Tourette Syndrome, also known as Tourette’s or simply TS, is a neurological disorder that causes tics, which are involuntary, repetitive sounds, words and movements of various parts of the body. While medical marijuana and Tourette’s Syndrome has not been extensively studied, there are nonetheless studies that point to marijuana for Tourette’s as being helpful in managing its symptoms.
Many TS patients self-medicate with marijuana for their Tourette’s and claim that doing so vastly reduces the number of tics, as well as their levels of stress and anxiety.
What is Tourette’s?
Tourette’s is usually noticed first in childhood. Often by the time children with TS reach their late teens, the symptoms begin to taper off and continue to do so into adulthood. For others, the condition is life long, and managing their symptoms is challenging.
An official diagnosis of TS is usually made after the patient has experienced both vocal and motor tics for a minimum of one year. The type of tics a patient has varies greatly; simple motor tics might be things like sudden, jerky eye or facial movements or blinking, or head or shoulder jerking. Simple tics in the form of vocalizations might involve repeated throat clearing, sniffing or grunting.
Complex tics are a combination of both types of simple tics and bigger movements and can include actual words instead of noises. A small number of TS victims experience instances of self-harm, such as hitting oneself; coprolalia, which is saying inappropriate words, or echolalia, which is repeating the words of others.1
The cause of Tourette’s is unknown, and there is no cure. A wide variety of pharmaceuticals are prescribed to control the symptoms, some of which are antidepressants, anti-seizure (epilepsy), and medications for ADHD. Even Botox injections are sometimes used at the site of the tic.2
Medical Marijuana and Tourette’s
In a single-case study conducted in Germany on the use of marijuana for Tourette’s, the subject had severe, treatment-resistant, complicated TS. Researchers used nabiximols, a form of synthetic THC, and almost equal amounts of CBD over a two-week period, slowly increasing the patient’s dose. The result was major improvement in both tics and the patient’s quality of life, and with no adverse effects.3
In a similar four-week study done in New Zealand, the subject was given 10.8 mg THC and 10 mg CBD twice daily, in the form of nabiximols oro-mucosal spray. The patient experienced significant improvement in both the frequency and severity of both motor and vocal tics, with the researchers noting that the results suggested these cannabinoids were a safe and effective treatment.4
A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover single-dose trial of THC that was done in 12 patients with Tourette’s showed considerable improvement.5
If You Try Marijuana for Tourette’s
Although many Tourette’s patients find that by the time they’ve reached adulthood their TS symptoms have significantly lessened, this isn’t always the case. Some adults must deal with their disturbing symptoms for many years; for others, their symptoms may remain severe for a lifetime.
If your symptoms are not improving on their own and traditional therapies aren’t working well, you might be considering trying medical cannabis as your next step. One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself, and to find a health practitioner with experience in guiding patients in the use of cannabis as a treatment option. If there are none in your area, many will do online appointments.
And of course, checking the laws in your state is a must, as rules vary widely from state to state. If your state does not allow whole-plant medical cannabis for any reason, you might want to try CBD. Although studies of CBD for Tourette’s are few and far between, there have been many studies done that show CBD is effective at reducing anxiety.6,7 Since anxiety often makes tics worse1, some patients may want to try CBD as a way to at least reduce their anxiety and see if that helps.
- Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Tourette Syndrome. Mayo Clinic
- Kanaan, A. S., Jakubovski, E., & Müller-Vahl, K. (2017). Significant Tic Reduction in An Otherwise Treatment-Resistant Patient with Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome Following Treatment with Nabiximols. Brain sciences, 7(5), 47. doi:10.3390/brainsci7050047
- Trainor, D., Evans, L., Bird, R. Severe motor and vocal tics controlled with Sativex®. Australasian Psychiatry
- Müller-Vahl KR1, Schneider U, Koblenz A, Jöbges M, Kolbe H, Daldrup T, Emrich HM. Treatment of Tourette’s syndrome with Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): a randomized crossover trial. Pharmacopsychiatry
- Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
- Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1