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Is Cannabis Effective in Managing Tourette Syndrome?


Tourette Syndrome, a.k.a. Tourette’s, is a condition that is frequently seen on the list of the qualifying conditions to get a medical cannabis card. The condition is characterized by some involuntary repetitive movements or tics in a particular part of the body. The intensity of these tics may vary from mild to extreme, depending upon the condition.

Many 420 doctors believe that cannabis can be an effective solution for this condition. The theory is that, as Tourette’s is a neurological disorder, cannabis can treat it, or at least manage it, by inducing some changes in the brain’s activity. And there have been a few case studies and clinical trials too supporting this theory.

However, given the illegal status of cannabis at the federal level, the research on the effectiveness of the herb against the Tourette Syndrome is still at the infant stage.

Let’s try to understand what we have learned about the use of cannabis to manage Tourette Syndrome so far.

Tourette Syndrome: The Basics

Tourette syndrome is a condition that was first discovered by a French neurologist, Dr. Georges Tourette. Now, you can probably guess the origin of the name of the condition. Moving on, it is a neurological condition that is most prevalent in children between 3 to 9 years of age. The condition peaks as the child reaches adolescence and starts to disappear as they reach early adulthood. As per the estimates by the National Institutes of Health, there are more than 200 thousand people in the US that are suffering from this condition at an extreme level.

Causes

The current research has not been able to specify any particular reason for the development of this condition in people. However, as per the preliminary studies, it may be the result of some abnormalities in some particular areas of the brain, which include:

Along with these, there can also also be a disruption in the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Symptoms

We can categorize the symptoms of Tourette’s into two basic categories- Simple Tics and Complex Tics. These tics can either be motor or vocal.

Some of the most common simple tics include:

  • Head jerking
  • Eye Blinking
  • Throat Clearing
  • Shoulder Shrugging
  • Sniffing
  • Facial Grimacing

And some Complex tics that we can associate with Tourette’s are:

  • Jumping or Hopping
  • Touching people or objects
  • Continuously repeating a word or phrase
  • Echoing other people’s words

In extreme cases, sometimes, the patient may indulge in some self-harming behavior too, such as punching himself.

Conventional Ways of Treating Tourette Syndrome

Until now, we don’t have any specific ways of treating the condition. But in some severe cases, doctors may prescribe some neuroleptic medications, such as pimozide or haloperidol.

However, you should note that these medicines have many side effects. These include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Weight Gain
  • Tremor; etc.

Can Cannabis Help Manage Tourette Syndrome?

As per the anecdotal evidence until now, cannabis may be an effective remedy against the Tourette syndrome. However, scientists haven’t been able to fully determine how it exactly works. Some 420 doctors believe that the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) may have a role to play in the development of the condition.

The ECS, which includes our body’s cell receptors and various chemicals, controls several physical as well as psychological functions of our body. As per the studies, we have two main kinds of cannabinoid receptors- CB1 and CB2. And it is the former that may have something to do with the Tourette’s. CB1 receptors are present in high quantities in the cerebellum and the basal ganglia, the two major controllers of our motor functions. And they are also present in the Hippocampus, the part associated with our memory, learning, and emotions.

Now, when the endocannabinoid chemicals bind with these CB1 receptors, there is a change in the release of certain neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. There is also an effect on GABA and glutamate, which are our primary inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters.

420 doctors say that the compounds present in the cannabis plant, such as THC, have a structure similar to the endocannabinoid chemicals present inside our body. And thus, they also have the ability to bind with the CB1 receptors, and ultimately, produce the same results. Considering this, it seems like cannabis may be able to manage Tourette Syndrome as it can mimic the actions of our body’s own endocannabinoid compounds.

What Does The Research Says?

One of the most prominent research on the subject was conducted in the form of a review which was published in 2013 in Behavioural Neurology. In this review of some previous studies, case reports, and clinical trials, it was claimed that cannabis can have a positive impact on the people suffering from Tourette Syndrome.

As per the case report, after consuming cannabis, all the subjects that were part of the research had a significant improvement in their tics and attentiveness. One patient even saw a reduction in his symptoms from a score of 41 to 7 on the Tourette’s Global Scale.

As per the two clinical trials also, which included 12 and 24 subjects respectively who were given THC and placebo randomly, patients with THC had better results. Moreover, there were no adverse effects seen. Some minor side effects of THC in the patients were:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea

There were some other studies also suggesting similar positive results. For instance, there was a study in 2017 that observed two patients with vocal tics. Both of them were given some form of THC. And both saw an improvement in their condition. In another 2017 trial, 19 patients of Tourette’s were given medical cannabis. And out of those, 18 saw a significant reduction in their symptoms.

However, you should note that all these studies were conducted on a very minor scale. And as there is no solid large scale research available, it’s still difficult to firmly conclude the relationship between cannabis and Tourette’s. Having said that, given the lack of other treatment options plus the research until now, cannabis still poses a great solution for the condition.

Can CBD Help?

A lot of people avoid consuming cannabis as it contains THC, which is an intoxicating substance. Others can’t use it as they don’t have a medical cannabis card. And in most cannabis-friendly states, you need to have a cannabis card if you want to legally use marijuana. So, in that case, can you use CBD-only products to manage your Tourette’s?

Well, currently, there is no evidence suggesting that you can use CBD to manage your Tourette’s. However, there are a few ongoing studies that are trying varied CBD to THC ratio doses to treat the conditions. And soon, we will have an idea of it. If the outcome comes out to be positive, it can be great news for people who, for some reason, cannot use full-fledged cannabis products. But till then, we have no other options.

In the end, using cannabis to manage your Tourette Syndrome is your own decision. However, if you are up for it, we recommend you talk to a qualified 420 doctor first. Cannabis, no doubt, is a great substance that can help you in many ways. But still, given its intoxicating effects, it’s better to keep a professional in the loop.

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