Medical Marijuana & Tourette Syndrome 2021: Does It Help?

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Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

CBD For Tourettes

The search for alternative solutions in treating many serious neurological disorders nowadays has led to some incredible findings. Using medical marijuana and/or CBD for treating Tourette’s syndrome is one of them, as the question of their efficacy comes into play. 

Top 3 Best CBD Oils On the Market

Some of the best CBD oils on the market currently include:

Does CBD Help With Tourette’s Symptoms? 

Cannabinoids have been researched as a potential alternative treatment in relieving symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome since 1989[1], with the growing interest in CBD in recent years. 

CBD has shown therapeutic properties[2] in lowering inflammation and pain, reducing convulsions, helping treat nausea and sickness, as well as protecting the nerves. 

In June 2018, the FDA approved one CBD-based medicine[3] in the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. This was the first federally sanctioned medical use for CBD in the United States. That led to further research in CBD-supported treatments in other neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. 

The Tourette Association of America[4] formed a Cannabis Consortium composed of leading experts, clinicians, and researchers in the field, whose job was to evaluate and analyze existing research. Unfortunately, due to a lack of randomized, large-scale trials and data, they reported that the existing scientific evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion on the safety and efficacy of CBD oil and medical marijuana for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome. 

How Can Marijuana Help with Tourette’s Syndrome?

The difference between pure CBD oil and medical marijuana is in its content. While CBD exists in its pure form, medical marijuana[4] contains two different chemical components, THC and CBD. 

Even though the research[5] is insufficient and has only been done on a smaller scale, there are those who report reduced tics as well as a relief in mental disorders that often accompany the condition when using. Still, the same that’s been said for CBD can be repeated here, the research and data are insufficient to conclude how medical marijuana actually helps with Tourette’s syndrome and its symptoms. 

Medical Marijuana 101

Although still illegal at the federal level, marijuana has been legalized (or decriminalized) for medical use in 36 states and four territories[6]. Due to this report[7], issued by the Institute of Medicine, which states how scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of THC and other cannabinoids, many of the US states decided to decriminalize its use for medical purposes. 

At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance[8], which means that it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, making its distribution a federal offense. The state vs. federal perspective remains different and when colliding, each situation comes out with an individual outcome depending on the case. 

The biggest challenges regarding medical marijuana include how to regulate its recommendation, dispensing, and registration of approved patients. Some states have created specific programs for registering and tracking their patients, while others are still trying to figure out what works for them best. 

Still, the therapeutic potential of medical marijuana exists, and it’s recommended in many cases in patients dealing with chronic pain[9], PTSD[10], late-stage cancers[11], and chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea[12]

Probably the most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control, specifically chronic pain. It’s safer than opiates (such as oxycodone or Vicodin) and it can apparently take the place of NSAIDs[13] (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for those who can’t take them due to problems with their kidneys or ulcers, as well as GERD.

It appears that medical marijuana eases neuropathic pain[14], an area that is hard to find treatment for in general. One of the reasons for it is its muscle-relaxing characteristic which is why it’s generally recommended to people with Parkinson’s disease[15] (to calm down tremors), fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and most other conditions where the final common pathway is chronic pain.

Another important use of medical marijuana shows in helping alleviate and manage nausea and weight loss, and can also be used to treat glaucoma[16]. It’s known to open up the appetite, so those having issues with food can get hungrier and help prevent unwanted weight loss. 

The Recreational Use of Marijuana 

The recreational use of marijuana differs from its medical characteristic due to the fact the person taking it doesn’t have to have a medical condition to be a user. The laws in the US are changing on a daily basis, with all 50 countries being in the loop[17]

At the moment, 18 states, two territories, and Washington DC have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. Others are bound to follow suit. 

Risk & Side Effects

Being classified as a Schedule I substance, medical marijuana comes with some risks and side effects that don’t have to present themselves in everyone. These include:

  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Overall fatigue
  • Problems with memory and mood
  • Slowed-down reaction time
  • Potential paranoia

The Marijuana Risks

Getting high from marijuana is a natural concern for everyone who’s never tried using it, as well as what damage it could do to one’s lungs and brain. The FDA hasn’t approved marijuana as medicine, and the CDC[18] doesn’t consider it to be one as well.

Since it’s being inhaled, the potential of damaging the lungs and cardiovascular system exists, as well as the still-unknown long-term effects it may have on your brain. Another problem with medical marijuana stems from the fact that the ingredients in each plant can be different, causing uncertainty in what kind and how much of a chemical you’re actually getting.

The same uncertainty exists in whether or not medical marijuana will get you high[19], as well as potentially make you addicted. The problem comes from the fact that in the last 20 years, there’s been a 212% increase in THC content in the marijuana flower, making even the small doses stronger and more potent than ever before. 

The increased potency of THC showed visible withdrawal symptoms[20] which include anger, irritability, depression, restlessness, headache, loss of appetite, insomnia and severe cravings for marijuana.

