Does CBD Oil Treat Ocd

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Both CBD and marijuana are widely used by people with OCD. But so far the research hasn't been very clear about their effects. Read our blog to know whether it helps or not. Research shows CBD oil can support anxiety, fear, panic, and compulsive behavior in patients with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). 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.

How do CBD and marijuana affect OCD?

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.

In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 22.2 million people had used marijuana in the past month—7% of the population. This made it the most commonly used drug in the United States, and usage was trending upward. As states continue to battle over medical and recreational legalization, marijuana is becoming an increasingly typical part of life in the United States. So far, recreational use has been legalized in ten states and in Washington D.C. Medical use, restricted to those with certain conditions, is now partially or completely legal in 36 states.

These statistics vary drastically around the world, for many reasons. But in the US, at least, widespread and growing use points to a reality in which cannabis products ought to be part of any discussion about mental health. It also points to a need for these discussions to be based in evidence, not alarmism or anecdote.

The short-term effects of cannabis can interact with mental health conditions in complex ways—exacerbating anxiety or encouraging mania, for example. And the long-term effects of these substances are the subject of never-ending, often aggressive debate. A few years ago, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee to take a thorough look at huge amounts of research. Their fascinating 2017 report draws over 100 conclusions, among them:

  • “There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses”
  • “There is moderate evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and… a small increased risk for the development of depressive disorders; increased incidence of suicidal ideation, attempts, completion; increased incidence of social anxiety disorder”
  • “There is limited evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for… improving symptoms of Tourette syndrome; improving anxiety symptoms in individuals with social anxiety disorder; improving symptoms of PTSD”

Another substance to worry about?

The term cannabinoids encompasses marijuana and other substances that work on the same receptors in our brain. In the past few years, a different kind of cannabis product has grown explosively in popularity. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most abundant chemical compound in marijuana. But when extracted from hemp—a cousin of the marijuana plant—CBD is isolated from THC, the compound in marijuana that causes a high and other psychoactive effects. However, many CBD products actually do contain some proportion of THC.

Subject to claims of effectiveness for all kinds of conditions, CBD is being marketed far more quickly than it can be researched. Due to its trendiness and a shaky but largely unenforced legal status, US sales grew from $108.1 million in 2014 to an estimated $813.2 million in 2019. By 2022 CBD sales are projected to approach $2 billion. Walgreens sells CBD products in nine states, CVS in eight. A staggering 14% of American adults say they use CBD, primarily for pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

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.

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.

Very little or no research has been conducted on most mental health conditions in relation to the effects of cannabis products. Confusion is the status quo with both substances, although the fact that CBD typically has milder effects and isn’t exactly illegal in most places has allowed manufacturers to shape public opinion significantly.

People with mental health conditions, prone to distress, are often in search of relief. Whether illegally or legally, in moderation or excess, they’re more likely to use substances than the general population. Studies have found that 27-39% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder met lifetime criteria for substance use disorder (involving any substance), and general usage rates are certainly higher. So, how do the most prevalent illicit drug and its nonintoxicating counterpart affect people with OCD?

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Cannabis products and OCD

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.

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.”

A 2017 study at Washington State University showed that OCD are “was positively associated with cannabis misuse, but not frequency of cannabis use or quantity.” But, as with other studies along the same lines, the researchers didn’t look at the effects of marijuana on their subjects.

Meanwhile, a 2017 clinical trial at the New York State Psychiatric Institute called “Effects of Marijuana on Symptoms of OCD,” has yet to post results. If results do emerge, they’ll come from only 14 participants—a great start, but hardly conclusive. That marijuana remains illegal and stigmatized in so many places limits sample sizes and therefore study progress, and researchers must do what they can with a limited patient population.

Researchers have conducted a few animal studies with cannabinoids, yielding mixed results. Two studies, from 2010 and 2013, linked CBD with a reduction in compulsive-like marble-burying behavior among mice. However, as Dr. Feusner notes, the observed mouse behaviors like marble-burying or pathological grooming aren’t necessarily complete models for OCD in humans.

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.

