CBD & Tourette's Syndrome
If you are like me, you probably have very little understanding of Tourette’s Syndrome. Prior to getting to know Christian DeVito, my knowledge consisted primarily of what was depicted by fictional characters on TV. I knew that people suffering from Tourette’s manifested involuntary verbal and physical tics, but wrongly believed that Tourette’s was most notably exhibited by uncontrolled profanity or socially unacceptable language (referred to as coprolalia). It turns out that only 10-15% of people with Tourette’s exhibit this tic.
I have gotten to know Christian DeVito over the past year, as he has become a frequent customer of our Agoura Hills store and has been gracious enough to share his Tourette’s story with me. I am grateful for all he has taught me about his condition and feel so thankful that I have been able to help him as well.
Since our interview, I have also done my homework to learn more about this disorder. What I learned is that there is a lot more to be learned!
So What is Tourette’s Syndrome?
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children, adolescents, and adults. The condition is characterized by sudden, involuntary movements and/or sounds called tics. Tics can range from mild/inconsequential to moderate and severe and are disabling in some cases. Average age of onset is 7 years old, but tics must appear before age 18 for a diagnosis, and there are no clinical or laboratory test available for diagnosing Tourette. Current research estimates that 1 in 100 school-aged children in the US have Tourette or another Tic Disorder and males are 3 to 4 more times than females to be affected.
The cause of Tourette’s is unknown, but it is believed to involve the interaction of multiple gene variations and environmental factors. Current research points to abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex), the circuits that connect these regions, and the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) responsible for communication between nerve cells (called neurons). The research to understand it continues across numerous medical and scientific disciplines.
Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Common motor tics include eye blinking, head jerking and facial movements. Common vocal tics include throat clearing, sniffing and tongue clicking. It is not uncommon for the intensity of symptoms to change, sometimes daily or to disappear for extended periods of time. Stress or tension tends to make the condition worse, while relaxation or concentration eases the symptoms. There is no cure for TS, but treatments are available to help manage some symptoms.
Introducing Christian Devito
Christian just celebrated his 30th birthday. He was born in the Bay Area and moved to Santa Cruz with his parents and younger brother. He graduated from Sequoia High School, and Cabrio Community College with an AA in Communications.
Like so many others, Christian moved to LA to pursue his acting passion. Prior to the pandemic he honed is craft through acting classes and has performed in local theatre. For the past four years, he has supplemented his acting career by working for Vons and for the last 2 years you can find him at the Agoura Hills location.
Christian began displaying signs of Tourette’s as an adolescent. The tics were initially mild and did not cause him or his parents much concern. His doctors lead him to believe that his tics would subside as he got older, but that has not been his experience. Christian was officially diagnosed with TS at 19. He displays both verbal and motor tics. He shared that his tics have changed and become more extreme as he has aged. His vocal tics tend to be repetitive sounds or tongue clicking. They are notable but become less distracting as you talk to him. Christian amazingly doesn’t miss a beat in his story, although interrupted often by his vocal tics. Christian’s also deals with the motor tics. He stretches and jerks his neck to the side and does something of a figure 8 with an outstretched right arm. He appears to take them in stride, and that alone reminds you Christian is much more than his Tourette’s.
He told me how his tics have changed over the years and how he has even intentionally worked to change a tic because it caused him physical pain and could be potentially offensive. He often suffers jaw pain due to his vocal tics and has suffered shoulder and elbow pain due to repetitive motion. His motor tics, if too aggressive or misplaced can cause bruises and injury.
Over the past decade, he has taken a myriad of medications to help control the tics and associated symptoms. Some helped, others have made things worse. In one case, the tics subsided but he was thrown into the depths of depression. Treating TS is a challenge because treating the symptoms, not the underlying cause is ephemeral at best and destructive at worst.
Christian is very in tune with how his body reacts to environment and what he puts into his body. He avoids sugar, coffee, and junk food. He eats well and walks daily. Currently he takes a few medications for sleep and anxiety, and they work “ok – but are not good for daytime. “CBD is the only thing that has helped me with my tics during the day,” says Christian. He was introduced to CBD by a friend and started buying flower online. About a year ago Christian stopped into my store (a few steps down from Von’s), we became fast friends and together we are finding him the most effective CBD solution.
He started buying our CBD pre-rolls, as he finds that smoking CBD is an effective way to reduce his feelings of anxiety and in turn reduces his tics. He has added a twice daily CBD capsule to his regimen, as the increased CBD dosage has improved his mood. “I feel happier, I’m in a better mood.” Additionally, Christian keeps a CBD+ Delta 8 gummy on hand for when his anxiety peaks from time to time. “Sometimes I just feel very anxious and Delta 8 gummies help me calm down…I can go to work and drive. My meds make me sleepy.”
So does CBD help people with Tourette’s?
The answer is an conclusive “maybe.” There is research being done to better understand Tourette’s neurochemically and how CBD and other cannabinoids can be used to mitigate the underlying causes or alleviate the symptoms of TS. For now, we are relying heavily on case studies such as Christian’s. Why CBD is working for Christian is not yet understood, however CBD interacts with the areas of the brain affected by Tourette’s, thus it may have the ability to reduce the body’s compulsion to complete tics. CBD hemp oil has been shown to alleviate obsessive-compulsive tendencies and treats generalized anxiety disorders, common to those with TS, by activating serotonin receptors in the nervous system.
So the antidotal evidence and early research is promising. What we do know is that Christian has found significant relief, and that brings us both hope and joy.
To learn more about Tourette’s Syndrome, go to the Tourette Association of America https://tourette.org/.
Learn More about how CBD may help you or someone you love who is trying to manage Tourette’s or other Tic Disorder.
We are so blessed to have gotten to know Christian and to call him a customer & friend!