It seems that 9% of those who experiment with marijuana[21] will eventually become addicted, with 25–50% of those being daily users. A study conducted in the UK in 2015[22] found that marijuana use is associated with “increased severity of dependence, especially in young people.”

Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome[23] is a serious nervous system disorder that causes sudden, repetitive movements, twitches, and sounds. People who suffer from Tourette’s cannot control these tics, and since they’re sudden, they can happen anytime, anywhere. 

Types of Tics

All tics can be divided into two groups: motor and vocal[24]

  • Motor tics are movements of the body, such as blinking, jerking parts of the body, shaking, shrugging the shoulders, facial grimacing, and similar. 
  • Vocal tics include yelling out a word or a phrase, humming a melody, clearing out the throat, sniffing, and alike.

Both of these tics can be simple (sudden, brief, and include a limited number of muscle groups) or complex (combined bigger movements or sounds that might even seem intentional, like jumping or touching objects). 

Triggers for Tics

Although Tourette syndrome tics can happen anytime, there are certain triggers that can make them worse. Excitement and anxiety are the usual suspects, as well as hearing or seeing someone sniff or cough which can make them do the same. 

Comorbidities

People with Tourette’s syndrome often experience additional neurobehavioral problems which happen simultaneously. Some of them include:

  • ADHD[25] ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • OCD[26] (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Behaviors)
  • Anxiety[27]
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral issues
  • Autism spectrum disorders[28]
  • Social functioning difficulties
  • Problems with sleep

Current Treatments for Tourette’s Syndrome

Although incurable, the existing medical treatments[29] for Tourette’s syndrome include:

How To Choose The Best CBD For Tourette’s?

If you’re trying to relieve symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome and you’re willing to try CBD oil, always look for these properties:

  • 100% organic ingredients (both hemp and soil, as hemp, has the tendency to absorb elements and minerals from the soil)
  • Full-spectrum CBD because of its entourage effect[36], the group dynamics of the integration of multiple cannabis compounds at the same time
  • CO2 extraction to make the product as clean as possible, without any harmful chemicals
  • Third-party tested for transparency

How to use Medical Marijuana for Tourette’s?

Although the reports are scarce, those that exist mention inhaling marijuana[37] to relieve the symptoms. The earliest case[38] reported improvement in tics and comorbid symptoms. 

Even though inhaling medical marijuana seems to be the way to go, with no conclusive evidence, no health provider will actually recommend it to those who are suffering from Tourette’s syndrome. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Tourette’s Syndrome?

Tourette’s syndrome is a serious nervous system disorder that causes sudden, repetitive movements, twitches, and sounds. The person suffering from it, unfortunately, can’t control their actions.

Can CBD help treat the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome?

Although some research potentially proved promising, it’s still insufficient to say with certainty that CBD actually does help treat the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. The lack of randomized, large-scale trials is, unfortunately, making this conclusion hard to achieve.

Is medical marijuana better than CBD for Tourette’s syndrome?

Although some believe that the presence of THC really does make a difference, there hasn’t been any real proof to support those claims. Until more randomized, large-scale trials take place, it’s hard to assume otherwise.

How does Tourette’s syndrome manifest itself?

Those suffering from Tourette’s syndrome experience sudden movements, sounds, or twitches that are repetitive and out of their control. This neurological disorder can be so severe that it impacts a person’s life to an almost, highly-dysfunctional degree.

What’s the current treatment for Tourette’s syndrome?

The current medical treatment for Tourette’s syndrome includes speech therapies, medications, deep brain stimulation, Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT), a dental orthotic device, and potentially, medical marijuana.

Is medical marijuana legal?

On a federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, meaning it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. That being said, 36 states and four territories have decriminalized and approved its use for medical purposes. The question of its legality is therefore still in murky waters.

What is medical marijuana used for?

Currently, medical marijuana is used for chronic pain management, specifically neuropathic pain, relief from nausea and vomiting, as an aid in preventing weight loss and helping manage glaucoma, as well as treating illnesses that could benefit from muscle relaxants.

Are some CBD oils better than others?

When it comes to choosing the right CBD oil, there are some important things to look out for. Make sure the ingredients are 100% organic, even the soil the hemp was grown in. Check the extraction process for cleanliness and choose only full-spectrum CBD oil. Last, but not least, check if the product is being third-party tested to ensure transparency.


+ 38 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Medically reviewed by:

Karla is a published author, speaker, certified nutritionist, and yoga teacher, and she's passionate when writing about nutrition, health, fitness, and overall wellness topics. Her work has been featured on popular sites like Healthline, Psychology.com, Well and Good, Women's Health, Mindbodygreen, Medium, Yoga Journal, Lifesavvy, and Bodybuilding.com. In addition to writing about these topics, she also teaches yoga classes, offers nutrition coaching, organizes wellness seminars and workshops, creates content for various brands & provides copywriting services to companies.

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