Current Management of Tics and Tourette Syndrome: Behavioral, Pharmacologic, and Surgical Treatments

Neurotherapeutics. 2020 Oct;17(4):1681-1693. doi: 10.1007/s13311-020-00914-6.


Tourette syndrome is a heterogeneous neurobehavioral disorder manifested by childhood-onset motor and phonic tics, often accompanied by a variety of behavioral comorbidities, including attention deficit and obsessive compulsive disorder. Treatment must be tailored to the needs and goals of the individual patients and their families. All patients should receive education on the condition and, if possible, engage behavioral therapy targeted towards tics and/or comorbidities. Pharmacological therapies, such as alpha agonists, topiramate, and vesicular monoamine transport type 2 inhibitors, are generally used as first-line therapies in patients with troublesome tics that are not controlled by behavioral therapy or when the latter is not available or accessible. Botulinum toxin injections can be used in patients with bothersome focal tics. Second-line therapy includes antipsychotics, such as fluphenazine, aripiprazole, risperidone, and ziprasidone. These medications are generally efficacious but carry the risk of metabolic syndrome, tardive dyskinesia, and other side effects. Much more research is needed before novel therapies such as cannabis-derived products or transcranial magnetic stimulation can be recommended. There is promise in ongoing clinical trials with D1 receptor antagonist ecopipam and other experimental therapeutics. Patients with tics that are refractory to conventional treatments may be candidates for deep brain stimulation, but further studies are needed to determine the optimal target selection.

Keywords: Comprehensive behavioral therapy in tics (CBIT); Deep brain stimulation (DBS); Tics; Tourette syndrome (TS); Vesicular monoamine transport inhibitor (VMAT2).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Tics / diagnosis
  • Tics / psychology
  • Tics / therapy
  • Tourette Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Tourette Syndrome / psychology*
  • Tourette Syndrome / therapy*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Medical Marijuana