Can cannabinoids help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Summary: Study provides further evidence the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Using cannabinoid drugs have a positive impact in helping control behaviors associated with OCD.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert Inc

The body’s endocannabinoid system, due to the critical role it plays in regulating neurotransmitter signaling, is an enticing target for drug development against disorders associated with anxiety, stress, and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A comprehensive new review article that provides an overview of this complex system, endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids, results of animal studies and human trials to date, and recommendations for future directions is published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

The article entitled “The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?” was co-authored by Reilly Kayser, MD, Ivar Snorrasson, PhD, Margaret Haney, PhD, and H. Blair Simpson, MD, PhD, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Francis Lee, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College, (New York, NY). The researchers present evidence that links the endocannabinoid system to the pathology underlying OCD. They also explore the potential for targeting this system to relieve symptoms of OCD and related disorders such as anxiety, tic, and impulse control disorders. The review includes an extensive overview of cannabinoids made by the body, and exogenous cannabinoids, including phytocannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and purified and synthetic cannabinoids.

This shows a person washing their hands
Based on both animal study data showing anti-anxiety and anti-compulsive effects of cannabinoid agents and on preliminary human clinical trial data, the authors suggest that continued pharmaceutical development is warranted. The image is in the public domain.

Based on both animal study data showing anti-anxiety and anti-compulsive effects of cannabinoid agents and on preliminary human clinical trial data, the authors suggest that continued pharmaceutical development is warranted. Which cannabinoid agents to test and how to measure their effects will be among the important questions to consider in designing future studies.

“Is there a place for cannabinoid-based medicines in psychiatry? Evidence from animal and human studies points to the endocannabinoid system as an important regulator of emotionality, but how can we exploit this knowledge for therapy? This review article offers a critical assessment of the evidence, focused on obsessive-compulsive disorder, and clues to future research,” says Editor-in-Chief Daniele Piomelli, PhD, University of California-Irvine, School of Medicine.

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Source:
Mary Ann Liebert Inc
Media Contacts:
Kathryn Ryan – Mary Ann Liebert Inc
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Open access
“The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?” Reilly R. Kayser, Ivar Snorrason, Margaret Haney, Francis S. Lee, and H. Blair Simpson.
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0049

Abstract

The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Introduction: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disabling illness that is associated with significant functional impairment. Although evidence-based pharmacotherapies exist, currently available medications are ineffective in some patients and may cause intolerable side effects in others. There is an urgent need for new treatments.

Discussion: A growing body of basic and clinical research has showed that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a role in anxiety, fear, and repetitive behaviors. At the same time, some patients with OCD who smoke cannabis anecdotally report that it relieves their symptoms and mitigates anxiety, and several case reports describe patients whose OCD symptoms improved after they were treated with cannabinoids. Taken together, these findings suggest that the ECS could be a potential target for novel medications for OCD. In this study, we review evidence from both animal and human studies that suggests that the ECS may play a role in OCD and related disorders. We also describe findings from studies in which cannabinoid drugs were shown to impact symptoms of these conditions.

Conclusions: An emerging body of evidence suggests that the ECS plays a role in OCD symptoms and may be a target for the development of novel medications. Further exploration of this topic through well-designed human trials is warranted.

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