Limited studies have investigated cannabis use in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), despite its widespread use by patients with psychiatric illnesses. The aim of this study was to assess the frequency, correlates, and clinical impact of cannabis use in an Italian sample of patients with OCD.
Seventy consecutive outpatients with OCD were recruited from a tertiary specialized clinic. To assess cannabis-related variables, patients completed a questionnaire developed for the purpose of this study, investigating cannabis use-related habits and the influence of cannabis use on OCD symptoms and treatments. A set of clinician and self-reported questionnaires was administered to measure disease severity. The sample was then divided into three subgroups according to the pattern of cannabis use: “current users” (CUs), “past-users” (PUs), and “non-users” (NUs).
Approximately 42.8% of patients reported lifetime cannabis use and 14.3% reported current use. Approximately 10% of cannabis users reported an improvement in OCD symptoms secondary to cannabis use, while 23.3% reported an exacerbation of anxiety symptoms. CUs showed specific unfavorable clinical variables compared to PUs and NUs: a significant higher rate of lifetime use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, and a higher rate of pre-OCD onset comorbidities. Conversely, the three subgroups showed a similar severity of illness.
A considerable subgroup of patients with OCD showed a predisposition towards cannabis use and was associated with some specific clinical characteristics, suggesting the need for targeted consideration and interventions in this population.