Does CBD Oil Treat Ocd

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Research shows CBD oil can support anxiety, fear, panic, and compulsive behavior in patients with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). CBD interacts with the pathways in our bodies that control the feelings of fear, anxiety, panic, and compulsion. Anxiety is one of the major symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder); therefore, it’s safe to assume that using CBD for OCD may come in handy. This is the first placebo-controlled investigation of cannabis in adults with OCD. The data suggest that smoked cannabis, whether containing primarily THC or CBD, has little acute impact on OCD symptoms and yields smaller reductions in anxiety compared to placebo.

Can CBD Help With OCD? (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a subcategory of anxiety.

Despite a lack of clinical studies on CBD for OCD, there are some things we know already.

Learn how CBD works, how to use it, and what else you can do to support your symptoms.

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 1.2% of the American population has clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a subcategory of anxiety, which is expected to affect as many as 29% of the public at some point in their lifetime [2].

Here, you’ll learn how CBD can be used to alleviate common symptoms of OCD, what dose to take, and what else you can do to maximize the benefits.

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Carlos G. Aguirre, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist

Updated on January 12, 2022

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Can CBD Help With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterized clinically as an anxiety disorder.

There isn’t much research on how effective CBD is for OCD specifically — however, there are other studies that indicate potential benefits for anxiety as a whole.

There are a few mechanisms CBD uses to alleviate anxiety symptoms, many of which can be linked to the pathology involved with OCD.

The benefits of CBD oil for OCD may include:

  • Supports sleep
  • Reduces cortisol levels to ameliorate stress
  • Reduces brain inflammation
  • May help stabilize mood (serotonin support)
  • Alleviates pain
  • Relaxes muscle tension
  • Alleviates nausea
  • Protects the neurons from oxidative damage
  • Improves appetite

What Type of CBD Products Should I Use For OCD?

There’s capsules, oils, tinctures, edibles, and topicals. Each one has its own set of positives and negatives, and not all are suitable for every person.

The most common choice, by far, is CBD oil, but capsules and edibles are also both excellent forms of CBD for people suffering from OCD or other forms of anxiety.

CBD oil is taken by measuring the desired dose using the supplied dropper. You can place the oil under your tongue for faster absorption or swallow it right away — both methods work perfectly fine.

Capsules and edibles make dosing even easier because they come pre-measured for specific doses. The downside is that edibles and capsules tend to be a little more expensive than oils, and the dose can’t be dialed into the same level of specificity.

What Dose of CBD Oil Should I Use?

Everybody reacts differently to CBD. Some people need a minimal dose; others need a huge dose — it all depends on your genes and the specific set of symptoms.

Therefore, there is no single dosage recommendation that we can make.

In general, people with mild to moderate OCD report a low- to medium-strength dosage is enough to provide relief from their symptoms. For more severe OCD, a high-strength dose is required to deliver the same benefits.

Use the chart below to find your general dosage requirements according to your weight and desired strength. Remember that these are merely guidelines. The dose can vary a lot from one person to the next so always start low and build up to higher doses gradually once you know how it affects you individually.

Recommended strength for OCD: low to heavy strength.

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What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is an anxiety disorder involving frequent, recurring thoughts and obsessions. It often causes people to develop strong urges to do things repetitively or compulsively — often referred to as tics.

The obsessions and urges of those affected can become disruptive to normal life — making social interaction, changes in routines, and productivity more difficult than usual.

Examples of obsessive behavior that may be affected by OCD:

  • Checking on things
  • Cleaning
  • Clearing throat frequently
  • Counting things over and over
  • Enforcing specific routines
  • Forcing others to follow strict routines
  • Gambling addictions
  • Hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
  • Hand-washing
  • Hoarding
  • Nervous tics (blinking, muscle spasms)
  • Repeating words or phrases
  • Skin-picking (excoriation)

What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Fear and anxiety are both normal human responses. We use these responses to cope with threats to our survival, such as coming face to face with a hungry animal.