Clearly, research efforts have not been extensive enough to determine whether marijuana and CBD might be helpful or harmful for people with OCD. There’s still a lot of energy around this topic, though, and a few researchers plan to conduct larger-scale surveys of people with OCD—perhaps in preparation for research studies. (For more on these, stay tuned to the NOCD blog.)

For the time being, it’s advisable to stay away from psychoactive substances, particularly if one has a mental health condition. The reality is that we still know very little about what happens to the human brain on marijuana and CBD. And with psychiatric conditions already complicating things, there’s good reason to wait for further research to emerge.

If you’re age 18 or older and have been diagnosed with OCD, you can help make this research happen. Take this brief survey from McMaster University.

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.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, schedule a free call today with the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed therapist can help. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training.

Can CBD Help With OCD? (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a subcategory of anxiety.

Despite a lack of clinical studies on CBD for OCD, there are some things we know already.

Learn how CBD works, how to use it, and what else you can do to support your symptoms.

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 1.2% of the American population has clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a subcategory of anxiety, which is expected to affect as many as 29% of the public at some point in their lifetime [2].

Here, you’ll learn how CBD can be used to alleviate common symptoms of OCD, what dose to take, and what else you can do to maximize the benefits.

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Carlos G. Aguirre, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist

Updated on January 12, 2022

Table of Contents
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Can CBD Help With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterized clinically as an anxiety disorder.

There isn’t much research on how effective CBD is for OCD specifically — however, there are other studies that indicate potential benefits for anxiety as a whole.

There are a few mechanisms CBD uses to alleviate anxiety symptoms, many of which can be linked to the pathology involved with OCD.

The benefits of CBD oil for OCD may include:

  • Supports sleep
  • Reduces cortisol levels to ameliorate stress
  • Reduces brain inflammation
  • May help stabilize mood (serotonin support)
  • Alleviates pain
  • Relaxes muscle tension
  • Alleviates nausea
  • Protects the neurons from oxidative damage
  • Improves appetite

What Type of CBD Products Should I Use For OCD?

There’s capsules, oils, tinctures, edibles, and topicals. Each one has its own set of positives and negatives, and not all are suitable for every person.

The most common choice, by far, is CBD oil, but capsules and edibles are also both excellent forms of CBD for people suffering from OCD or other forms of anxiety.

CBD oil is taken by measuring the desired dose using the supplied dropper. You can place the oil under your tongue for faster absorption or swallow it right away — both methods work perfectly fine.

Capsules and edibles make dosing even easier because they come pre-measured for specific doses. The downside is that edibles and capsules tend to be a little more expensive than oils, and the dose can’t be dialed into the same level of specificity.

What Dose of CBD Oil Should I Use?

Everybody reacts differently to CBD. Some people need a minimal dose; others need a huge dose — it all depends on your genes and the specific set of symptoms.

Therefore, there is no single dosage recommendation that we can make.

In general, people with mild to moderate OCD report a low- to medium-strength dosage is enough to provide relief from their symptoms. For more severe OCD, a high-strength dose is required to deliver the same benefits.

Use the chart below to find your general dosage requirements according to your weight and desired strength. Remember that these are merely guidelines. The dose can vary a lot from one person to the next so always start low and build up to higher doses gradually once you know how it affects you individually.

Recommended strength for OCD: low to heavy strength.

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What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is an anxiety disorder involving frequent, recurring thoughts and obsessions. It often causes people to develop strong urges to do things repetitively or compulsively — often referred to as tics.

The obsessions and urges of those affected can become disruptive to normal life — making social interaction, changes in routines, and productivity more difficult than usual.

Examples of obsessive behavior that may be affected by OCD:

  • Checking on things
  • Cleaning
  • Clearing throat frequently
  • Counting things over and over
  • Enforcing specific routines
  • Forcing others to follow strict routines
  • Gambling addictions
  • Hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
  • Hand-washing
  • Hoarding
  • Nervous tics (blinking, muscle spasms)
  • Repeating words or phrases
  • Skin-picking (excoriation)

What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Fear and anxiety are both normal human responses. We use these responses to cope with threats to our survival, such as coming face to face with a hungry animal.

