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Study Summary: Effects of Cannabis for OCD

Updated: Dec 15, 2023


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Welcome to Higher Learning LV's Study Summary series. This series reviews and summarizes peer-reviewed research studies and was developed specifically for cannabis industry professionals. These study summaries provide easily digested quick reads for a variety of important issues regarding the commerce and chemistry of legal cannabis.

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Does pot help OCD?

Cannabis for OCD Study

A 2021 study entitled "Acute Effects of Cannabis on Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" that was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders examined the efficacy of cannabis for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


"Little is known about the the acute effects of cannabis on symptoms of OCD in humans. Therefore, this study sought to examine: 1) whether symptoms of OCD are significantly reduced after inhaling cannabis."

Reported the researchers: "Little is known about the the acute effects of cannabis on symptoms of OCD in humans. Therefore, this study sought to examine: 1) whether symptoms of OCD are significantly reduced after inhaling cannabis, 2) predictors (gender, dose, cannabis constituents, time) of these symptom changes, and 3) potential long-term consequences of repeatedly using cannabis to self-medicate for OCD symptoms."


According to the Mayo Clinic, OCD "features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead [patients] to [perform] repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress."

A person holds a cannabis bud.
OCD is unwanted fears.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimates that 1.2 percent of adults have this potentially debilitating condition that heavily involves anxiety. More than three times more women than men are diagnosed with this condition. Few people are diagnosed with OCD after the age of 30.


It is estimated that 90 percent of those who suffer OCD have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or a mood disorder. Interestingly, early-onset OCD that afflicts children 10 or younger occurs typically in boys, while it is mostly females who are diagnosed with the condition after the age of 10.


The sample size of this study was relatively low at only 87 adults. Another issue in the design of this particular research is that it relied upon self-reported data from patients who used cannabis to treat their OCD.

The sample size of this study was relatively low at only 87 adults. Another issue in the design of this particular research is that it relied upon self-reported data from patients who used cannabis to treat their OCD. Data was gathered from the Strainprint® mobile app that "provides medical cannabis patients a means of tracking changes in symptoms as a function of different doses and strains of cannabis across time."


The study report included a Limitations section that noted that the participants were self-selected and also self-identified as having OCD and that "there was no placebo control group."

A young cannabis plant.
More research needed.

Participants tracked the severity of their OCD "intrusions, compulsions, and/or anxiety immediately before and after 1,810 cannabis use sessions spanning a period of 31 months."


Cannabis for OCD Study: Results

Cannabis for OCD. The study reported a variety of improvements in the participants following their self-reported consumption of cannabis. Sixty percent experienced reductions in compulsions, 49 percent experienced a reduction in intrusions, and a 52 percent underwent a reduction in anxiety "after inhaling cannabis."


The study also found a correlation between dose and efficacy. "Higher concentrations of CBD and higher doses predicted larger reductions in compulsions."

The study also found a correlation between dose and efficacy. "Higher concentrations of CBD and higher doses predicted larger reductions in compulsions," reported the study's authors. Interestingly, the study found that the number of cannabis use sessions over time "predicted changes in intrusions, such that later cannabis use sessions were associated with smaller reductions in intrusions."


Cannabis for OCD Study: Conclusions

Cannabis for OCD. The researchers concluded that "inhaled cannabis appears to have short-term beneficial effects on symptoms of OCD," but noted that "tolerance to the effects on [OCD] intrusions may develop over time."


View the original study.

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