Medical Breathrough: Tourette's and Nicotine

Friday, July 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Imagine if you had no control of your body's actions. That's what it's like for people suffering from Tourette's Syndrome. Tourette's affects one out of every 2,000 people and usually begins in childhood. Researchers have found a new way to control the physical and verbal tics.

For more than a decade, Tourette's Syndrome controlled Justin Frum's life. "When I was having the problems in school and the kids started picking and teasing, that's probably when it hit me the hardest," said Frum. As part of an experiment, University of South Florida child psychiatrist Doctor Archie Silver prescribed nicotine along with Justin's prescription drugs. "At first I was like, 'O my God! They're going to prescribe me to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day'!" Frum remembered.

Instead, the nicotine was administered through a patch, just like those found in drug stores. "We take it off after 24 hours. The symptoms are controlled in approximately a week," Dr. Silver reported. Researchers believe the slow absorption of nicotine some how turns off a certain signal in the brain that may cause Tourette's.

As with most patients, Frum's tics subsided within three hours. He no longer takes nicotine or medication, and the symptoms are gone. "I wish I could have done this when I was three-years-old, so I could have lived a life," he said. His life is now under control and dedicated to helping others.

Dr. Silver says the nicotine patch has an 80 per cent success rate. Some patients may suffer from mild nausea, but there is no evidence of nicotine dependence.

For more information: contact
Archie A. Silver, M.D.
USF Physicians Group
3515 E. Fletcher Ave. MDC 14
Tampa, FL 33613
(813) 974-1516