There may be a much-needed new treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome some time in the near future. While medical cannabis is known to be helpful in a variety of neurological conditions, Tourette’s is another to add to the ever-growing list. Early research into the disorder has found that cannabis likely eases disruptive and sometimes debilitating tics and behavioral symptoms. Now, a recently published study adds more weight to these results.
Inhaled cannabis helpful for tics
A new study conducted by the University of Toronto has found that cannabis successfully quiets tics in patients with Tourette’s Syndrome. Tourette’s syndrome is one of three disorders called tic disorders.
The research, which published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, included 19 participants. 18 of which were “much improved” after inhaling some of the herb.
Tourette’s Syndrome begins in childhood with the development of motor and verbal “tics”. These tics can come in the form of shoulder shrugs, winking, grimaces, verbal expressions, throat clearing, and more.
As a neurodevelopmental disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome has no cure. Yet, there are few medications there are a few medications out there that are thought to ease symptoms. The unfortunate part? Most of the common drugs prescribed to Tourette’s Patients have harsh side effects.
Thus far, the primary treatments for the disorder are behavioral therapies and antipsychotics, drugs that suppress involuntary movement, and amphetamine medications for symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
In extreme cases, some patients even go as far as to opt for deep brain stimulation to relieve severe symptoms. Like many Tourette’s therapies, deep brain stimulation is an expensive and risky procedure. When other medications and therapies have failed, doctors can surgically cut open the skull and zap electrical impulses at certain target areas of the brain.
With treatment options so limited and high-risk, finding safe new therapies is a must.
Will cannabis be the new best treatment for Tourettes?
While the University of Toronto’s study is quite small, the results are promising. Overall tics scores were reduced by a whopping 60 percent. Other symptoms, like obsessiveness, anxiety, irritability, and fits of rage improved with cannabis inhalation as well.
In fact, after a little cannabis, symptoms improved so much that the researchers were quite surprised in their report,
Overall, these study participants experienced substantial improvements in their symptoms. This is particularly striking given that almost all participants had failed at least one anti-tic medication trial.
They ultimately conclude that cannabis “seems to be a promising treatment option” for those with Tourette’s related tics. Research from in 2003 adds weight to this hypothesis.
This earlier study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, administered THC, the primary psychoactive in cannabis, to Tourette’s patients for six weeks. The study found no signs of long-term harm with the cannabis chemical. They also found that patient’s verbal memory recall was improved post-treatment.
The study sites further anecdotal and early evidence that cannabis treatments “[…] are effective in the treatment of tics and behavioral problems in [Tourette’s Syndrome].”
While most mainstream doctors are a way off from prescribing cannabis as a first-line Tourette’s treatment, the small but growing research on the subject is hopeful, without a doubt.