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Cannabis and OCD: What Does Science say?

You must have heard of OCD being used flippantly as a pejorative. Some people are mockingly accused of exhibiting OCD behavior, a disease that affects every 1 in 40 adults as per the current estimates. Living with this mental condition can be extremely distressing and exhausting. 

Current research has been focused on determining the role of the Endocannabinoid system in dealing with fear, patterns of anxiety and repetitive behaviors. As a result of this, scientists have begun looking at possible treatment options by making use of cannabinoids for the alleviation of symptoms of OCD. 

At the basic level, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more popularly known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder that hampers the ability of the brain to form connections between habits and goal-oriented behavior.

It affects people in various ways with different levels of intensity like any other mental condition. The symptoms of patients suffering from OCD can range from feeling the strong urge to align all objects symmetrically to body centered disorders like hair pulling, 

Every person’s experience with OCD is different and specific to them but most of them share a common experience of obsessive and persistent thoughts that can be severely disturbing. These thoughts can lead to serious anxiety issues and they begin performing repetitive actions and rituals that disperse their anxiety. 

THC or CBD for OCD?

It is a known fact that both THC and CBD have slightly different effects on the user. This difference is more significant when treating a patient suffering from OCD with cannabis products.

A lower dosage of THC is seen to have a positive effect on symptoms like anxiety and depression. However, when consumed in very high doses, it has the opposite effect on the user. Some people have also complained of episodes of paranoia and panic attacks.

This problem is common when it comes to treating OCD and anxiety disorders with cannabis. These days, cannabis users have begun to create strains that contain as much THC as possible. Unfortunately, this can be very risky owing to the side effects. 

Thus, it is important for people who suffer from anxiety to put away the strains that contain high proportions of THC. They may resort to using CBD instead. 

On the other hand, CBD does not give its users psychedelic effects like THC. CBD does not give the user a high and will not increase anxiety. CBD in fact counters some of the effects caused by THC to a certain extent. Therefore, patients can find strains that have a high CBD proportion and minimum levels of THC. 

There are also some alternatives to CBD oils. Oils are being extracted from industrial hemp and contain a very low percentage (0.3%) of THC. Nowadays various cannabis extracts are available online and you can have them delivered right to your home. You can even have them used in products that are edible.

How can Cannabis help?

A review published by the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research team in 2019 has discovered evidence that suggests that the endocannabinoid system can show the way for treating OCD (Source).

The review has suggested that cannabis can be used to manage the levels of anxiety (which is a defining element of OCD) and reduce it to a level that is bearable by using the THC. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects. 

To put it in clearer terms, the components that form the cannabis products seem to have an effect on controlling anxiety effectively. This can therefore reduce the impact of OCD in the brain. 

OCD impacts parts of the brain that are related to anxiety, stress, habitual behaviors and fear conditioning. Scientists believe that the endocannabinoid system can be used to help manage these behaviors and emotional responses.

CB1 receptors that are a prime component of the endocannabinoid system are found in huge densities in several regions of the human brain like the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and basal ganglia. 

This connection has thrown light on the possibility of easing certain symptoms associated with the Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by carefully activating the CB1 receptors. Further research on mice has provided enough evidence that both THC and CBD can have a positive impact on the repetitive behavior that is another common symptom of OCD. 

Additionally, a study of the people with the ‘Tourette Syndrome’, has shown that those who smoke cannabis felt fewer urges and tics to exhibit compulsive behavior. Although the current results are promising enough and a step in the right direction, more research has to be done to know a proper cure for the OCD.

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