Influence of treatment of Tourette syndrome with delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) on neuropsychological performance

Pharmacopsychiatry. 2001 Jan;34(1):19-24. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-15191.


Previous studies have suggested that marijuana (cannabis sativa) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC), the major psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, are effective in the therapy of tics and associated behavioral disorders in Tourette Syndrome (TS). Because there is also evidence that cannabis sativa may cause cognitive impairment in healthy users, we performed a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial for delta9-THC in 12 adult TS patients to investigate whether treatment of TS with a single dose of delta9-THC at 5.0 to 10.0 mg causes significant side effects on neuropsychological performance. Using a variety of neuropsychological tests, we found no significant differences after treatment with delta9-THC compared to placebo treatment in verbal and visual memory, reaction time, intelligence, sustained attention, divided attention, vigilance, or mood. Only when using the Symptom Checklist 90-R (SCL-90-R) did our data provide evidence for a deterioration of obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCB) and a trend towards an increase in phobic anxiety. However, these results should be interpreted with caution as SCL-90-R has known limitations on measuring OCB. We suggest that the increase in phobic anxiety is mainly due to the fact that a single-dose treatment rules out the possibility of administering the dosage slowly. In contrast to results obtained from healthy marijuana users, a single-dose treatment with delta9-THC in patients suffering from TS does not cause cognitive impairment. We therefore suggest that further investigations should concentrate on the effects of a longer-term therapy of TS with delta9-THC.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Tourette Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Tourette Syndrome / psychology*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Dronabinol