Tourette’s Syndrome and Medicinal Cannabis

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What is Tourette’s Syndrome?

Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder that usually manifests before age 18, predominantly affecting males. This disorder can develop due to hereditary causes (since it commonly occurs in childhood) or it may be a product of other neuro-psychiatric or neurological disorders such as ADHD, OCD, anxiety or depression.

Tourette’s is characterized by motor and phonic tics which may be transient or chronic. Among the most common tics are eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, facial movements and other involuntary movements.

Is there a cure for Tourette’s Syndrome?

The disease is chronic and has no cure, but it is not a degenerative disease, meaning that the life expectancy is not affected due to the disorder and some people even improve their symptomatic conditions ( eg tics) as time goes on. Treatment for this syndrome seeks to combat the symptoms that occur by reducing the frequency or intensity. However, often the drugs that are used cause a number of other side effects that can be worse than the symptoms of the disease itself. The use of neuroleptic and antihypertensive drugs can cause severe side effects, such as: muscular rigidity, drooling, tremor, lack of facial expression, slow movements, fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, difficulty thinking clearly and can even lead to other disorders such as tardive dyskinesia.

The dyskinetic effect of cannabinoids allows all those movements and tics that a person with Tourette’s Syndrome has to decrease by a large percentage.

The action of cannabinoids to relieve some symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome

In contrast to traditional medication, studies using cannabinoids for treatments have proven to be successful in mitigating symptoms related to involuntary movements, muscular problems, metabolic issues, depression, etc.

Also, other studies prove that there is scientific evidence indicating that cannabinoids have therapeutic value in some associated disorders, including the reduction of dyskinesia and the reduction of some forms of tremor and dystonia induced by L-DOPA in Parkinson’s disease. Cannabinoids could also contribute to the reduction of tics in Tourette’s Syndrome and improve hypokinetic parkinsonian syndromes. [1]

A pilot study conducted by the Department of Clinical Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Germany included 12 adults with TS that showed a significant improvement of tics (p = 0.015), obsessive compulsive behavior OCB (p = 0.041), complex motor tics (e.g. = 0.015), motor tics (p = 0.065), tics simple motor (TSSL, p = 0.093), and vocal tics (p = 0.093) when introduced to cannabis. These findings including others led to the conclusion that: “The results of this pilot study suggest a single dose treatment with Delta (9) -THC is effective and safe in the treatment of tics and OCB in Tourette Syndrome. It is proven that the clinical effects are caused by 11-OH-THC because there was a significant correlation between tic improvement and maximum plasma concentration of 11-OH-THC “. [2]

Bibliography on Tourette’s Syndrome and the use of medicinal cannabis

1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10627163

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11951146

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