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Can Medical 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.

    TruthOnPot.com – OCD is a relatively mild disorder that seems to pose very little threat to a personal’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

    • 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.