Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychological condition that causes repetitive behavior and intrusive thoughts. It’s thought to affect about 2 to 3 percent of the world’s population.
The standard treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication. Currently, the only medications FDA-approved to treat OCD are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs).
About one-third of people don’t experience a significant reduction in symptoms after undergoing these treatments. SRIs usually require about 6 weeks to have a clinically significant effect.
Many people anecdotally claim that cannabidiol (CBD) products help relieve their OCD symptoms, and researchers are continuing to examine CBD’s potential to treat OCD. Although research is still in the early stages, some studies have found promising results.
In this article, we take a look at the latest research about CBD’s potential to help treat OCD. We also cover potential side effects and examine some specific products you may find useful.
Currently, CBD’s ability to ease symptoms of OCD is largely theoretical and anecdotal. That’s because there’s a very limited amount of research examining the effectiveness of CBD for people with OCD.
A handful of case reports describe people with OCD who experienced improved symptoms after being treated with CBD or other cannabinoids. But more large-scale clinical trials are needed to assess CBD’s effectiveness and safety.
In a 2020 study, researchers examined the effects of medical cannabis on a group of 87 people with OCD. The researchers found that patients reported a:
- 60 percent reduction in compulsions
- 49 percent reduction in intrusive thoughts
- 52 percent reduction in anxiety
Cannabis with higher doses of CBD led to a larger reduction in compulsive behavior.
However, in another small 2020 study with only 14 participants, researchers compared the effects of cannabis containing varying concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD to a placebo. They found that smoking cannabis containing primarily CBD or primarily THC had little acute impact on OCD symptoms.
How is CBD thought to help with OCD symptoms?
CBD is one of the more than 80 biologically active compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC is the primary psychoactive compound that makes you “high.” CBD is non-psychoactive but has a number of effects on the body including relieving pain and potentially reducing anxiety and depression.
The cause of OCD is thought to be multifactorial, but there’s a growing amount of evidence that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating anxiety, fear, and repetitive behaviors.
Your endocannabinoid system is a pathway of receptors in your body that play a role in regulating sleep, mood, appetite, and other processes. When CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system, it can cause changes to these processes. However, researchers are still not sure exactly how CBD interacts with this system.
Best form of CBD for OCD
CBD comes in many forms including oils, tinctures, patches, and gummies. There’s no evidence that any form is more effective than the others. It’s likely that the amount of CBD per serving is more important than the form.
Even though CBD may be beneficial alone, some research suggests that taking CBD along with THC and other chemicals found in cannabis called terpenes may enhance its benefits. This phenomenon is often referred to as “the entourage effect.”
Should you give CBD to children to treat OCD or anxiety?
The only conditions that CBD is FDA-approved to treat are three rare forms of epilepsy. CBD hasn’t been widely researched to treat other conditions in children, and CBD’s long-term effects and safety are still widely unknown. Until more research comes out, it’s best to avoid giving children CBD.
Another problem with giving CBD products to children is the potential for them to be mislabeled. In one study, more than 20 percent of products sold online tested contained detectable levels of psychoactive THC.
Because CBD isn’t FDA-approved to treat OCD, and it’s not clear how effective it is, there’s no standard dose.
A 2015 review of studies found strong evidence that 300 to 600 milligrams of CBD taken orally reduces anxiety symptoms. It’s plausible that a similar dose may be effective for treating OCD, but more research is needed to confirm this idea.
It’s best to start with a small dose of CBD and work up over time when you learn how your body responds to it. Some people choose to start with a dose of about 40 milligrams per day.
CBD is generally well-tolerated but it can cause a few side effects such as:
You should talk to your doctor before taking CBD since it can potentially interact with a number of medications. If the medication says to avoid grapefruit, be sure to talk with your doctor before taking CBD.
Both grapefruit and CBD have the potential to inhibit an enzyme called CYP3A4 that’s responsible for breaking down many kinds of medications. When this enzyme is inhibited, the rate that your medication breaks down is slowed, potentially strengthening its effects or side effects.
Drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are among a long list of drugs that can interact with grapefruit or CBD.
When searching for a CBD product, it’s important to use one that undergoes rigorous testing for potential mislabeling and contamination. Reputable CBD products should meet the following criteria:
- provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
- is made with hemp grown in the United States
- contains no more than 0.3 percent THC
- has been tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and mold
Papa & Barkley Releaf Drops
Papa & Barkley Releaf Drops are a full-spectrum CBD tincture that contains just over 31 milligrams (mg) of CBD per serving. It’s sourced from Oregon-grown hemp and only contains two ingredients: hemp and MCT oil.
Sunday Scaries CBD Gummies
Sunday Scaries CBD gummies contain 10 mg of CBD in each gummy. Along with a full-spectrum of cannabinoids, they also contain vitamin B12 and vitamin D. They come in a vegan-friendly variety that uses pectin instead of gelatin.
Lazarus Naturals Energy Blend CBD Isolate Capsules
Lazarus Naturals Energy Blend CBD Isolate Capsules contain 25 mg of CBD in each capsule. They’re a CBD isolate, meaning they don’t contain THC or any other cannabinoids. Each capsule also contains B vitamins and L-theanine to provide energy and boost calm feelings.
Research looking at CBD’s ability to treat anxiety is ongoing. Although many early studies have found promising results, more large-scale studies are needed to develop standardized guidelines.
A 2020 review of eight studies found evidence to support the idea that CBD may be beneficial for treating:
Many people anecdotally find CBD helps them manage anxiety. If you decide to use CBD to treat your anxiety, it’s a good idea to start with a low dose and work up over time. Some studies have looked at doses as small as 6 milligrams per day.
If you’ve been dealing with symptoms of OCD or anxiety, you should talk with a doctor to develop a holistic treatment plan.
A doctor can help you determine if CBD can be an effective part of your treatment. They can also let you know if CBD may interact with any of your current medications.
Research examining the ability of CBD to treat OCD is still in the early stages. However, some studies have found evidence that CBD may help manage symptoms and many people anecdotally report that they find it helpful.
CBD is generally safe and rarely causes dangerous side effects. However, it can interact with a long list of medications including medications used to treat depression or anxiety.
Before using CBD, you should talk with a doctor to build a holistic treatment plan for OCD.