Researchers from Washington State University have found that smoking cannabis can lead to a short term reduction in up to 50% of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms.
Current treatments for OCD include exposure and response prevention therapy, where irrational thoughts around certain behaviors are directly challenged. Antidepressants or serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) are also commonly prescribed. While these treatments may relieve symptoms, however, neither are curative nor do they work in every case of OCD.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data inputted by users of the Strainprint app who self-identified as having OCD, a condition characterized by intrusive and persistent thoughts alongside repetitive behaviors. All in all, the data logged over 1,800 cannabis sessions from 87 individuals over a period of 31 months.
From the data, the researchers found that after smoking cannabis, users who self-identified as having OCD reported a 60% reduction in their compulsions. They also reported a 49% decrease in intrusions and a 52% reduction in anxiety. In particular, the researchers found that those taking higher doses of cannabis, and strains with higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD), tended to see greater reductions in their compulsions.
They also found, however, that as people continued to use cannabis, the associated reductions in intrusion slightly diminished, suggesting that over time users build a tolerance to the plant. Despite this, the relationship between cannabis and reductions in OCD symptoms remained fairly consistent, although symptoms were only reduced within four hours of smoking the plant.
As such, the researchers say that their results suggest that cannabis may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of OCD in the short term. They highlight, however, that these effects do not appear to be long-term. In particular, they find the CBD findings to be of interest, as the compound is not intoxicating and thus holds the potential to enter clinical trials to modulate compulsive behavior.
Although interesting findings, the researchers not that their inability to use a placebo control and an ‘expectancy effect’ among users may have hindered the validity of their results. Moreover, as the data came from a self-selected sample of cannabis users, and all results were self-reported, their results need more robust evidence to be conclusive.