Gilles de la Tourette’s Syndrome, more commonly known as Tourette’s, is a neurological disorder that causes physical and vocal tics in sufferers. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 138,000 children have been diagnosed with TS. We’ll take a rundown on Tourette’s Syndrome, how it’s usually treated, and how cannabis can be a treatment.
What is Tourette’s Syndrome?
Tourette’s is characterized by the manifestation of tics. Motor tics are sudden, repetitive movements that are done involuntarily. Vocal tics, however, 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 a sniffle or grunt. The more troublesome tics are the complex ones. Complex motor tics are usually longer and appear more purpose0driven, such as pulling one’s clothes, imitating another person’s movements or touching objects. Complex vocal tics include repeating what someone else said or 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 used for treating severe tics, but using this medication comes with a host of adverse side effects. These include:
- 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 patients who also has ADHD, but these medications 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 interviews 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 either had 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 that it’s an effective treatment.
A study was performed to assess how cannabis interact with people who have Tourette’s Syndrome which confirms cannabis’s effectiveness. In it, researchers administered a gelatin capsule filled with THC 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. In short, THC was the cause for 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 is inadequate; as a result, research on cannabis has been conducted to fill that void. Second, as with the previous study, no adverse side effects occurs 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.
In treating sever 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.