Do you or a loved one live with Tourette syndrome? These treatments could help alleviate tics and improve your symptoms.
Tourette syndrome is a condition in which a person engages in involuntary vocalizations and movements called tics. There are multiple options for Tourette syndrome treatment, ranging from medication to alternative therapies. Treatment aims to manage tics so they don’t interfere with a person’s daily functioning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that medications can treat disruptive tics that impair a person’s functioning at work, school or home. Prescription drugs can also treat conditions that commonly co-occur with Tourette’s, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, neuroleptic drugs are the most commonly used Tourette syndrome medication. While Tourette’s medication, such as neuroleptics, cannot eliminate tics, they can reduce their occurrence.
- Haloperidol. Haloperidol is a neuroleptic drug used to treat tics that the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports is effective. People who take haloperidol for Tourette’s may experience some side effects, including weight gain or sleepiness. However, these side effects are manageable by adjusting doses or beginning treatment slowly. Extreme side effects, such as tremor or involuntary movements, are less common.
- Aripiprazole. Aripiprazole is another effective medication used to treat Tourette’s tics. A 2015 report in Human Psychopharmacology reviewed the results of six studies conducted with this medication. Results showed that aripiprazole was equally effective for relieving tics when compared to haloperidol, but produced fewer extrapyramidal side effects, or drug-induced movement disorders.
- Botox Injections. Some individuals find that Botox injections for Tourettes are useful for treating tics, and preliminary research supports the use of these injections. A 2004 study in Neurological Sciences showed that Botox injections reduced tics for the majority of study participants, with half of them finding that the injections eliminated tics. However, more research is needed to verify the effectiveness of these injections.
- Ritalin. It is common for individuals with Tourette’s to also experience ADHD, and Ritalin can be used to treat patients diagnosed with Tourette’s and co-occurring ADHD. According to a review of current research on Ritalin and Tourette’s, the generic version of this medication is effective for treating ADHD among people with tics. There is no evidence that Ritalin exacerbates tics.
- Clonidine. Another useful treatment option is clonidine for Tourette’s. This medication is especially helpful for those with co-occurring ADHD. Research indicates that clonidine is useful for treating both tics and ADHD symptoms.
Therapies for Tourette’s
Aside from medications, treatment of tics may involve Tourette syndrome therapy. These therapies can include counseling or specific surgical procedures designed to treat Tourette syndrome.
The Tourette Association of America created the Comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT). CBIT therapy involves learning to become more conscious of tics, engaging in different behaviors when the urge to tic arises, and recognizing and managing environmental conditions that can cause tics. For instance, a person who experiences a vocal tic such as grunting may instead breathe deeply when the urge to tic occurs. If the person notices that ticcing happens more frequently in certain situations, such as while at work, they can learn coping strategies to reduce stress and decrease the occurrence of tics.
Research shows that CBIT is effective. A 2012 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that CBIT was more effective for reducing tic severity when compared to a control group, and patients who received CBIT continued to show improvements at a six-month follow-up point.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
The Tourette Association of America also recommends deep brain stimulation for Tourette syndrome as a treatment option for those with significant tics that have not improved with medical or behavioral interventions. During deep brain stimulation, an electrode is implanted in the individual’s brain that alters brain activity associated with tics. The surgery also involves inserting a neurostimulator, which is implanted near the collarbone.
While medications and therapies can be effective for treating tics, some people may prefer holistic treatment for Tourette syndrome. Alternative therapies for Tourette’s may include:
- Hypnosis: A study with children and teens evaluated the effects of a program that trained individuals with Tourette syndrome in self-hypnosis. Study results show that 79 percent of participants saw an improvement in symptoms with self-hypnosis training, with 96 percent of the 79 percent being able to control their tics after three training sessions.
- Acupuncture: A review of the research evaluating acupuncture and Tourettes shows that over the short-term, acupuncture tends to be more effective than medications typically used to treat tics. However, more research is needed to confirm this benefit.
- Relaxation Techniques: One study found that relaxation techniques could reduce the occurrence of tics by 32 percent.
- Music Therapy: Research shows that people who listen to music and engage in musical performances report reductions in tics. Experimental conditions also show that Tourette’s music therapy is effective, with those who are exposed to music showing a tic reduction.
Tourette’s Support Groups
Individuals who are diagnosed with Tourette’s may benefit from Tourette syndrome support groups to assist them during the treatment process. The Tourette Association of America offers support for individuals and families affected by Tourette syndrome. Online search tools are available to find local support groups.
Treating Tourette Syndrome and Co-Occurring Disorders
Tourette’s treatment centers can offer services for individuals who are experiencing Tourette’s and a co-occurring disorder, such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or substance use disorders. If you or a loved one need treatment, The Recovery Village offers care for co-occurring addiction and Tourette syndrome. Reach out to a representative today to discuss options and to locate the treatment facility that is most convenient for you.
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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Tourette syndrome fact sheet.” July 6, 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.
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