OCD & Addiction | Symptoms, Risk Factors, & Treatment

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on July 28, 2023

Co-occurring OCD and substance use disorder (SUD) can cause intense anxiety, problems with your school, work, and relationships, and using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate OCD symptoms. A dual diagnosis treatment program can help you manage your OCD and SUD.

Co-occurring OCD and substance use disorder (SUD) can lead to severe anxiety, using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, withdrawal symptoms, and worsening quality of life. Both OCD and substance use disorder are serious, long-term mental health conditions.

In one study of about 320 participants with OCD, about 27 percent of them met the criteria for a substance use disorder. 

Another study of more than 6 million participants reported people with OCD were almost 4 times as likely to have a substance use disorder compared to the general population.

In Ohio, people with OCD have an increased risk of suffering from a substance use disorder. If you or a loved one have co-occurring substance abuse and mental health conditions, you can get help from a dual diagnosis treatment program at Ohio Recovery Center.

Symptoms Of Co-Occurring OCD & SUD

OCD is a serious mental health condition where you experience frequent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and do repetitive behaviors (compulsions) to have temporary relief from these thoughts. Even if you know that your OCD symptoms are detrimental, it can be difficult to stop.

A substance use disorder is a mental health condition where you need alcohol or drugs to function in your daily life. An SUD is similar to compulsive behaviors, as you may feel a need to take addictive substances while they continue to hurt your health.

Symptoms of co-occurring OCD and SUD involve both symptoms of OCD and substance abuse, including:

  • obsessive thoughts about cleanliness, tidiness, or control
  • intrusive thoughts about sexual acts or violence
  • excessive hand-washing
  • time-consuming cleaning or arranging
  • intense fear of negative consequences while not doing compulsive behaviors
  • using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate symptoms of OCD

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Substance Abuse & OCD Patients

Alcohol abuse is common in OCD patients. In a 2019 study, 12 percent of participants met the criteria for alcohol use disorder, while 11 percent met the criteria of both alcohol and substance use disorder. Only 3 percent could be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

Of this 3 percent, opioids, benzodiazepines, and cannabis had a high prevalence of drug use. The sedative and psychoactive side effects of these drugs may have provided temporary relief from OCD symptoms.

Risk Factors For Co-Occurring OCD & SUD

A family history of OCD and drug abuse can greatly increase your risk of developing one or both mental health disorders.

Your brain chemistry can also be a risk factor for developing co-occurring OCD and SUD. Studies show that high amounts of dopamine and glutamate in your brain is a risk factor for developing OCD. These neurotransmitters are necessary for proper brain function, but can be harmful in high amounts.

Other risk factors for developing co-occurring OCD and substance use disorders may include:

  • having another mental illness, such as depression or anxiety disorders
  • stressful or traumatic events
  • contracting a streptococcal infection (in children)

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Co-Occurring OCD & SUD

A dual diagnosis treatment plan involves treating your OCD and substance use disorder. Treating both mental health conditions can improve your chances of a successful recovery in the long term.


Psychotherapy is effective in treating OCD and substance abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you learn healthy coping skills instead of turning to compulsive behaviors or substance abuse.

Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) can help OCD patients reduce anxiety and stress when struggling with obsessive thoughts. 

Other forms of psychotherapy you may attempt during a dual diagnosis treatment program include dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and family therapy.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant commonly prescribed to treat OCD. Studies show that SSRIs can also be effective in treating co-occurring OCD and SUD.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs can help you manage your opioid or alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Approved treatment centers in Ohio, including Ohio Recovery Center, can prescribe MAT programs for opioid or alcohol addiction.

Taking medication as directed by your treatment provider can improve your chances of recovery.

Other Treatment Options

Other options for co-occurring substance abuse and OCD treatment may include:

  • drug or alcohol detox
  • recovery or sober living housing
  • 12-step recovery programs
  • support group meetings

Your Ohio treatment provider can help you find the treatment plan that works for you.

Ohio Recovery Center

Co-occurring disorders can cause intense anxiety, worsening health, and difficulties with basic functioning. If a co-occurring disorder is hurting your day-to-day life, a professional treatment program can help.

At Ohio Recovery Center, our co-occurring disorder treatment options include detox programs, medication management, behavioral therapy, withdrawal management, and more. To find out if we’re a good fit for you or a loved one, please contact us today.

  1. International OCD Foundation - Co-Occurring OCD and Substance Use Disorder: What the Research Tells Us https://iocdf.org/expert-opinions/co-occurring-ocd-and-substance-use-disorder-what-the-research-tells-us/
  2. JAMA Network - Association of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms With Substance Misuse in 2 Longitudinal Cohorts in Sweden https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2793020
  3. Journal of Anxiety Disorders - Substance Use Disorders in an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinical Sample https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705178/
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Advisory: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Substance Use Disorders https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4977.pdf

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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