Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning, repeated checking, extreme hoarding, preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts, relationship-related obsessions, aversion to particular numbers and nervous rituals such as opening and closing a door a certain number of times before entering or leaving a room. These symptoms are time-consuming, might result in loss of relationships with others, and often cause severe emotional and financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However, people with OCD generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational and may become further distressed by this realization. Despite the irrational behaviour, OCD is associated with high verbal IQ.
A number of psychological and biological factors may be involved in causing obsessive–compulsive disorder. Standardized rating scales such as Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale can be used to assess the severity of symptoms. Other disorders with similar symptoms include: obsessive–compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), an autism spectrum disorder, or disorders where perseveration (hyperfocus) is a feature in ADHD, PTSD, bodily disorders, or just a habit problem.
Treatment for OCD involves the use of behavioral therapy and sometimes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The type of behavior therapy used involves increasing exposure to what causes the problems while not allowing the compulsive behavior to occur. Atypical antipsychotics such as quetiapine may be useful when used in addition to an SSRI in treatment-resistant cases but are associated with an increased risk of side effects.
Obsessive–compulsive disorder affects children and adolescents, as well as adults. Roughly one third to one half of adults with OCD report a childhood onset of the disorder, suggesting the continuum of anxiety disorders across the lifespan. The phrase obsessive–compulsive has become part of the English lexicon, and is often used in an informal or caricatured manner to describe someone who is excessively meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed, or otherwise fixated.
Medical Marijuana Efficacy
In 2008, a group of German researchers wrote a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry documenting their clinical experiences with using marijuana derivatives as a treatment for OCD. The researchers outlined two cases in which patients with treatment-resistant OCD obtained significant relief from dronabinol – a THC-based pill.
The first case was a 38 year old woman who suffered from recurring major depression and OCD, despite 8 months of traditional pharmaceutical and cognitive behavioural therapy treatments. Based on the patient’s personal experiences of using marijuana for symptom relief, the researchers encouraged her to try a 10mg dose of dronabinol taken three times a day in addition to her current pharmaceutical regimen. Within 10 days, the patient reported a significant decrease in OCD-related symptoms.
The second case was a 36 year old man with schizophrenia and OCD who was experiencing an increase in psychotic and obsessive symptoms. Despite receiving a variety of antipsychotic medications and a course of 18 electroconvulsive therapy treatments, the patient’s OCD symptoms remained resilient. However, a significant reduction in OCD symptoms was observed within 2 weeks of adding dronabinol to the patient’s pharmaceutical regimen.
Official Research Reports
Cluster attacks responsive to recreational cannabis and dronabinol (Robbins MS, Tarshish S, Solomon S, Grosberg BM, 2009)
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