KEY POINTS

  • After smoking cannabis, users with OCD reduced their compulsions by 60% and reduced their anxiety by 52%
  • OCD is a condition characterized by persistent thoughts and repetitive behavior
  • The study was recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders

A Washington State University study revealed people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experienced  a reduction in symptom severity within hours of smoking cannabis.

The researchers analyzed data from people who self-identified as having OCD, a condition characterized by persistent thoughts and repetitive behavior. After smoking cannabis, users with OCD experienced a 60% reduction in compulsions and a 52% reduction in anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association Of America, OCD affects 1% of the U.S. population. It is equally common among genders and about one-third of affected adults first experienced symptoms during childhood.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, found higher doses and cannabis with greater concentrations of CBD were associated with bigger reductions in compulsions.

“The results overall indicate that cannabis may have some beneficial short-term but not really long-term effects on obsessive-compulsive disorder,” said Carrie Cuttler, the study’s corresponding author.

“To me, the CBD findings are really promising because it is not intoxicating. This is an area of research that would really benefit from clinical trials looking at changes in compulsions, intrusions and anxiety with pure CBD.”

The WSU study drew from data of more than 1,800 cannabis sessions that 87 individuals logged in 31 months. As people continued the study, users developed a small tolerance to cannabis, but reductions in compulsions and anxiety remained fairly consistent.

Traditional treatments for OCD include exposure and response prevention therapy where people’s irrational thoughts around their behaviors are directly challenged. Other mainstream treatments include antidepressants.

 While these treatments have positive effects for many patients, they do not cure OCD nor do they work well for every person.

“We’re trying to build knowledge about the relationship of cannabis use and OCD because it’s an area that is really understudied,” said Dakota Mauzay, a doctoral student in Cuttler’s lab and co-author of the paper.

Researchers are just beginning to understand uses for cannabis. Harvard Medical School reported cannabis is commonly used for pain control in the United States. While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain, it is quite effective for chronic and lingering pain, especially for aging individuals. Marijuana is a muscle relaxant, and users say it has the ability to lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease.

In states where medical marijuana has been approved for use, it is authorized for dozens of ailments, including agitation in Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease and glaucoma.