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Medical Marijuana and Tourette's Syndrome

Treatment of Tourette's Syndrome with Medical Marijuana versus Suppression 

There is some stigma surrounding the tics involved with Tourette's syndrome. There is also stigma surrounding marijuana use, even for medical purposes. Some Tourette's sufferers have noticeable, though not substantial, success suppressing their tics. This can lead to extreme discomfort and eventual forceful return of the tic. While it might look like Tourette's sufferers are performing these acts on purpose, that is not the case. 

Medical marijuana is not counterproductive in the way that attempting suppression is. It may not eliminate the tics and only mildly relieve them, but there is no evidence to suggest that marijuana can exacerbate them. A study done at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust concluded that there were only small improvements in tics with use of medical marijuana. Nonetheless, their findings did not include any adverse effects as it pertained to the tics and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. 

Medical Marijuana and Tourette's Syndrome Research 

Even the earliest research involving Tourette's syndrome and medical marijuana suggest that the cannabis component that is helping the tics is THC. The first observed treatment of Tourette's syndrome with medical marijuana was conducted on a 25-year-old man with severe Tourette's. He had been displaying symptoms from an early age and was initially diagnosed with ADHD. He was later diagnosed with Tourette's. He found independently that smoking marijuana was helping his condition. Doctors gave him a 10-milligram dose of THC three days after having him stop smoking and observed the results. Within 30 minutes, his symptoms began decreasing. There was roughly 70% fewer symptoms and the medication lasted roughly 7 hours.

A later randomized, double blind, controlled study showed that there was a notable difference between the patients who were given placebo and those who were given THC. The study began with 24 individuals and eventually dropped down to 17. However, that was not due to side effects in six of the dropouts. This is a significant increase in test subjects over the first study conducted on the one young man. The similar results even in a double blind, controlled study is strong evidence that THC can have a positive effect on Tourette's syndrome tics. Further research along this vein could lend some insight into the syndrome itself. 

It is essential that more research be conducted into the mechanisms of treatment of Tourette's syndrome with medical marijuana so that more specific medication and doses can be catered to the condition. The current medications are proving insufficient. Medical marijuana could become the treatment of choice, especially if one of the non-psychoactive components of the drug is found to help as well, as that would allow for a look at treatment of children with no cognitive side effects.

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