Tourette syndrome, also known as Tourette’s, is a condition of the central nervous system where a person may experience tics or sudden, uncontrolled movements or sounds. There is currently no cure for Tourette syndrome; however, there are treatment options to help manage the symptoms of Tourette’s. Researchers on Tourette syndrome are working to learn more about what causes the disease and hopefully discover a cure.

Tourette’s Treatment Options

There are several treatment options to manage the symptoms of Tourette’s. Treatment can involve medication, therapy or deep brain stimulation in some cases. The goal of treatment for Tourette syndrome is to lessen the severity and frequency of symptoms, helping the person to live a more normal life. The current treatment options include medication, therapy and deep brain stimulation.:

Medication

There are medications used to treat Tourette syndrome that are commonly used to treat other disorders. Many of these medications affect neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help reduce tics, though the reason for this is unknown. Some examples of Tourette’s medications are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Central adrenergic inhibitors (typically used to lower blood pressure)
  • ADHD medications
  • Medications that block dopamine

There are side effects to these medications, including sleepiness and feelings of sadness or depression, so the risk-to-benefit ratio should be weighed. It is best to speak with a physician who will help you determine the best treatment course for your symptoms.

Botulinum (Botox) injections, which are commonly used to treat headaches, have also been used as a treatment for Tourette’s. When injected into muscles, it can help reduce tics.

Therapy

In many cases, therapy will be used as a treatment for Tourette’s over medication. The types of therapy used to treat Tourette syndrome include behavioral therapy and psychotherapy:

  • Habit Reversal Training: Habit reversal training helps a person with Tourette’s to monitor their tics in an effort to identify what brings them on. This should help the person realize when a tic is going to occur, or when tics typically get more frequent and trains them to move in a way that will prevent the tic from happening. This can help to decrease the frequency of tics.
  • Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT): CBIT is another form of habit reversal training that focuses on relaxation and functional intervention. In other words, the person with Tourette’s develops strategies to manage their tics when they recognize a situation that is going to make them worse. Both habit reversal training and CBIT have been shown to provide significant improvement in tics.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can help a person with Tourrette’s deal with the psychological effects that may accompany Tourette syndrome, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Therapy to address these issues will focus on relieving stress that may be associated with the syndrome, which can also decrease the frequency and severity of tics and improve the person’s self-esteem.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation is a technique that involves surgically placing electrodes in the brain to deliver electrical stimulation to areas of the brain linked to Tourrette syndrome. A pulse-generating device is placed under the collar bone and delivers stimulation to the brain at programmed intervals. This technique is only used after other treatment options have been ineffective. Usually the person’s tics will have to be severely debilitating or cause them self-harm.

Ongoing Studies and Research

The exact cause of Tourette’s syndrome remains unclear. Therefore Tourette’s research efforts have focused on discovering what leads to a person developing Tourette syndrome, including genetic and environmental factors. A deeper understanding of the etiology of the disease will lead to better, more targeted therapies that address the cause of Tourette’s. 

Clinical trials for Tourette’s are investigating additional medications, therapies or combinations of the two that will be more effective in managing Tourette’s syndrome symptoms across the range of the disease. Studies are also exploring complementary or alternative medicine treatments for Tourette’s that could add to the current treatment strategies. 

Tourette syndrome can be challenging to deal with and some people may turn to alcohol or drug use to cope with their symptoms. If you or a loved one are dealing with Tourette’s and a co-occuring substance use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. We have comprehensive treatment plans that will help you manage addiction and mental health conditions. Contact The Recovery Village today to start on the road to recovery.