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Subjects Report Reduced Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Following Cannabis Inhalation

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The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with temporary reductions in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to data published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Few studies have assessed the potential efficacy of cannabis for the mitigation of symptoms of OCD. As such, these findings, though somewhat limited by the study’s design, indicate that cannabis – and, in particular, varieties high in CBD – holds promise as a therapeutic option for OCD patients and should be further examined in a more rigorously designed controlled setting.”

A team of investigators affiliated with Washington State University analyzed data from 87 subjects who self-identified as suffering from OCD. Study participants used a smartphone application to track the severity of their symptoms immediately before and shortly following their use of cannabis over a 31-month period.

Authors reported: “Using a large dataset of medical cannabis users self-medicating for symptoms of OCD, we found that for the vast majority of cannabis use sessions individuals reported reductions in intrusions [unwanted thoughts or impulses], compulsions, and anxiety. … [R]esults indicated that after inhaling cannabis, ratings of intrusions were reduced by 49 percent, compulsions by 60 percent, and anxiety by 52 percent.” Decreases in compulsive behavior were most closely associated with the consumption of cannabis containing higher concentrations of CBD.

Subjects’ baseline severity ratings for anxiety declined over the course of the study. Baseline ratings for other symptoms, however, were unchanged – indicating that cannabis’ impact on OCD-related intrusions and compulsions was likely short-lived.

Authors concluded: “Results from the present study indicate that inhaled cannabis may acutely reduce symptoms of OCD. While the symptom severity ratings were reduced by approximately 50 to 60 percent from immediately before to after cannabis use, there was evidence that cannabis-associated reductions in intrusions may diminish over time. Collectively these results indicate that cannabis may have short-term, but not long-term beneficial effects on symptoms of OCD.”

The abstract of study, “Acute effects of cannabis on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder” appears online here.


NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country.


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