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May 15 to June 15 is Tourette Awareness Month, so we thought this was a perfect time to talk about cannabis and Tourette syndrome.
Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements and sounds, called tics. It usually comes on during childhood and may improve over time. Associated problems include ADHD, behavioral problems, anxiety, learning disabilities, and OCD. An estimated 3–6 in every 1,000 children have Tourette’s. It is thought to have a strong genetic component. There is currently no cure.
There are many pharmaceutical options for treating Tourette syndrome, none of which work for every patient. involuntary movements), school phobias, photosensitivity, depression, cognitive dulling, sleepiness, dry mouth, irritability, dizziness, headache, insomnia, hypotension, EKG changes, sleep disturbance, disinhibition, headache, stomachache, appetite loss, and increased tics.
Medical cannabis can help ease the tics of Tourette’s without giving patients such unbearable side effects.
We asked one of our most trusted medical marijuana doctors, Dr. Bonni Goldstein, the Medical Director of California (or can get to California), we highly recommend a consultation with Dr. Goldstein to find the best treatment options.
Here’s her assessment of marijuana and Tourette syndrome:
There are many patients who suffer with Tourette syndrome (TS) who are finding relief of symptoms with cannabis. A large percentage of people who have been diagnosed with TS also suffer with other significant conditions, such as OCD, ADHD, mood disorders and anxiety. The conventional medications used to treat these conditions are not always helpful and often cause a wide array of unwanted side effects. Researcher Kirsten Müller-Vahl and her group at Germany’s Medical School of Hanover reported in 1998 that 82% of TS patients who reported prior use of cannabis experience a “reduction or complete remission of motor and vocal tics and amelioration of premonitory urges and OCD symptoms” (Müller‐Vahl, K. R., et al. “Cannabinoids: possible role in patho‐physiology and therapy of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 98.6 (1998): 502-506).
In 1999, the same researchers reported successful treatment of a 25-year-old male with Tourette syndrome who received a single dose of 10 mg of THC with reduction of tic severity score from 41 pre-THC to 7 post-THC treatment (Müller‐Vahl, K R., et al. “Treatment of Tourette’s syndrome with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.” American Journal of Psychiatry 156.3 (1999): 495-495).
Müller-Vahl’s group went on to do a number of studies on the use of cannabis to treat Tourette syndrome. She published results in 2003, looking at a single-dose in 12 patients and then did a 6-week, randomized trial in 24 patients and found that “THC reduces tics in TS patients without any serious adverse side effects and no impairment on neuropsychological performance” (Müller-Vahl, Kirsten R. “Cannabinoids reduce symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome.” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 4.10 (2003): 1717-1725).
I have a number of patients in my practice who are using mainly THC-rich cannabis products to help decrease the number of tics and other symptoms of TS and its related conditions. Most of my patients with TS have tried pharmaceuticals and either found them to be ineffective or found them to have too many negative side effects. These patients are seeing good results with cannabis without adverse side effects and, although they are not “cured” of their conditions, they report a much-improved quality of life. I have one patient in his 40s whose wife reported at his follow-up visit that her husband “was a completely different person on cannabis – happy, more active, more social.” His symptoms had held him back and created so much anxiety for so long that he felt he had a new life since starting cannabis treatment. He was able to stop all of his medications and he even called himself the “poster child” for successful treatment of TS with cannabis.
Have you or a loved one tried treating Tourette’s with cannabis? How did it compare with traditional treatment methods? Share your experience in the comments!