Feelings of fear and anxiety are meant to be short-lived and appropriate for the situation. This means that the level of anxiety and stress we experience should be enough to give us an advantage for getting out of danger (such as fighting off the hungry animal or running away) but not too much that it makes us freeze in fear.

Once the danger is gone and we’re back to safety, feelings of anxiety and stress should subside.

The stress response can become dysfunctional in several different ways, leading to anxiety disorders such as OCD.

Signs of a Dysfunctional Stress Response:
  1. Stress response lasts too long
  2. The intensity of the stress response is excessive for the level of danger involved
  3. Stress response activates more often than we need it to

Any issues with the stress response can lead to problems over time. We refer to these conditions as “poor stress adaptation” — the ability to adapt to and react to stresses is no longer working correctly.

Anxiety is the umbrella term for this form of neurological disorder, but there are many different conditions associated with a dysfunctional stress adaptation, including OCD.

Conditions Associated with Dysfunctional Stress-Adaptation:
  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Panic disorder (PD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The Importance of Stress Adaptation & OCD

All life on earth is faced with some form of stress. In the natural world, this stress usually came in the form of environmental changes temperature, hunger, and encounters with other humans or animals.

Our ability to adapt to stress helps us manage these situations. When it’s too cold outside, our stress response activates our metabolic system to drive our core body temperature up.

When we encounter a malicious animal or human, our stress response gives us a boost in energy levels to help us fight or flee to safety.

In the modern world, this same stress response is activated by non-life-threatening stressors — sometimes throughout the day. If our stress adaptation isn’t working optimally, we begin to experience debilitating side-effects of the stress response when we shouldn’t be.

Think about road rage for a moment — this is a prime example of a stress response that doesn’t serve us. Getting cut off by another driver or sitting in stand-still traffic triggers us. Despite the fact that other drivers can’t hear us, we yell or curse — creating no change to the situation.

Someone who has strong stress adaptation reflexes will find it easier to avoid road rage.

Factors That Can Reduce Our Ability To Resist Stress
  • Recreational and pharmaceutical drug use
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Smoking
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Drug addictions
  • Regular high-stress experiences

How is OCD Treated?

Treatments for OCD can vary widely. It often requires a lot of trial and error to see which medications or lifestyle changes work, and what doesn’t.

The process for treating this disorder may take several months before an effective treatment is found.

The most common medications used for OCD include:

  1. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft)
  2. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors(Pristiq, Khedezla)
  3. Benzodiazepines(Xanax, Klonopin, Librium)
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors(Marplan, Nardil, Emsam)
  5. Tricyclic antidepressants(Amitriptyline, Doxepin)
  6. Partial 5-HT1A receptor agonists
  7. Anticonvulsants(Clonazepam)

What the Research Says: CBD For OCD

There’s almost no research explicitly looking at the interaction between CBD and OCD. However, there’s plenty of excellent research supporting the use of CBD for other anxiety disorders.

A 2015 preclinical study investigating the potential new treatment of anxiety disorders using CBD concluded that:

Preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects.”

Although more specific research is needed to explore the use of CBD for OCD, the current findings are promising. The complexity of the condition makes it challenging for researchers to make any conclusive statements on the subject. OCD often comes with other medical conditions — which complicates the diagnosis.

Key Takeaways: Can CBD Help With OCD?

There are still no dedicated studies involving the use of CBD for OCD, so we can’t conclusively say that it helps or doesn’t help — however, there are plenty of excellent studies published on CBD for anxiety. Since OCD is a form of anxiety and involves many of the same side-effects and underlying pathologies as other forms of anxiety, it’s highly likely that CBD supplementation can improve symptoms of OCD.

To get the most out of your CBD supplementation, we recommend taking other measures to alleviate symptoms and following your doctor’s advice.

Should you choose to use CBD for your OCD symptoms, make sure you find a high-quality product free from contaminants, as some compounds (such as pesticides or heavy metals) can make symptoms worse.

