There is growing interest in the possible benefits of medical marijuana in treating ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Unfortunately, the scientific research is sparse, in part because marijuana is illegal in most of the U.S.

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana is one variety of the cannabis sativa weed and believed to be among the safest medicinal substances. It was a popular botanical medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1970, the U.S. government declared it a Scheduled 1 controlled substance and made it illegal.

Cannabis has about 450 active ingredients, including 60 or more ingredients called cannabinoids, which don't seem to be present elsewhere in nature. Delta-9-THC (or just THC) is the primary active ingredient and the one most responsible for the high that users enjoy. At least two states, Washington and Oregon, are trying to pass laws to permit medical marijuana treatment for ADD and OCD.

Attention Deficit Disorder

Individuals who have ADD have difficulty self regulating and become easily distracted. They tend to procrastinate, have trouble prioritizing, and lack organizational skills. Their brains seem unable to ignore unimportant stimuli.

There are multiple types of ADD/ADHD. However, researchers suspect medical marijuana might help a form of ADD called Racing Brain Syndrome (RBS). People with RBS have the sensation that thoughts flash through their brain too fast to "think" them. Marijuana slows the brain to improve functioning, and may be a part of a successful multi-pronged approach to treatment.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, or behaviors that make individuals feel driven to do something. People with OCD generally engage in rituals, such as obsessive hand washing or locking and relocking doors, to help them cope.

Studies have already shown that medical marijuana helps people with the tics that accompany Tourette syndrome. Since Tourette and OCD may be genetically linked, researchers hypothesize marijuana may also be helpful in treating OCD. This is particularly important because 40 to 60 percent of OCD patients do not respond to initial treatment strategies. In two case history examples, patients with OCD who were resistant to medications and other therapies improved when they added medical marijuana to their treatment regime.

Much of the evidence to date about the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating ADD and OCD is anecdotal. However, for patients with either condition, marijuana may hold potential for offering another treatment option.


National Library of Medicine. "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder." Web. 11 February 2010.

Patterson, Kort E. "Marijuana and ADD: Therapeutic uses of Medical Marijuana in the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder." Web.

Schindler, M.D., Frank, Anghelescu, Ion, M.D., Ph.D., Regen, Francesca, M.D., and Jockers-Scherubl, Maria, M.D., Ph.D. "Improvement in Refractory Obsessive Compulsive Disorder With Dronabinol." American Journal of Psychiatry 165(4) (2008): 536-537. Web.

Bearman, David MD. "Cannabis and ADD." Web.

Mercola, Joseph MD. "The Illegal Herb that Fights Cancer." Web. 7 May 2011.

Office Of National Drug Control Policy. "The Link between Marijuana & mental illness." Web.

July 2007.

Seamon, Matthew J. PharmD, JD. "Medical Marijuana: An Evolving Landscape." Medscape Medical News. Web. 22 February 2010.

Jiang, Wen, Zhang, Yun, Xiao, Lan, Van Cleemput, Jamie, Ji, Shao-Ping, Guang, Bai and Zhang, Xia. "Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects." Journal of Clinical Investigation 115(11) (2005): 3104-3116. Web.

Harvard Mental Health Letter. "Medical Marijuana and the Mind." April 2010. Web.