Medicine is generally not needed for
Tourette's disorder (TD). Usually doctors first work
with parents and other caregivers (such as teachers) to educate them about the
condition. Behavioral training, creating an appropriate home and school
environment, and helping build your child's self-esteem are often tried first.
Sometimes medicines are added to a treatment program when tics are
severe or are causing your child a lot of physical, mental, or emotional
problems. The goal of using medicine for tics is to improve a child's overall
functioning, not to make the tics go away completely.
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An overall program that includes medicine may ease a child's general
frustration and make him or her more comfortable around other people. Medicine
sometimes helps a child with TD feel better mentally and function better at
school and at home.
It is important to find out whether a child with TD also has
symptoms of other conditions, such as behavior problems or mood disorders.
Often problems such as
anxiety need to be treated first.
In the United States, treating
tics with medicine is often an
unlabeled use. This means that the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has not approved the medicine specifically for treating tics or
has not approved it for use in children. If a doctor suggests that your child
take medicine to control tics, ask for an explanation of the benefits and
risks. Ask how the medicine works, how long your child can take it, and whether
there are any short-term or long-term side effects.
It is sometimes difficult to know whether medicine is helping to
control tics. This is because the tics in Tourette's disorder can come and go.
Also, tics may return or seem worse when medicine is stopped. Always work with
a doctor when you want your child to start or stop taking medicine.
Clonidine (Catapres), which has been shown to
reduce tics by 25% to 35% over 8 to 12 weeks.1 Known
side effects include drowsiness and low blood pressure. People who have heart
conditions should talk with a doctor about whether they can take
Pimozide (Orap) and haloperidol (only available in
generic form), which reduce tic frequency and severity in up to 80 out of 100
people.2 Because of the side effects, these medicines are rarely
the first ones used to treat tics. These side effects may include uncontrolled
movements of the jaw, mouth, tongue, cheek, legs, and arms; allergies; and
For safety, it is important that your child's doctor know about all
the medicines your child is taking.
Botulinum toxin (Botox) is sometimes used as a short-term treatment
for severe tics. The medicine is given as an injection (shot) into the area
where tics occur frequently, such as the vocal cords, neck, face, arms, or
legs. The medicine's effects typically last about 3 or 4 months.3
In rare cases, serious side effects can occur. Talk to your child’s doctor
about the risks and benefits of this medicine.
Other medicines are being studied as possible treatments for
Medicines commonly used to treat symptoms of other disorders that are
frequently associated with TD include: