Pubdate: Tue, 02 Apr 2002
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Limited
Author: Hannah Cleaver


BERLIN - Chemicals found in cannabis can significantly reduce the symptoms 
of Tourette's syndrome, study findings suggest.

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by 
uncontrollable facial grimaces, tics, and involuntary grunts, snorts and 

Dr. Kirsten Mueller-Vahl of the Hanover Medical College in Germany led a 
team that investigated the effects of chemicals called cannabinols in 12 
adult Tourette's patients.

In the study, each patient was given a single oral dose of d9-THC--the most 
psychoactive chemical in cannabis--calculated based on their body weight, 
sex, age and prior use of marijuana, or a dose of inactive placebo. 
Symptoms were measured after the first treatment, and compared to symptoms 
after the same patient was switched to the other pill. Neither the patient 
nor the investigator knew whether they were given a placebo or the active 
treatment first.

A single dose of the cannabinol produced a significant reduction in 
symptoms for several hours compared to placebo, the researchers report in 
the April issue of Pharmacopsychiatry.

"The effects were clear," Mueller-Vahl told Reuters Health. "What was also 
interesting was that some patients experienced far greater effects than 
others. Some had a great effect, some only (a small effect), and a few none 
at all. But generally, the level of tic activity was reduced as were the 
compulsions, such as to shout, spit or swear."

Mueller-Vahl's team has also recently finished a 6-week long study with 24 

Although the results are not yet published, the researcher said, "The 
second study supported what we had gathered from the initial one. Those 
taking the THC had significantly less tic behaviour."

Around 50,000 people in Germany alone have Tourette's syndrome, a complex 
neurological-psychiatric condition. Its cause remains unknown.

Current treatments are generally limited in effectiveness and often have 
considerable side effects. Mueller-Vahl said she wanted to see further 
research conducted on the potential medical uses of cannabis-based drugs.

"Marijuana and hashish from cannabis plants have been used as a medicine 
for centuries in various cultures," she said.

"In modern cultures, cannabis--because of its abusive use as a recreational 
drug and not least because of the long-unknown combination of 
chemicals--has until now barely played a role. There are around 80 
different active chemicals in the cannabis plant," she noted.

"There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the consumption of marijuana 
clearly and continuously benefits Tourette patients," Mueller-Vahl pointed 
out. "There is also a strong suggestion that the plant cannabis is more 
effective than synthetic THC, and that patients taking the mixture 
experience fewer unpleasant side effects."

She said the results opened up other potential areas of research. "The 
results prompt the question of how far the central cannabinoid receptor 
system of the brain plays a part in the origins of the condition," 
Mueller-Vahl noted. "The study should encourage further research into the 
effects of cannabis as well as some of the individual substances it 
contains, with other diseases too."

SOURCE: Pharmacopsychiatry 2002;33:57-61.