The Tourette Syndrome Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Tourette syndrome (TS) is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder. This condition is characterized by repetitive involuntary movements and sounds known as tics. According to the CDC, it is estimated that one out of every 162 children worldwide have TS. In Australia, it is estimated that as many as one in every 100 school children may live with this condition, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Other statistics suggest that approximately one in every 200 adults in Australia also live with Tourette syndrome. 

The Tourette Syndrome Landscape 

Tourette syndrome is a condition that often develops in early childhood and tends to affect men more prevalently than women. In many cases, symptoms of TS can improve naturally with age, and for some, they can completely go away. While some individuals with TS may only have motor-based tics, others will experience motor and vocal tics. These typically come in uncontrollable repetitive movements or actions such as clearing the throat, blinking eyes, or moving body parts swiftly. For those that also experience vocal tics, they are most commonly experienced through vocally blurting outwards unintentionally. Although there are no known cures for Tourette syndrome, when tics do not naturally go away with age and are uncontrollable to the point where they interfere with daily activities, treatment options are available that have shown great success.

Signs of Tourette Syndrome

The most common sign or symptoms of Tourette syndrome are motor and/or vocal tics. These can be seen in various actions, such as the ones listed below.

Motor Tics

  • • Mouth twitching
  • • Shrugging of shoulders
  • • Excessive blinking
  • • Involuntary arm or head jerking

Vocal Tics

  • • Swearing
  • • Sniffing
  • • Shouting
  • • Repeating words of others
  • • Clearing throat
  • • Barking or yelping
  • • Grunting

When Should You Seek Help for Tourette Syndrome? 

If you or a loved one are experiencing a combination of the involuntary actions listed above or have noticed an increase in their occurrence, it is advisable to seek medical consultation. TS can be very interruptive to your daily life, but there are treatment options available that may offer substantial help.

How Is Tourette Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are no defined tests available to definitively provide a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome; however, blood tests and imaging studies such as MRIs can be helpful in ruling out other conditions that may be causing related symptoms. Certain criteria must be met to provide a diagnosis of TS. These typically include the occurrence of motor and vocal tics that occur nearly every day multiple times and have done so for more than a year. With TS, tics appear before the age of 18, so for patients experiencing relatable symptoms over the age of 18, symptoms could be related to a different condition or a reaction to medications. These are all things that your doctor will take into consideration when providing a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

The Endocannabinoid System & Tourette Syndrome

The exact cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown. This complex disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Additionally, it is widely accepted that neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses—also play a vital role.

Within the brain’s basal ganglia exists a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that when cannabinoids such as THC and CBD from cannabis and hemp plants bind to those receptors, the result may be decreased involuntary movements. Science suggests that cannabinoids provide this effect by helping to regulate neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. A highly referenced 1998 research study from Germany concluded that when TS patients consumed cannabinoid therapies, 82% of participants reported significant improvement, with one patient going into remission for over a year.

Traditional Treatments for Tourette Syndrome

Traditional treatments for Tourette syndrome include various therapies and medications. Doctors will commonly prescribe medications to block or decrease the production of dopamine, which has been shown to help control tics. Additionally, the use of Botox injections, ADHD medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications may be employed. For those that experience severe tics, deep brain stimulation, also known as DBS therapy, may sometimes be recommended. This type of therapy involves implanting a medical device in the brain that delivers electrical stimulation to areas within the brain that are responsible for controlling movement. This is an experimental treatment and is often avoided with the exception of severe cases. It isn’t uncommon, however, for Tourette syndrome patients to undergo behavior therapy, psychotherapy for a combination of both.

Plant Therapies for Tourette Syndrome Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers at the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Lambert initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics are recruiting TS patients for a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial. This trial will employ the utilization of THC and CBD and will take an in-depth look at their effect on TS-based vocal and motor-based tics. You can learn more about the study and register your interest here

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.