On the recent ABC News “20/20″ show about OCD, there was mention of some promising research involving glutamate. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical. Those of us whose lives have been touched by OCD might be more familiar with the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, because these two neurotransmitters are currently targeted through the use of existing medications for the disorder.
As we know, these medications don’t help everyone, and I, for one, am thankful for the ongoing research into the causes and potential treatments of OCD. Several different studies have indeed indicated that those with OCD have higher levels of glutamate in their brains than those without the disorder. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that high levels of glutamate cause OCD (maybe it’s the other way around?) studies continue to show there is some type of connection between OCD and glutamate.
If you’re interested, this article gives a good overview of recent studies, and also discusses possible medications that might prove helpful for those with OCD. Riluzole, memantine, and N-acetylcysteine (over- the-counter) are already FDA-approved glutamate-targeting medications for treatment of other illnesses, and are being studied for use in treating OCD. One fact that is clear is that more research and clinical trials need to be conducted before we understand the role of glutamate, and the use of various meds, in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What does this mean for those who are suffering from OCD now? For those who need help immediately? While there is still no “quick fix” or “magic pill,” to treat OCD, we are fortunate that effective treatment does exist. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is not easy, but it works. So while dedicated researchers work to uncover the mysteries of OCD, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder can also move forward and dedicate themselves to getting well. Both of these are surefire ways to beat OCD.