levels of CBD such as (Schizophrenia and Cannabis

          It has been found that Cannabidiol may have a calming, stabilizing effect on the brain – which may help to counteract some of the damage in the brain caused by THC.

          Researchers hope to formulate a new medication for schizophrenia based on Cannabidiol.

          According to a study that compared this active ingredient, Cannabidiol, with a leading antipsychotic drug (Amisulpride), Cannabidiol might inhibit psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia, causing fewer side effects.

          Lead researcher of the study, Dr Marcus Leweke, of the University of Cologne, noted:

          “There is a possibility that there are good guys and bad guys in cannabis. THC is the bad person, but there is a small body of literature that suggested CBD might prevent the induction of psychotic symptoms. Our study supports that view. A systematic literature review has suggested the intriguing possibility that habitual

          Cannabis use may protect cognitive function in schizophrenia patients, and CBD has been shown to improve a marker of this in healthy subjects. There are preliminary data to suggest that:

          Cannabinoids may have beneficial effects on abnormal stress reaction, metabolic dysfunction and dyslipidaemia. Since the mechanism of action for the anti-psychotic effects of CBD and other cannabinoids almost certainly differs from all existing agents, synergistic combinations with both typical and atypical antipsychotics are a possibility.

          Taken overall, these observations lead to the hypothesis that an appropriately formulated medicine containing a combination of selected cannabinoids may have the potential to target all the major components of the schizophrenia syndrome and thereby significantly reduce the need for polypharmacy.

          Let the reader and his support system decide.

      • Lisa

        Although this comment is a year old, I would still like to warn you. While OCD is not negatively effected by Cannabis, it’s one of the very few mental disorders that isn’t. What I mean by this is that mind altering substance’s can bring a mental disorder to life (of course, mainly if you’re a carrier of the disorder) , and the fact that schizophrenia is in your blood line, there is a very real posibility that you are a carrier of schizophrenia that has yet to be expressed. Marijuana use in your case would be a terrible idea. Essentially, you could go a life time without any symptoms of the disorder, but adding drugs to the mix can bring about the disorder (this including a number of other mental disorders). As for use after schizophrenia is expressed, I’m not sure of the effects, but either way, best to keep your mind from that posibility.

        • distachio

          CBD is NOT “mind-altering.” It produces no psychotropic effects at all. I would be cautious of using a THC-heavy strain if I had a concern about schizophrenia, but not CBD.

    • You Don’t Know About OCD

      “OCD is a relatively mild disorder that seems to pose very little threat to a personal’s physical wellbeing”, I don’t know, but I think this is a BIT of an understatement considering the fact that that just because this is a mental disorder, doesn’t mean it doesn’t fully have an effect on someone’s lives and wellbeing. I am not saying, yeah, you should do pot, but I am just saying that it doesn’t matter if you are mentally disabled or physically disabled, either can extremely effect a life. I personally have OCD and it is not fun, I am literally stuck on a couch. So maybe before writing something that says that, you should think about it. I am a kid too, and it is really effensive to hear this. A lot of times people think people with OCD aren’t even smart, but that isn’t true either. I get strait A’s in school and am trying to work on my illness every day. You should really think before you say something so disgrading about a person’s mental health disorder, I know a lot of you people like to think that we can control it, but maybe walk a mile in our shoes, I think you will realize you wouldn’t survive a footstep. And I noticed the text after the one I quoted, well just to tell you, what is severe in your eyes? Any type of OCD can EXTREMELY effect someone’s life. Yeah, I can tell you obviously think you know everything about OCD and Pot, but really, all of you people that study this illness and all of that will never actually know jack squat about it until you have lived it. So honestly, stop downgrading this, if you don’t know it, then don’t say it.

      • Couldn’t agree more. The first line of this article with the ‘relatively mild disorder’ comment made me have a very hard time taking this article seriously. I find it hard to believe that someone who thinks OCD is a mild disorder has done adequate research to back up their claims. Those of us who deal with this problem on a daily basis know it is anything but mild. The worse part is everybody else just thinks we’re not trying hard enough and the last thing we want to do is to get that same insinuation on a health-related website. Not to mention, those kinds of blunders don’t help the credibility of this site, and I imagine that maintaining a credible reputation is of the utmost importance to a medical marijuana initiative.

        • Lisa

          Exactly! My OCD has flared up because of outside stress and honestly it is horrible. I wouldn’t wish OCD on my worst enemy. It is a scary disorder and for anyone to trivialize it clearly means they haven’t done any serious research.

    • Lisa

      I have OCD and to say its a “relatively mild disorder” is pure bs! This disorder will knock you off your feet because you can’t get away from it. Your brain constantly reels over and over again. Its a never ending process when it flares up and you honestly want to die just to have peace.

