Cannabis For Tourette’s
Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome, more commonly known simply as Tourette’s (TS), is a neurological disorder that causes physical and vocal tics in sufferers. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 138 thousand children have been diagnosed with TS. We’ll give you the rundown on Tourette’s Syndrome, how it’s usually managed, and how cannabis can help.
Tourette’s Syndrome Explained
TS is characterized by the manifestation of tics. Motor tics are sudden, repetitive movements that are done involuntarily. Vocal tics, on the other hand, are involuntary sounds made by the sufferer.
Tics can be separated into two types: simple and complex. Simple motor tics can include eye blinking, head jerking, or shoulder shrugging. Simple phonic tics can be as simple as a sniffle or grunt. The more troublesome tics are those that are complex. Complex motor tics are usually longer and appear more purpose-driven, such as pulling at one’s clothes, touching objects, or imitating another person’s movements. Complex vocal tics include repeating words someone else has said or repeating oneself. Perhaps the most well-known symptom of Tourette’s Syndrome, coprolalia is the spontaneous uttering of taboo or unacceptable words like obscenities or curse words. Fortunately, though, only about 10% of TS sufferers exhibit this symptom.
While the cause of Tourette’s Syndrome is unknown, there is a definitive genetic component in that it is usually an inherited disorder. Additionally, if a person has TS, it will invariably manifest in childhood, making Tourette’s Syndrome a well-known disorder in pediatrics. TS has no cure. While treatment is not always necessary, the goal of therapy is to manage symptoms should that be required.
Most cases of TS do not require medication to treat, and the goal of these cases is therapy and education. For those that do, treatment is directed at either treating the tics themselves or treating another condition that is present in the sufferer, such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Risperidone is a common medication for treating severe tics, but using this medication comes with a host of adverse side effects. These includes:
- Movement problems
- Difficulty seeing
- Increased weight
- Increased risk of suicide
- High blood sugar
Additionally, stimulants and anti-depressants may be used to treat a Tourette’s Syndrome patient who also has ADHD, but these medications to come with serious side effects many want to avoid. As such, researchers have begun looking to cannabis as an effective and much safer alternative.
Researchers interviewed TS patients on their cannabis use and its effect on their symptoms. What they found was that of those who had used marijuana, 82% of them had either a reduction or complete remission in their symptoms: motor tics, vocal tics, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Although this study relied on self-reporting, the fact that the vast majority communicated cannabis’s effectiveness seems to hint at the fact that it’s an effective treatment.
A study was performed to assess how cannabis interacts with people who have Tourette’s Syndrome which confirms cannabis’s effectiveness. In it, researchers administered a gelatin capsule filled with THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) and observed the results. They found that the subjects who had the THC capsules showed a significant improvement in their symptoms compared to those who received a placebo. The THC group experienced fewer and less pronounced tics as well as less obsessive-compulsive behavior. There was also a correlation observed between THC in the blood and improvement of symptoms; plainly, the THC was clearly the cause for the improvement.
A further study concurred that THC is effective in treating tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior in sufferers. In the abstract, the researchers make two salient points. First, they note that current treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome (barring cannabis) is unsatisfactory; as a result, research on cannabis has been conducted to fill that void. Second, as with the previous study, no adverse side effects occurred as a result of the THC in any of the subjects. The implication is that THC may well become a staple in treating more severe Tourette’s Syndrome.
The Final Hit
In treating rather severe Tourette’s Syndrome, THC has been shown to be effective from the patient’s standpoint as well as objective observation. With more exposure on the effectiveness of cannabis for Tourette’s Syndrome, more patients who are in need of relief will find out that THC can help them manage their symptoms.