In an impact survey conducted by the Tourette Association of America, researchers found that “47% of adults and 44% of the parents of children with Tourette Syndrome do not feel their or their children’s symptoms are adequately controlled by existing medications.” With nearly half of their study’s participants reporting these feelings, it can be deduced that many of those diagnosed with Tourette’s are consistently seeking better options when it comes to controlling their symptoms.
In Pennsylvania, Tourette Syndrome is one of the 23 qualifying conditions for obtaining a medical marijuana card. It should be noted, since cited above, that the Tourette Association of America does not yet endorse using cannabis as a treatment for the condition due to an insufficient amount of research conducted within the states.
However, the studies that do exist, as well as anecdotal evidence, indicate that marijuana can be incredibly effective for managing tics and other symptoms related to the condition.
A Primer on Tourette Syndrome
Tourette Syndrome, also referred to as Tourette’s Syndrome or, simply, Tourette’s, is a neurological condition that causes involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The condition is three to four times more likely to affect males than females, and tics generally appear in children and teens between the ages of 2 and 15.
Tics can range from mild to severe. Many with severe tics often battle with their condition and the interference it can have with their lives. Movement tics are categorized in one of two ways:
- Simple tics, which affect very few muscle groups, are described as sudden, short, and repetitive, and;
- Complex tics that affect more muscles and produce larger, more distinct patterns.
For some, tics may cause pain due to the involuntary and repeated movement of muscles. We have already written about the benefits of cannabis for chronic pain, so for those who experience painful tics, marijuana can be a valuable source of pain management. Examples of physical tics can include:
- Shrugging shoulders
- A jerking of the head
- Foot stomping
Vocal tics may appear as:
- Clicking sounds
- Clearing the throat
Some individuals with Tourette Syndrome suffer from more dramatic and dangerous tics that cause self-harm, including banging one’s head or punching themselves in the face.
Using Medical Marijuana to Treat Tourette’s
Even more interesting, though, is that marijuana has been linked to help treat neurological conditions, including Tourette Syndrome. In two respective Canadian and Australian studies on how marijuana affects people with Tourette’s, researchers found that their patients saw a significant reduction in tics after consuming cannabis. Additionally, both studies reported that a majority of the patients reported that marijuana was more effective than their traditional Tourette’s medications, including Risperdal, Haldol, and Orap.
Furthermore, in a study published in Behavioural Neurology, experts went as far as to suggest the use of medical marijuana for those whose initial, more traditional treatments were ineffective at reducing tics.
Tics themselves, as mentioned above, can come in the form of movement or vocalizations. Individuals with Tourettes can also have to battle feelings of anxiety, obsessiveness, sleeplessness, and irritability—all feelings that medical marijuana can help subdue and suppress.
People with Tourette Syndrome are often the center of stigma and misunderstanding. While cannabis—even medical marijuana—comes with its own set of perceptions, it has been shown to improve tics and Tourette side effects significantly. What’s more, though it can help reduce tics, there is no evidence that suggests it will worsen them or that cannabis produces adverse side effects in patients with the condition.