What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?


This chronic, long-lasting condition is characterized by uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that the sufferer feels the urge to repeat over and over. This common disorder can interfere with all aspects of life, including personal relationships, school and work.

Obsessions refer to repeated thoughts, mental images and urges that lead to anxiety. Symptoms include fear of germs or contamination; aggressive thoughts towards others or self; and having things in symmetrical order. Compulsions, by contrast, are repetitive behaviours that the sufferer feels compelled to do as the result of an obsessive thought.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD Symptoms

Symptoms of obsession include fear of germs or contamination; aggressive thoughts towards others or self; and having things in symmetrical order. Excessive cleaning and hand washing; compulsive counting; or ordering things in a precise way are symptoms of compulsive behaviours. Motor and vocal tics are also potential OCD symptoms.

Ketamine and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD

Research presented in 2013 at an American Psychiatric Association poster session demonstrated that ketamine rapidly alleviated OCD symptoms in patients having intrusive thoughts; the relief from symptoms take effect within a week or two, compared to the usual six to 10 weeks it took for other treatments to have an impact.

Carolyn Rodriguez, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, conducted that trial while at Columbia University. In 2015, she received funding from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for a clinical trial assessing ketamine’s impact on OCD.

The five-year study will follow patients for up to six months after they receive ketamine or an alternative drug with the goal of determining how ketamine alters the brain and what side effects it produces. She hopes her research will lead to the development of other rapid-action remedies that don’t have the hallucinogenic properties of ketamine, which originated as a party drug.

Meanwhile, researchers at NIMH and the University of Maryland are exploring one of the chemical by-products of ketamine to see if it is the key to the drug’s fast-acting relief.

Ketamine for OCD is administered using an IV drip and patients receive only about a tenth of the dose used in anesthesia. In the U.S., doctors are free to prescribe it off label.

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