      • Rafiki

        Read the whole paragraph..he’s saying that everyone has ocd..which they do, it’s just they have mild conditions they can deal with..then he says if you actually are diagnosed with ocd life can be rough.

        • alexc

          I like the article and what both of you are saying. But here’s two things: 1. “Everyone has OCD” is pure BS. A lot of people may appear to be near the spectrum if they are compulsive or what we’d refer to as anally retentive (sp?), but OCD is much more of an abnormality, much more of a disorder, than someone who may exhibit symptoms based on other issues. 2. Yes, the relatively mild comment was a bit off. But the writer did use the term “relatively” making it totally up to opinion. But I do believe that any psychological disorder/imbalance has the ability to be severely threatening to one’s physical health.

          Interesting article, some good points- Do not go smoking pot if you have OCD based solely on this author’s article… Base the decision on a lot.

      • Karla Blosser

        I hear you there!!! I’ve been diagnosed O.C.D… it’s been the most horrible experience to have to go through. When I was young it hadn’t hardly been heard of and so my family didn’t understand what was going on with me. But to be honest, it has ruled my entire life. I’m now 54 years old and it still rues my life. It has always effected my choice making in life and has very much destroyed many aspects of my life. Relationships of any kind are very difficult for me to maintain. I keep a ”safe distance” from most people and at times it is a very lonely and painful thing. The embarrassment and the worry that someone is going to ”JUDGE” you. It ends up something that you just try to keep secret and hide all the time. It causes me a LOT of depression and severe anxiety! It makes me a very insecurity individual. I’m actually an extremely strong person, but it runs my thinking process and at times can utterly wipe out the real person that I am. It makes me so sad and lonely… SO.. I know how you feel Lisa. YES, it seems like a ”never ending process”… Much love to you girl and HANG IN THERE! :)

        • Nikki B

          I feel ya girls. This was a very interesting and eye opening article. I’ve had severe OCD my whole life. It started when I was in elementary school. I distinctly remember having to organize my school supplies in my desk absolutely perfect and color coded or I couldn’t function or pay attention in school. It got so bad my teacher; I still remember her haha mrs. Stuart yelled at me everyday but I couldn’t help it! And at home, when I was told to put dishes away I would have to put everything away and take it out and put it back 4 times bc that was my lucky number and honest to God this sounds insane, but I feared if I didn’t do it, that something bad would happen to me or a family member… Crazy I know! I’m 25 and it is the same today; having to check to make sure I unplugged everything in the house and that the stove is off before leaving for work. It’s gotten to the point of skin picking. I will pick the tiniest of pimples until I’m sure I got it. Needless to say I have scars all over my body. So it’s not only psychological, it’s also physical for me. I thank God everyday that I have a very patient and understanding husband who knows this isn’t really me! I will try anything I can do to fix this and be the best me I can be. :’( sorry for the sob story but it felt good to know I’m not alone and I’m not actually crazy! Lol

      • Casey

        “Seems to pose very little threat to a peron’s physical well-being” is total bullshit as well. I have infections all over my body that have stayed there since when I was 13 and I was so depressed I took a bath about once a month and my OCD was causing me to pick at my skin, causing zits, then pick zits causing infection. I also have fucked up teeth partially because I compulsively popped the bands I was supposed to wear to straighten out my teeth when I had braces. My OCD was also a huge contributor to my anorexia nervosa, which eventually had me fainting at various points throughout the day, sometimes when I was driving on the highway.

      • Seth A. Yellin


      • Seth A. Yellin

        I have some #OCD, knowing so from self diagnosis. It is due to a constant dramatic household, #Sciatica, a notorious city, bad #economy, and tons of nonsense in this world in general, but it is not nearly as bad as this!! O.o. I looked up “Cannabis for OCD” on Google. #YetAnotherBenefit. #Nature. #NaturesWay.

      • Jen

        Oh I ABSOLUTELY AGREE! I read that and totally lost confidence in any information this article has to offer. Mild? No. OCD is hell. I’ve got it too and anyone who says it’s a mild disorder is a fricking idiot.

    • ray

      Ocd and weed = trouble big time!. First the uncertainty that ocd sufferers feel on every thought and then having to think I high yet ? Is this working? It would literally put the ocd sufferer even more in their own thoughts. And then the compulsion would go south fast with the first side effect of paranoia. With “trying to come down ” the sufferer would go ocd crazy believing they caused the side effect of paranoia and the believe they have somthing else like schizophrenia. It would be a bad idea. But the idea of natural healing probably appeals greater to those w ocd. .

