Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
The signature symptom of Tourette’s syndrome is the tics it causes, which can be involuntary movements or sudden vocal outbursts. Some people have mild tics, while others can have severe ones that get in the way of daily function. No matter what nature your tics are, they can interfere with living a quality life.
Doctors treat tics with medications and therapy, but the medicines can have inconvenient side effects and may not work well enough for every patient. So, some people with Tourette’s syndrome use medical marijuana to reduce the severity and frequency of their tics.
Cannabis has a stigma in our society that makes people believe it can cause more harm than good. But it’s just like any other kind of medicine — it can work wonders for patients in need. The stigma against marijuana might even have you worried that it could make your symptoms worse. We’re here to calm your nerves.
Research shows cannabis has no adverse effects on Tourette’s syndrome. Neither adults nor children have issues with it. In fact, children treated with medical marijuana for any kind of ailment don’t show long-term harm. Medical cannabis laws also tend to put extra regulations in place for minors, so parents have total control over their child’s treatment.
In addition to showing medical marijuana is safe for patients with Tourette’s syndrome, research supports its usefulness as a treatment. Most studies focus on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the major components of cannabis. While we associate THC with the psychoactive effects of marijuana, it causes a lot less harm than you may think. In fact, it seems to have many more benefits than drawbacks for Tourette’s syndrome patients.
THC worked to reduce tics both when researchers focused on them specifically and when they focused on Tourette’s syndrome symptoms in general. In one study, it improved both standard Tourette’s syndrome scale scores and a videotape score. Another trial showed motor symptoms like tics and obsessive-compulsive tendencies were reduced.
When one research team specifically examined the cognitive effects of THC, they found very promising results. THC had no negative impact on their subjects’ minds — in fact, it actually improved their immediate memory spans, making their cognitive function even better.
Newbies to medical cannabis may think of it as just one type of medicine, but it actually acts as many. Since marijuana has many different compounds called cannabinoids, medical marijuana products can have different ratios of them. And, each cannabinoid has its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition to including medication with different formulas, the medical marijuana spectrum covers a wide variety of products.
So, a large part of choosing the right medical cannabis treatment plan is finding a product that suits your needs and lifestyle. Every state with legalized marijuana medicine has approved different products, so check your state laws to see what your options are. Think about your how you react to cannabis and when you want to take it to construct a treatment plan that works for you.
That being said, you might want to prioritize medicine with large amounts of THC over medicine with CBD. We have much more evidence supporting its effectiveness compared to CBD. But, CBD has the benefit of causing no mental impairment. Since it doesn’t provide that “high,” you might want to try it out to see if it reduces your tics since you have no risk.