Use our reviews to assess a company before you buy to make sure you’re not getting scammed or purchasing any contaminated or ineffective products.

CBD for OCD: Can CBD Oil Help With OCD Symptoms?

OCD, better known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions among people in the United States. Being the fourth most common mental disorder, it is more likely to develop in women than in men. Although OCD doesn’t have an identified cause (yet), symptoms of anxiety, worry, and fear can trigger and aggravate this condition.

Tackling OCD is sometimes challenging, and often involves a combination of therapy and pharmacological means. However, people have recently started to explore natural approaches to cope with their symptoms without the side effects of prescription medication.

Many of those people have found relief in CBD oil.

CBD has been touted for its anxiolytic (anxiety) and stress-reducing properties in several scientific publications, so it’s natural to wonder if it can help with OCD and its pesky symptoms.

Today, we’ll cover the potential health benefits of taking CBD for OCD. We’ll also elaborate on the most effective ways to use CBD for this condition, and answer the most frequently asked questions in this subject.

Does CBD Help with OCD?

When you browse the web searching for the evidence on the efficacy of CBD for OCD, you’ll come across dozens — if not hundreds — of anecdotal reports from users claiming CBD oil has helped them at least manage their condition.

The viability of CBD in treating the symptoms of OCD is also well backed by scientific literature.

For example, a 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics shows plenty of evidence that CBD may be an effective treatment for OCD (1). The study has only confirmed what earlier studies conducted between 1999–2002 have suggested (2).

The symptoms of OCD affect the limbic region of the brain, which controls our emotions and how we process them. Other conditions where the limbic region is affected include ADHD, dementia, and epilepsy.

The above conditions likely derive from endocannabinoid deficiencies resulting from the fast breakdown of anandamide. Anandamide is one of the two major endogenous cannabinoids (produced in the body) and a natural antidepressant. Its name stems from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ which means Divine Joy. Medical researchers also refer to anandamide as the happiness hormone, as it regulates mood as well as sensations of stress, fear, and happiness.

CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the master regulatory network in all mammals. The ECS keeps the body in a state of homeostasis (internal balance) by regulating the activity of other system organs and their functions. Through that interaction, CBD increases the production signaling of anandamide while slowing down its breakdown.

With more anandamide circulating in the bloodstream, the ECS may efficiently restore homeostasis without suffering from cannabinoid deficiencies.

Studies on Using CBD to Cope with OCD Symptoms

Anecdotal stories, as well as independent studies and a few clinical trials, have provided evidence of CBD’s therapeutic potential in treating the following symptoms of OCD:

  • Anxiety: CBD oil has already been tested as a treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, and PTSD in several experimental models (3–5). The use of CBD is particularly popular for people with mental health issues, such as panic attacks, social phobias, and general anxiety disorder.
  • Convulsions: Medical cannabis high in CBD, as well as hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD oil, have successfully been used in the management of convulsions, seizures, and muscle spasms (6–7). The neuroleptic effects of CBD allow it to reduce the frequency and severity of obsessive-compulsive behaviors in adults, children, and even pets.
  • Psychosis: CBD has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of some chronic mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and manic depression (8). Research shows that CBD supplementation shouldn’t serve as a replacement of the existing antipsychotic system, but rather as a viable addition.

The combination of anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and anti-epileptic properties make CBD a viable choice for treating a wide range of anxiety disorders. What’s more important, the use of CBD for the symptoms of OCD may reduce the risks associated with the hereditary and neurological aspects.

Which Type of CBD Products Work Best for OCD?

CBD is available in many different forms, including oils, capsules, edibles, vapes, topicals, and even pet products.

The most common form of CBD is CBD oil. This product contains a hemp extract suspended in a carrier oil, and it uses a sublingual route of administration. In other words, the user squeezes out the desired amount of CBD oil, places the dose under the tongue, and holds it there for up to 60 seconds before swallowing. This way, the CBD will absorb directly into the bloodstream through tiny blood vessels located in the mouth. CBD oil is a relatively fast-acting product; the first effects should be noticeable within 15–30 minutes after administration, lasting up to 6 hours.

