Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes tics, or repetitive and involuntary motions and vocalizations. Since you can’t control tics, they can interfere with your day-to-day life. Minor tics can cause inconvenience or embarrassment, while severe tics can cause injuries. People with Tourette’s often have to take medication with risky side effects.
Medical marijuana can relieve Tourette’s syndrome symptoms like anxiety, sleep issues and mood issues. It could also reduce tics, but we still need more research to know for sure. Either way, cannabis medicine can help Tourette’s patients improve their lives.
Müller-Vahl et al. studied the impact of THC on Tourette’s syndrome tics. Other research suggested THC could treat Tourette’s syndrome, so they wanted to expand on it. They focused on studying THC in a controlled environment and using it to treat tics. Also, they wanted to use a longer study period.
The team recruited 24 participants with Tourette’s syndrome to participate in a six-week trial. They administered either THC or a placebo to them. Then, they assessed the patients during six visits throughout the treatment period. To rate the severity of the subjects’ symptoms, the team used Tourette’s syndrome-specific scales and a videotape-based scale.
Although seven patients had to drop out of the study, only one left due to side effects. Overall trends indicated improvement in scale scores from the second visit through the fourth. Nobody experienced any major side effects from the THC.
Before conducting the previous study, Müller-Vahl led another study testing THC’s ability to treat Tourette’s syndrome. The team wanted to understand if THC could reduce Tourette’s syndrome symptoms. Anecdotal evidence showed cannabis could help patients with the disorder, so they wanted to investigate further.
They worked with 12 adult patients with Tourette’s syndrome and administered THC or a placebo. The subjects who received THC took a dose of 5, 7.5 or 10 milligrams. Both the patients and the researchers scored Tourette’s syndrome symptoms. Due to the study’s double-blind nature, neither group knew who was taking what until the end.
The patients’ tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior improved when they took THC medicine. When the patients scored their symptoms, they noticed an improvement on both fronts. Since the researchers didn’t score related behaviors, they didn’t have data on obsessive-compulsive behavior. But, they saw a huge improvement in motor and vocal tics.
Working off the past two studies, Müller-Vahl led another effort exploring THC’s effects on neuropsychological performance. While the past data showed THC could reduce tics, many experts worried it could cause negative cognitive effects. So, the researchers wanted to observe the effects of THC on patients’ mental functioning during THC treatment.
Twenty-four patients who were not using medical cannabis took part in the study. They received a lower dose of THC, a higher dose of THC or a placebo for six weeks. The team scored their cognitive function in five visits occurring before, during and after the treatment period.
Instead of negatively affecting the patients’ cognitive function, THC improved it in one aspect — it didn’t decrease any of the cognitive functioning measures. But, it did make the patients’ immediate memory span better. When the subjects stopped taking THC, they didn’t experience any withdrawal-related impairment, either.
Interested in treating your Tourette’s symptoms with cannabis medicine? We can help. Visit our condition page for Tourette’s syndrome to learn about the disorder and how you can use cannabis to relieve it. Or, use our doctor listings to find a marijuana-certified physician to determine your eligibility.