Last updated on 25 May 2022
Tourette Syndrome is a common neurological disorder that is characterized by chronic vocal and motor tics. The affected individuals usually have repetitive, stereotypical movements or vocalizations like blinking or sniffing, facial movements or abdominal tensing.
Other manifestations include attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, poor impulse control, and other behavioral problems. The symptoms vary between patients, and tics are typically not the most limiting symptoms of this disorder.
The mechanism behind Tourette syndrome is not fully understood however, studies suggest that it’s an inheritable neurological disorder that develops over time. The disorder affects about 1percent of the population, and is five times more prevalent in males. The symptoms range from annoying to debilitating.
Patients who have loud voices or large movements are subject to significant criticism or are forced to stop participating in numerous activities. Discrimination in school and work environments is not uncommon. Accidental injuries, like fractured bones or joint degeneration, can occur following years of simple but repetitive actions. Accidents are not uncommon.
The current treatments for Tourette syndrome are only symptomatic. There are no curative or preventive therapies are available. There have been medications used to treat the symptoms of tics, ADHD, OCD, and aggression. They include antipsychotics, dopamine depleting agents, antihypertensive drugs such as skeletal muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, SSRIs with a 3-4x dose of antidepressants as well as Botox injections. Neurosurgery is a procedure that is used in extreme instances. Each of these procedures carry substantial risk and, unfortunately they offer only limited benefits. Medical authors often advise doctors to not to treat Tourette syndrome using pharmaceutical drugs unless the symptoms are severe.
An extensive amount of evidence from science indicates that the substances that are found in cannabis may help alleviate symptoms of Tourette syndrome.
Studies on animals show that cannabinoids have a specific effect on the basal ganglia as well as other brain regions that are implicated in Tourette syndrome.
Numerous cases of patients who use cannabis to lessen or eliminate obsessive-compulsive behavior have been published. A study has found that cannabis may enhance the efficacy of antipsychotic drugs for this disorder.
Double blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial is considered to be the most reliable clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of treatment. Two studies have been published which examined the effectiveness of THC for treating Tourette syndrome. The first study, which involved 12 adults, showed that 10 patients experienced substantial improvement of their symptoms following one dose of THC that ranged from 20 to 90 percent reduction in severity of symptoms. A second research study of 24 participants showed similar results, but without negative impact on cognition. Verbal memory was actually better within the group of cannabis users.
The acute adverse effects caused by cannabis as well as THC are well-documented and they are considered to be safer than the majority of medications that are currently being used to treat of Tourette syndrome. The dose that causes death from cannabis and THC for humans is not known and there is no evidence of deaths directly caused by the toxicity of cannabis.
I’ve personally witnessed cannabis as a treatment for debilitating cases of Tourette syndrome, following other treatments had not worked.
Medscape. “Tourette Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders.” Accessed 11/13/12. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1182258-overview
Muller-Vahl, Kirsten Muller-Vahl, Kirsten. “Cannabinoids reduce symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome.” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 4.10 (2003): 1717-1725.