Marijuana and OCD – does weed really help to fight obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Marijuana and OCD
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Medical Marijuana for OCD

According to WHO, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD is one of the top ten causes of non-fatal health loss and illness-related disabilities. Millions of people of all gender, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are affected by this neurobiological disorder. Nearly 1.2% of the American adults and about 2% of the Canadian adults currently suffer from different stages of OCD. Although it is now considered to be a fairly common mental disorder, typically starting in the early adult years, treating OCD with medication is still quite challenging. Doctors usually prescribe antidepressants and antianxiety meds that have many unwanted side-effects on your physiological as well as mental health. It is, for this reason, many people suffering from OCD are now turning to medical marijuana for symptom relief. It is not merely a popular belief anymore; there is now a growing body of scientific research on marijuana and OCD to support this practice. To know how marijuana can help you combat OCD, keep reading this post.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

OCD is an anxiety disorder where people have unwanted, recurring thoughts, unrelenting obsessions, repetitive and compulsive behaviors. Very often, compulsive behavior turns into repetitive, ritualistic habits and actions. As healthcare experts suggest, OCD patients usually suffer from obsessions about fear of contamination, symmetry, and exactness of order, excessive demand for perfection as well as sexual or other forbidden thoughts. These obsessions, in turn, inspire repetitive compulsive behaviors or habits like continuously cleaning and washing, checking on things, counting, rubbing, ordering and arranging things etc. These unwarranted obsessions and compulsions usually cause a lot of distress and anxiety. They also badly affect the normal routine of a person, their work and social relationships to a great extent.

Marijuana and OCD

Traditional treatment of OCD uses a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or tricyclic anti-depressant medicines. Now, the problem is that these prescription drugs have lots of side-effects which include nausea, headache, unnecessary weight gain, diarrhea, insomnia, drowsiness, and others. This makes medical marijuana a very effective alternative to treat the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Side-effects of cannabis consumption are really low. There is absolutely no risk of overdosing yourself. According to a number of recent studies, the consumption of cannabis has produced positive results in many patients suffering from OCD. A research report published by scientists from the Columbia University and the Weill Cornell Medical College at New York in 2019 has listed at least three prominent cases where the patient’s Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS), which measures the severity of disorder in patients, had dropped significantly after using dronabinol, a synthetic version of the cannabinoid THC.

How does marijuana work to reduce symptoms of OCD?

To understand the connection between marijuana and OCD, you need to have a fair idea about how cannabis works on the human brain and body. THC, CBD and other cannabinoids present in marijuana mimic and interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) or the cannabinoids present inside our own body. When we consume cannabis in any form, different cannabinoids from it binds themselves with the various cannabinoid receptors in the ECS to produce various effects and provide symptoms relief. Now, it is the same endocannabinoid system of our body which serves as the link between marijuana and OCD. According to recent scientific researches, the cannabinoid1 or CB1 receptors are located in the same region of our brain and central nervous system that is responsible for causing OCD. Studies have found that CB1 stimulating cannabinoids have an amazing ability in reducing anxiety and enhancing the extinction of fear memories when administered in controlled doses. This makes cannabis extremely effective in treating some of the symptoms related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Marijuana and OCD – the role of THC

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychotropic cannabinoid present in marijuana, interacts with anandamide – a fatty acid neurotransmitter present in the ECS – to produce a calming and blissful effect on the body and thereby reduces anxiety. Decreasing anxiety is a very crucial step towards stopping the compulsive urges of an OCD patient.

CBD-heavy marijuana and OCD

There are now a number of scientific studies and clinical trials that show how CBD or cannabidiol helps to alleviate various symptoms of OCD. The antiepileptic, sedating and anxiolytic properties of the non psychoactive cannabinoid are extremely useful in combating anxiety issues and obsessive urges of OCD. Cannabidiol stimulates anandamide signaling and alleviates a variety of psychotic conditions. As CBD has zero psychotropic effects, you will never get high from it. This makes it extremely helpful for OCD patients who can now break away from their repetitive rituals and obsessive-compulsive urges and focus on work and social relations.

Cannabis terpenes and OCD

In addition to the cannabinoids like THC and CBD, the terpenes present in cannabis have a positive effect on the patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder as well. Limonene, the second best abundant terpene in cannabis plants, has amazing anti-anxiety properties, so do myrcene, linalool, beta-caryphyllene and alpha-pinene. These terpenes increase the entourage effect of the cannabinoids and enhance the medicinal effects of marijuana.

Before you start using marijuana for OCD, it is important to find out whether you need a THC-heavy strain or CBD. As we have noted earlier, both THC and CBD have anti-anxiety properties and are effective in treating various symptoms of OCD. However, our bodies are different and each OCD patient suffers from unique obsessions, compulsive habits, and anxieties. While some respond better to THC, others require strictly CBD products. Depending on your specific OCD symptoms and the severity of the disorder, you may find one type of marijuana more suited for your purposes than others. Take time to do a little research, check out the different cannabinoid contents and unique terpene profiles of different strains, then decide what is best for you.

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