If you dislike the botanical taste of full-spectrum CBD, you can try out capsules or gummies. Both are oral products, so they need to be processed by your digestive system before taking effect. As a result, oral products have a delayed onset, but since the CBD is released gradually into the bloodstream, the effects last longer than with CBD oil. CBD capsules and gummies are better for people who travel a lot and those who prefer a fixed dose of cannabidiol per serving.

Another way to take CBD for OCD is through vaping. CBD vape pens contain CBD E-liquid, which is a combination of CBD oil and thinning agents, such as vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), or MCT oil. Vaporized CBD offers the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods, meaning it squeezes the most CBD out of your product because the cannabinoid is absorbed through the lungs. CBD vapes also provide the fastest effects; they usually show up within 5–10 minutes after inhalation, lasting up to 3–4 hours.

The choice of your go-to method largely depends on your lifestyle. If you’re looking for a product that will be good for both general supplementation and relatively fast relief from OCD symptoms, CBD oil will be the best bet. Capsules (as mentioned) are better suited for busy people who need their daily dose of CBD on the go. Vapes, in turn, are catered towards users who prefer the ‘acute’ use of CBD and are looking to maximize the amount of CBD they get from a single dose.

Medical Marijuana vs CBD Oil for OCD

People report using both medical marijuana and hemp-derived CBD oil for OCD. There are, however, significant differences between these two sources of CBD. CBD products from hemp contain only trace amounts of THC, so they won’t get you high. You might feel a sense of calm, balance, and have a slightly elevated mood, but you won’t experience any mind-altering effects.

Products sourced from marijuana contain a considerable amount of THC. They induce a euphoric state of mind accompanied by a boost of appetite, deep relaxation, and the heightening of senses. This set of effects is known as the signature marijuana high. In low to moderate doses, THC can reduce anxiety and stress; however, higher amounts of THC are associated with aggravated feelings of anxiety and paranoid thinking patterns.

Therefore, hemp-derived CBD is a safer bet for people with OCD unless they carefully pay attention to the dosage of medical marijuana products. CBD oil from hemp is also more available in the US, as hemp was legalized on the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill signed by President Trump.

Dosage: How Much CBD Oil to Take for OCD

Everybody reacts differently to CBD oil, so the optimal dosage will vary from person to person. There aren’t official dosage recommendations in place because the FDA doesn’t recognize the medicinal value of hemp-derived products.

For now, CBD products are categorized as health supplements; in other words, the CBD market is unregulated when it comes to the manufacturing and labeling of the products. Some companies provide their own dosage recommendations based on several simple criteria. You can use them as a good starting point, but they won’t guarantee the best results for your situation.

The optimal amount of CBD oil for each individual depends on factors like weight, age, gender, metabolism, the severity of symptoms, anticipated effects, and even the sensitivity of one’s endocannabinoid system.

The best approach to taking CBD oil for OCD is to start low and go slow. A good starting point is about 5 mg of CBD throughout the day. You can take your dose once at a time or split it throughout the day (e.g. 2 x 2.5 mg). Increase the amount of CBD oil gradually, one week after another, until you reach the dose that eases your symptoms. From there, you can lock in at that dosage and stick to it; people don’t build a tolerance to CBD.

It’s useful to keep a journal or log where you will write down each dose and how you feel after taking it. We also recommend that you consult a doctor experienced in cannabis use if you’re looking for professional advice and want to avoid potential CBD-drug interactions.

