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Tardive Dyskinesia: What it looks like, and how Cannabis may help



You may know someone who has Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) pronounced: (Tar-Div-Dis -Ka-Knee-Ja), or you have seen someone out in public who has these uncontrollable jerky body movements.


What is Tardive Dyskinesia? It is a neurological movement disorder, and can occur in 20% of people who have taken antipsychotic pharmaceutical drugs for bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. Women, and especially post-menopausal women, are more likely to develop TD. It was a medical opinion that once these involuntary movements occur, they are irreversible even after discontinuing the antipsychotic meds. Recently, two meds have been approved by the FDA to treat Tardive Dyskinesia.


The cause of TD is due to the blocking of dopamine in the brain from taking the prescribed antipsychotic medications. Dopamine is responsible for the smooth movements of muscles. When dopamine levels decrease, then the result is involuntary, repetitive and jerky movements, spasms, and tics. These movements can also be seen in Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s disease, which are also neurological diseases resulting from low dopamine levels. Sometimes meds given to treat Parkinson’s are also used to treat TD.


What’s in a name? Tardive comes from the same origin of the word tardy, meaning late, because the symptoms arise or show up late after the drug has been used over time or even discontinued. Dyskinesia has its Greek origin meaning difficulty moving.


Using Cannabis and CBD can help with quieting the involuntary movements seen in Tardive Dyskinesia, as it does with Tourette’s and Parkinson’s. The main endocannabinoid THC found in cannabis can increase dopamine levels in the brain, although more research with humans needs to be obtained (as stated on the Marijuana Doctors website, www.marijuanadoctors.com).


A Cleveland Clinic neurologist, Hubert Fernandez, MD, made a statement saying the first wave of Tardive Dyskinesia diagnosis occurred in the 1970s and 1980s during the “first generation” trend of antipsychotic drugs. Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the “second generation” of antipsychotic drugs became available during the progression of pharmacology.


Older neuroleptic medications are called “typical” or first-generation neuroleptics, and are most likely to lead to TD. These medications can cause TD in a little over 32 percent of the individuals who use them long-term.


Neuroleptic medications in the First-generation medications include:

● Fluphenazine (Prolixin)

● Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)

● Perphenazine (Trilafon)

● Haloperidol (Haldol)

Common second generation neuroleptic medications include:

● Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

● Risperidone (Perseris)

● Paliperidone (Invega Sustenna)

● Quetiapine (Seroquel)

● Lurasidone (Latuda)

● Aripiprazole (Abilify)


THC found in cannabis can increase dopamine levels due to the endocannabinoid system and specifically the CB1 receptors. The following Cannabis strain options can help with TD symptoms:


● Cherry Grapefruit

● Kobain Kush

● Lavender Haze

● Dark Blue Dream

● Dutch Dragon


Some research studies with rodents suggest that low-dose THC, the main endocannabinoid from cannabis, can help increase dopamine levels, while long term use can cause the opposite and reduce dopamine levels. Human research studies about acute and chronic cannabis use and dopamine levels need to be performed for more information to be gathered on the subject.

If you are taking any of the above pharmaceutical medications for a diagnosed mental condition, then do not discontinue the meds based on a possibility of getting TD. It is always best to have a conversation with your doctor who prescribes your meds about any concerns, and to gain knowledge for yourself about Tardive Dyskinesia or any other medical condition you may have.

Natural Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels

● Get adequate Sleep

● Exercise

● Spend time in nature with your feet touching the Earth

● Meditate

● Reduce stress

● Limit consuming Sugar

● Do Yoga Nidra (check out yoga nidra videos on YouTube or join a live yoga nidra class)


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