Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may look different in each affected individual. One person might feel it is necessary to wash their hands constantly while others might feel obligated to count something over and over.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD is a common disorder in which a person has uncontrollable and reoccurring obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions often cause anxiety in a person, so they feel by doing compulsions, or certain behaviors, they might relieve their anxiety.
There are many treatments and medications used to combat OCD, however research is now showing that endocannabinoids can also play a huge role in OCD. The new study was funded by the The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) and was conducted with mice. Researchers probed the brain mechanisms that are used when a mouse transitions from goal-directed behavior to habitual behaviors. They then led the mouse to receive food two ways. One way the mice received food was through doing a goal-directed behavior while the second way was through doing a habitual behavior. They then found that by deleting a certain endocannabinoid receptor, mice didn’t form habits.
This discovery led scientists to the conclusion that endocannabinoids, which are natural messengers in our bodies similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis, have a lot to do with how our brains make decisions.
George F. Koob, Ph.D. is the Director of the NIAA stated that their study revealed a mechanism in the brain that controls the transition between goal-directed behaviors and habitual behaviors. He went on to explain, “As we learn more about this mechanism, it could reveal how the brain forms habits and, more specifically, how both endocannabinoids and cannabinoid abuse can influence habitual behavior pathophysiology.”
This conclusion that our bodies natural endocannabinoids and the active ingredients in cannabis can affect memory and decision-making may give scientists a glimpse into new medications and treatments for OCD.