      • McRotty

        As someone who has had OCD since I was 12 and who has smoked marijuana for 10+ years, I can say that smoking doesn’t impair your ability to be a functioning productive member of society, and furthermore, any insinuation that people that have OCD are psychotic on the level of schizophrenics is ridiculous. OCD makes you think about ALOT of things that don’t matter and then going on that thought cycle until you say I’m going to beat it this time. Little do you realize, you only postponed it for a few seconds. Marijuana makes it so those useless thoughts cease to exist. So yes, natural healing does appeal to those with OCD.. it’s called marijuana. Maybe think a little more on the subject.

    • ray

      Now, if the ocd sufferer was able to try cbd marijuana like harlequin or strawberry cough in a very small dose vaporizer at ultra low setting on vaporizer I believe great healing could happen. The idea of healing and having somthing other than pills in itself is pure. But the breakthrough s lately with CBD is amazing.

      • alexc

        yes, I like your comment, and I like that you added it’s a risk. These type of things could have unattended consequences- such as if your OCD is even relatively manic, then you could bring yourself down in a weird way and the cannabis could cause depression… Which may be minor compared to the OCD, or it could be bad. It’s always a risk when you explore self medication, you need to have the self awareness to know just what kinds of risks you are taking.

    • scott

      If your suffering from OCD and your not using marihuana your torturing your self more than you need too. I would call it rolling once those thoughts start I couldn’t stop was truly unreal but relief was just a small amount marihuana and those thoughts quickly subsided.

    • Sarah

      “OCD is a relatively mild disorder that seems to pose very little threat to a person’s physical wellbeing. ” whoever wrote this article better do some research and rewrite this offensive opening sentence. Spend just AN HOUR in the shoes of someone with OCD or even just follow them around to see…and then rewrite an opening paragraph that tells the truth.

    • Akash Singh Sandhu

      I have severe OCD however I do not believe in using drugs I instead use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is teaching me to accept the pain as white noise, mental toughness vs. escaping the pain. I choose the former.

      • Kyle

        Whatever helps you

    • FindingHome15

      You must be kidding when you say it’s a relatively mild disorder. Just dispelled any confidence I could have possible had in this article. Do your research and rewrite the article. Don’t you realize the damage you can do to someone who might think they have OCD but are under compete attack by it and read crap like this and think they are just crazy because it couldn’t possibly be OCD, to know, because OCD is “relatively mild”. Yeah, relatively mild relative to a nuclear meltdown. Please.

    • FindingHome15

      You must be kidding when you say it’s a relatively mild disorder. That just dispelled any confidence I could have possibly had in this article. Do your research and rewrite the article. Don’t you realize the damage you can do to someone who might think they have OCD but are under compete attack by it and read crap like this and think they are just crazy? You know, because it couldn’t possibly be OCD, because OCD is “relatively mild”. Yeah, mild, relative to a nuclear meltdown. Please.

      I’ve had it for 25 years and I am medicated, follow behavioral therapy and work and am a single mom. And it is all worth it but people who don’t experience it first-hand will *never* know the strength it takes.

    • Christopher Pena

      I’m pretty sure if I didn’t smoke I would be full out ocd. When I don’t smoke I feel like I’m compelled to do things and when I do I’m like mah….

    • Seth A. Yellin

      I have some #OCD, knowing so from self diagnosis. It is due to a constant dramatic household, #Sciatica, a notorious city, bad #economy, and tons of nonsense in this world in general, but it is not nearly as bad as this!! O.o. I looked up “Cannabis for OCD” on Google. #YetAnotherBenefit. #Nature. #NaturesWay.

    • Ryan Lewis

      WHO EVER WROTE THIS CAN … Nevermind.
      When you have a doctor telling you your ok and you STILL believe dying of a heart attack, …maybe…maybe you’ll understand. My ocd is wrapped around religion, god, spirituality, numbers, patterns, numbers, times of the day like 9:11 so on. Clean environment. Cleaning rituals. Dressing for each occasion. Worries about my pets health, obsessed with being fired from my job, neat being cooked to a safe temp. And many many more.

    • Ryan Lewis

      IF I SMOKED POT, I would have to have everything in place, no loud noises, but what if I started getting paranoid.?. I WOULD obsess what’s going on? IS this safe? So on. I’D probably have a panic attack. HOWEVER, if I could legally try it, I would.

    • Alice

      alcohol is the gateway drug, just sayin

    • Rick Herring

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    • Rick Herring

      The facts are clear, the testimonies are overwhelmingly many, its usefulness is unobjectionable. Marijuana is Medicine!!!! My heart goes to all those suffering with Chronic Health Conditions.
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