Feelings of fear and anxiety are meant to be short-lived and appropriate for the situation. This means that the level of anxiety and stress we experience should be enough to give us an advantage for getting out of danger (such as fighting off the hungry animal or running away) but not too much that it makes us freeze in fear.

Once the danger is gone and we’re back to safety, feelings of anxiety and stress should subside.

The stress response can become dysfunctional in several different ways, leading to anxiety disorders such as OCD.

Signs of a Dysfunctional Stress Response:
  1. Stress response lasts too long
  2. The intensity of the stress response is excessive for the level of danger involved
  3. Stress response activates more often than we need it to

Any issues with the stress response can lead to problems over time. We refer to these conditions as “poor stress adaptation” — the ability to adapt to and react to stresses is no longer working correctly.

Anxiety is the umbrella term for this form of neurological disorder, but there are many different conditions associated with a dysfunctional stress adaptation, including OCD.

Conditions Associated with Dysfunctional Stress-Adaptation:
  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Panic disorder (PD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The Importance of Stress Adaptation & OCD

All life on earth is faced with some form of stress. In the natural world, this stress usually came in the form of environmental changes temperature, hunger, and encounters with other humans or animals.

Our ability to adapt to stress helps us manage these situations. When it’s too cold outside, our stress response activates our metabolic system to drive our core body temperature up.

When we encounter a malicious animal or human, our stress response gives us a boost in energy levels to help us fight or flee to safety.

In the modern world, this same stress response is activated by non-life-threatening stressors — sometimes throughout the day. If our stress adaptation isn’t working optimally, we begin to experience debilitating side-effects of the stress response when we shouldn’t be.

Think about road rage for a moment — this is a prime example of a stress response that doesn’t serve us. Getting cut off by another driver or sitting in stand-still traffic triggers us. Despite the fact that other drivers can’t hear us, we yell or curse — creating no change to the situation.

Someone who has strong stress adaptation reflexes will find it easier to avoid road rage.

Factors That Can Reduce Our Ability To Resist Stress
  • Recreational and pharmaceutical drug use
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Smoking
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Drug addictions
  • Regular high-stress experiences

How is OCD Treated?

Treatments for OCD can vary widely. It often requires a lot of trial and error to see which medications or lifestyle changes work, and what doesn’t.

The process for treating this disorder may take several months before an effective treatment is found.

The most common medications used for OCD include:

  1. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft)
  2. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors(Pristiq, Khedezla)
  3. Benzodiazepines(Xanax, Klonopin, Librium)
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors(Marplan, Nardil, Emsam)
  5. Tricyclic antidepressants(Amitriptyline, Doxepin)
  6. Partial 5-HT1A receptor agonists
  7. Anticonvulsants(Clonazepam)

What the Research Says: CBD For OCD

There’s almost no research explicitly looking at the interaction between CBD and OCD. However, there’s plenty of excellent research supporting the use of CBD for other anxiety disorders.

A 2015 preclinical study investigating the potential new treatment of anxiety disorders using CBD concluded that:

Preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects.”

Although more specific research is needed to explore the use of CBD for OCD, the current findings are promising. The complexity of the condition makes it challenging for researchers to make any conclusive statements on the subject. OCD often comes with other medical conditions — which complicates the diagnosis.

Key Takeaways: Can CBD Help With OCD?

There are still no dedicated studies involving the use of CBD for OCD, so we can’t conclusively say that it helps or doesn’t help — however, there are plenty of excellent studies published on CBD for anxiety. Since OCD is a form of anxiety and involves many of the same side-effects and underlying pathologies as other forms of anxiety, it’s highly likely that CBD supplementation can improve symptoms of OCD.

To get the most out of your CBD supplementation, we recommend taking other measures to alleviate symptoms and following your doctor’s advice.

Should you choose to use CBD for your OCD symptoms, make sure you find a high-quality product free from contaminants, as some compounds (such as pesticides or heavy metals) can make symptoms worse.

Use our reviews to assess a company before you buy to make sure you’re not getting scammed or purchasing any contaminated or ineffective products.

Acute effects of cannabinoids on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder: A human laboratory study

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.

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.

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.

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.

Keywords: THC; anxiety; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; cannabis; marijuana; obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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