People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, report that the severity of their symptoms was reduced by about half within four hours of smoking cannabis, according to a Washington State University study.

The researchers analysed data inputted into the Strainprint app by people who self-identified as having OCD, a condition characterised by intrusive, persistent thoughts and repetitive behaviours such as compulsively checking if a door is locked. 

After smoking cannabis, users with OCD reported it reduced their compulsions by 60%, intrusions or unwanted thoughts by 49% and anxiety by 52%.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, also found that higher doses and cannabis with higher concentrations of CBD, or cannabidiol, were associated with larger reductions in compulsions.

“The results overall indicate that cannabis may have some beneficial short-term, but not really long-term, effects on obsessive-compulsive disorder,” said Carrie Cuttler, the study’s corresponding author and WSU assistant professor of psychology. 

“To me, the CBD findings are really promising because it is not intoxicating. This is an area of research that would really benefit from clinical trials looking at changes in compulsions, intrusions and anxiety with pure CBD,” said Cuttler.

The WSU study drew from data of more than 1,800 cannabis sessions that 87 individuals logged into the Strainprint app over 31 months. The long time period allowed the researchers to assess whether users developed tolerance to cannabis, but those effects were mixed. As people continued to use cannabis, the associated reductions in intrusions became slightly smaller suggesting they were building tolerance, but the relationship between cannabis and reductions in compulsions and anxiety remained fairly constant.

The WSU researchers noted that one of the limitations of their study was the inability to use a placebo control and an ‘expectancy effect’ may play a role in the results, meaning when people expect to feel better from something, they generally do. The data was also from a self-selected sample of cannabis users, and there was variability in the results which means that not everyone experienced the same reductions in symptoms after using cannabis.

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