Tourette’s syndrome and Medical Marijuana

Is Medical Marijuana effective in the treatment of Tourette’s Syndrome?

Tourette’s Syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder in which a person gets involuntary tics or spasms. These tics can be phonic or motor and can also be accompanied by behavioral problems. According to an estimate, around 100,000 people in United States are affected by this condition. While it is often taken for funny effects, the sufferers face a life of constant battles and find it extremely difficult to “fit in” and live a normal existence. It is a serious condition and can lead to severe injuries as the person is not able to control his/her spasms. The condition is hereditary and usually lessens with age, however, the chronic conditions need treatment and unfortunately, the condition has no cure.

Medical Marijuana and Tourette’s Syndrome

Recent research has provided some interesting results for those people suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome. The research focused on the effectiveness of Medical Marijuana in the treatment of this condition. It seems unrealistic that you can get rid of TS by smoking Marijuana, but results have been promising. Several studies are being conducted at various levels to establish a direct link. Most of them have given positive results.

It all started in 1988, when two experts, Gavin Awerbuch, MD (neurologist and specialist in sleep disorder/pain management) and Reuven Sandyk, MD (Assistant Editor at International Journal of Neuroscience) sent letter titled ‘Marijuana and Tourette’s Syndrome) to the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. This letter explained the positive effects of Marijuana in TS patients who had stopped responding to traditional treatment drugs. The patients smoked marijuana regularly and there was a significant decrease in their tics and twitches.

In the March of year 1999, a report published by the ‘Institute of Medicine’ elaborated the impact of Medical Marijuana in Tourette’s Syndrome. The report was titled ‘Marijuana & Medicine, Assessing the science base’ and was the result of expansive research conducted on various people. The main objective of this research was to analyse the effect of marijuana in movement disorders including Tourette Syndrome. The results showed that marijuana had a calming effect on the nerves of these people, thereby reducing anxiety and stress. The report concluded that medical marijuana was effective in reducing the symptoms of TS caused due to these factors.

Dr. Muller Vahl, a German researcher, published the results of two clinical studies in 2002 and 2003 respectively. The first study was conducted on 12 TS patients that were given a single dose of THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol daily. The second randomized, placebo controlled trial was conducted on 24 TS patients, who were given a daily dose of THC for six weeks. Results of both these experiments showed a significant decrease in tics as well as OCB or Obsessive Compulsive behavior. Summarizing the results, Dr. Vahl wrote in her article in Expert Opinion on Pharmacology that  Medical Marijuana
can actually help control the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome without any detrimental cognitive effects.

According to the American Medical Association, Medical Marijuana and Tourette’s Syndrome can be linked and there are evidences of marijuana helping TS patients with symptoms. However, the studies are still in their initial stages and a solid conclusion is yet to be derived. While the experiments have shown positive effect of marijuana on Tourette patients, the possible side effects are yet to be explored.