Although 2-3% of the population has OCD, it doesn’t get enough attention from researchers around the world. This is reflected in the fact that no new medication for OCD has been developed since 1997. Research gravitates toward conditions that are more prominent in our media, already receive better funding, and are at least a bit better understood—think depression and PTSD. There is always remarkable research emerging on OCD, but typically not on the same scale.
A 2016 study sheds additional light on the possible neurobiology of these effects. When CB1 receptors—which are blocked indirectly by CBD—were deleted in specific neurons, mice were not able to shift from “goal-directed” to “habitual” behavior (possibly an analogue to compulsions in humans). Those researchers concluded that mice were switching between goal-directed and habitual behaviors based on activity in their CB1 receptors.
Source: Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
Cannabis products and OCD
Unfortunately, this lack of research carries over to substance use as it relates to OCD. As Dr. Jamie Feusner, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and NOCD Chief Medical Officer, put it: “There is very little known about marijuana or CBD use in people with OCD, and no clinical studies of these substances in people with OCD have been published.”
On the other hand, countless people with or without psychiatric disorders say that marijuana and/or CBD help them feel better. Much research, though in its early form, supports the effectiveness of both medical marijuana and CBD for specific conditions. But, as stated in the National Academies report, there’s only limited evidence for a small number of conditions.
Another substance to worry about?
People say all kinds of things about marijuana and CBD. They range from potentially true to probably nonsensical, and the longtime illegality of cannabinoid products has only made it harder to get any research done. Everyone is confused—especially those with mental health conditions, who might have the same desire to try these substances but a reduced ability to tolerate their effects.
Disclaimer: This post is an examination of research on marijuana and CBD usage among people with OCD and other mental health conditions. NOCD does not endorse any study or its results, or recommend the use of marijuana, CBD, or any psychoactive drug.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keywords: THC; anxiety; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; cannabis; marijuana; obsessive-compulsive disorder.