Study Finds Marijuana Reduces Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms

Study Finds Marijuana Reduces Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms

According to a new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, marijuana inhalation is associated with temporary reductions in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): The study is titled Acute effects of cannabis on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For the study researchers from the University of Washington examined data from 87 individuals who self-identified as suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Researchers asked those participating in the study to use a smartphone application to the track the severity of their symptoms immediately before and shortly following marijuana use: Researchers examined this over a 31-month period.

“Using a large dataset of medical cannabis users self-medicating for symptoms of OCD, we found that for the vast majority of cannabis use sessions individuals reported reductions in intrusions [unwanted thoughts or impulses], compulsions, and anxiety”, states the study, noting that results “indicated that after inhaling cannabis, ratings of intrusions were reduced by 49 percent, compulsions by 60 percent, and anxiety by 52 percent.” Decreseases in compulsive behavior was related to higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

The study concludes by stating that: “Results from the present study indicate that inhaled cannabis may acutely reduce symptoms of OCD. While the symptom severity ratings were reduced by approximately 50 to 60 percent from immediately before to after cannabis use, there was evidence that cannabis-associated reductions in intrusions may diminish over time. Collectively these results indicate that cannabis may have short-term, but not long-term beneficial effects on symptoms of OCD.”

Below is the study’s full abstract:

Background: Little is known about the the acute effects of cannabis on symptoms of OCD in humans. Therefore, this study sought to: 1) examine whether symptoms of OCD are significantly reduced after inhaling cannabis, 2) examine predictors (gender, dose, cannabis constituents, time) of these symptom changes and 3) explore potential long-term consequences of repeatedly using cannabis to self-medicate for OCD symptoms, including changes in dose and baseline symptom severity over time.

Method: Data were analyzed from the app Strainprint® which provides medical cannabis patients a means of tracking changes in symptoms as a function of different doses and strains of cannabis across time. Specifically, data were analyzed from 87 individuals self-identifying with OCD who tracked the severity of their intrusions, compulsions, and/or anxiety immediately before and after 1,810 cannabis use sessions spanning a period of 31 months.

Results: Patients reported a 60% reduction in compulsions, a 49% reduction in intrusions, and a 52% reduction in anxiety from before to after inhaling cannabis. Higher concentrations of CBD and higher doses predicted larger reductions in compulsions. The number of cannabis use sessions across time predicted changes in intrusions, such that later cannabis use sessions were associated with smaller reductions in intrusions. Baseline symptom severity and dose remained fairly constant over time.

Limitations: The sample was self-selected, self-identified as having OCD, and there was no placebo control group.

Conclusions: Inhaled cannabis appears to have short-term beneficial effects on symptoms of OCD. However, tolerance to the effects on intrusions may develop over time.

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