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Medical Marijuana for Tourette Syndrome?

by | Aug 1, 2017 | Science


A recent study found that cannabis considerably relieved symptoms in 95% of patients with Tourette syndrome.  The findings may add weight to the political argument of legalizing medical marijuana.

A study conducted at the Toronto Western Hospital in Canada studied nineteen patients with moderate to severe Tourette syndrome, who used cannabis for two years to relieve their symptoms.  Researchers concluded that all but one patient experienced “significant symptom relief,” including a 60% decrease in tics.  The experiment’s lead researcher, Elia Abi-Jaoude, explains, however, that the study did have limitations:

This was a retrospective study, so there may be a ‘recall bias’ when people try to compare how they are doing now to how they were doing before starting cannabis.  Moreover, this was an observational study that did not have a placebo control; thus, we cannot know to what extent the improvements we saw can be accounted for by a placebo effect.  Also, since this was a relatively small study, uncommon but serious side effects may not have been picked up.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Tourette syndrome is a disorder characterized by repetitive, uncontrollable movements or sounds, more commonly referred to as “tics.”  Over one hundred and thirty-eight thousand Americans currently suffer from the syndrome.  Although there is currently no known cure for the disorder, there are various medications used to treat Tourette’s, many of which may lead to potentially dangerous side effects. In the patients using cannabis to treat the syndrome at Toronto Western Hospital, the only known side effects of the substance were sleepiness, decreased concentration, and anxiety.

Findings by the Toronto Western Hospital may fuel political debate on the legalization of medical marijuana.  According to Liberty Nation’s Scott Cosenza, Senate Republicans recently voted to approve the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which would prohibit the Department of Justice from spending funds to inhibit U.S. states from legalizing medical marijuana, against the advisement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Attorney General Sessions has made controversial claims regarding medical marijuana, wrongly comparing the substance to heroin.  In fact, according to Mark Ware from McGill University, the medical benefits of cannabis are plentiful, including maintaining the body’s natural balance and increasing the appetites of cancer patients, when taken at the correct dosage.

A total of twenty-nine U.S. states have regulation for legalized medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislature. Perhaps with the findings from researchers at the Toronto Western Hospital, more politicians may pursue the legalization of medical marijuana to aid suffering patients. Toronto researchers say that their next step is to run a double-blind study on the effects of cannabis on Tourette syndrome.

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