Other Natural Remedies for OCD

Looking for other natural remedies that could enhance the effects of CBD oil on your OCS? Here’s a short list of some useful compounds:

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) – this natural amino acid effectively reduces the hyperactivity of glutamate in the brain, a neurotransmitter that may contribute to some cases of OCD (9). It also produces a potent antioxidant known as glutathione. A few recent studies have discovered that NAC may be an effective natural remedy for OCD and other mental conditions, such as depression.
  • Inositol – Inositol is a nutrient and a member of the vitamin B family, primarily found in phytic acid, one of the ingredients of fiber. Inositol is also naturally present in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and citrus fruits. In one study, inositol was found to help alleviate OCD symptoms in thirteen patients with this condition compared to the placebo group (10).
  • St John’s Wort – in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, St John’s Wort has concluded an effective treatment for OCD. The study involved a 12-week trial where patients were treated with 450 mg of St John’s wort twice daily. After evaluating the effects, it turned out that 42% of the subject rated “much” or “very much improved” and 50% described their symptoms as “minimally improved.” (11)
  • 5 HTP – 5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of serotonin. Considering that serotonin-promoting tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs are used for the treatment of OCD, 5 HTP may also be an effective option. However, this needs to be clinically studied because, despite the theoretical possibility and anecdotal reports from patients and nutritional practitioners, we simply lack research that would bring this subject closer to us.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – deficiencies in omega 3 fatty acids are common among people suffering from depression and anxiety-related disorders. There’s a growing body of evidence that supplementation with fish oil, which is a rich source of highly bioavailable omega 3 acids, has a beneficial effect on mental functioning, concentration, mood, and stress management. Thus, many people decide to include fish oil and other omega-3-rich products in their diet to boost the effectiveness of their OCD treatment.

Understanding OCD: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental condition that causes a person to experience obsessive thoughts that trigger anxiety, resulting in compulsions to perform a certain behavior. For example, people with OCD may be bothered by intrusive thoughts that the door isn’t locked when they have left the house. This may happen even when they triple-checked it. An anxious thought leads to compulsive behavior, which manifests in returning home to check if the door is really locked.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

The two main symptoms of OCSD include obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

When it comes to obsessive thoughts, these vary between individuals, falling into several different categories most of the time.

Examples of obsessive thoughts:

  • Fear of viruses and contamination
  • Having things organized in a particular manner
  • Fear of harming someone
  • Fear of forgetting about important things and events
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Obsession with certain symbols being good or bad

People engage in compulsive behaviors as a way to cope with the anxiety they experience from obsessive thoughts. A person will often repeat these behaviors time and again as short-term means of reducing their anxiety levels.

Examples of compulsive behaviors:

  • Excessive cleaning
  • Excessive hand washing
  • Compulsive counting
  • Repeating certain phrases
  • Repeating activities
  • Continually checking that things are done

Who Is Particularly Prone to Develop OCD?

Although we don’t yet completely understand what triggers OCD, we do know there are hereditary factors involved, as OCD is more likely to develop in people whose first-degree relatives have this disorder. Also, the likelihood of developing OCD is increased among people who have a history of sexual trauma or abuse in childhood.

How Is OCD Typically Treated?

People with OCD may try to avoid situations in which they know they might demonstrate compulsive behaviors due to their obsessive thoughts. In addition, some may turn to alcohol or drugs as a misguided attempt to self-treat.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is by far the most common treatment for OCD. It helps people reach their underlying fears as well as address them. Other forms of treatment include antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). However, about 50% of people fail to respond to SSRIs. The next type of medication involves antipsychotic drugs. Studies show conflicting results for both SSRIs and antipsychotic medications in OCD treatments.

Final Verdict: Is CBD a Valid Option for OCD?

OCD is a troubling mental health condition that can be difficult to diagnose and treat with success. Cognitive-behavioral therapy generally works for OCD, but some people may be apprehensive about taking this approach due to a stigma associated with the mental diagnosis. Pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants, are another possible option, but 50% of people do not respond to these medications.

CBD is the new promising molecule for the treatment of OCD and its symptoms. CBD has been shown to influence several aspects of our mental health, including feelings of anxiety, fear, panic, and compulsion. Since anxiety is one of the core symptoms of OCD, you can use CBD oil to curb it effectively without the side effects of pharmacological treatment. CBD has an excellent safety profile and is well tolerated by humans.

However, keep in mind that CBD products aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). CBD is a versatile tool for improving one’s quality of life, but for the time being, the FDA classifies it as a health supplement, so there is no standardization when it comes to manufacturing practices or dosages. Therefore, it’s essential that you leave no stone unturned when researching your potential supplier. Doing so will help you ensure both the quality and safety of the products.

References:

  1. Blessing, Esther M et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,4 (2015): 825-36. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  2. Boshuisen, Marjolein L et al. “rCBF differences between panic disorder patients and control subjects during anticipatory anxiety and rest.” Biological psychiatry vol. 52,2 (2002): 126-35. doi:10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01355-0
  3. Blessing, Esther M et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,4 (2015): 825-36. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  4. de Mello Schier, Alexandre R et al. “Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa.” CNS & neurological disorders drug targets vol. 13,6 (2014): 953-60. doi:10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
  5. Shannon, Scott, and Janet Opila-Lehman. “Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report.” The Permanente journal vol. 20,4 (2016): 16-005. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-005
  6. Devinsky, Orrin et al. “Effect of Cannabidiol on Drop Seizures in the Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 378,20 (2018): 1888-1897. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1714631
  7. Malfitano, Anna Maria et al. “Cannabinoids in the management of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment vol. 4,5 (2008): 847-53. doi:10.2147/ndt.s3208
  8. Davies, Cathy, and Sagnik Bhattacharyya. “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for psychosis.” Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology vol. 9 2045125319881916. 8 Nov. 2019, doi:10.1177/2045125319881916
  9. Grant, Jon E et al. “N-acetylcysteine, a glutamate modulator, in the treatment of trichotillomania: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Archives of general psychiatry vol. 66,7 (2009): 756-63. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.60
  10. Fux M, Levine J, Aviv A, Belmaker RH. Inositol treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 1996 Sep;153(9):1219-1221. DOI: 10.1176/ajp.153.9.1219.
  11. Taylor, L H, and K A Kobak. “An open-label trial of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in obsessive-compulsive disorder.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 61,8 (2000): 575-8. doi:10.4088/jcp.v61n0806
Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

Acute effects of cannabinoids on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder: A human laboratory study

Background: Preclinical data implicate the endocannabinoid system in the pathology underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), while survey data have linked OCD symptoms to increased cannabis use. Cannabis products are increasingly marketed as treatments for anxiety and other OCD-related symptoms. Yet, few studies have tested the acute effects of cannabis on psychiatric symptoms in humans.

Methods: We recruited 14 adults with OCD and prior experience using cannabis to enter a randomized, placebo-controlled, human laboratory study to compare the effects on OCD symptoms of cannabis containing varying concentrations of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) on OCD symptoms to placebo. We used a within-subjects design to increase statistical power. Across three laboratory sessions, participants smoked three cannabis varietals in random order: placebo (0% THC/0% CBD); THC (7.0% THC/0.18% CBD); and CBD (0.4% THC/10.4% CBD). We analyzed acute changes in OCD symptoms, state anxiety, cardiovascular measures, and drug-related effects (e.g., euphoria) as a function of varietal.

Results: Twelve participants completed the study. THC increased heart rate, blood pressure, and intoxication compared with CBD and placebo. Self-reported OCD symptoms and anxiety decreased over time in all three conditions. Although OCD symptoms did not vary as a function of cannabis varietal, state anxiety was significantly lower immediately after placebo administration relative to both THC and CBD.

Conclusions: This is the first placebo-controlled investigation of cannabis in adults with OCD. The data suggest that smoked cannabis, whether containing primarily THC or CBD, has little acute impact on OCD symptoms and yields smaller reductions in anxiety compared to placebo.

Keywords: THC; anxiety; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; cannabis; marijuana; obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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