Parkinson’s Drugs Now Linked to Compulsive Behavior

By Clyde Hughes – Re-Blogged From Newsmax Health

Parkinson’s disease drugs have been linked to compulsive behavior in some users, according to a study that suggests the drugs could lead to financial ruin, unhealthy eating and sexual risk-taking, HealthDay News reported Wednesday.

The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, said that medication meant to restore movement in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease could unlock some of those compulsive behaviors more often than originally thought, HealthDay said.

“These investigators followed patients for five years, and their results revealed a much higher than expected incidence of impulse-control disorders,” Dr. Michael Okun, national medical director for the Parkinson’s Foundation, told HealthDay about the study that involved more than 400 individuals.

Medical News Today wrote that dopamine plays a crucial role in learning, but our brains release it when we experience pleasure. Such impulse control issues have been found to be common in people with Parkinson’s disease, with documented examples of pathological gambling, compulsive shopping, compulsive eating, and sexual behavior, the website said.

Because dopamine is deficient in Parkinson’s, the go-to treatment is dopamine agonists — which are drugs that activate the brain’s dopamine receptors, which turns itself into dopamine, Medical News Today said.

The research showed that more than half of the people taking dopamine agonists for Parkinson’s could eventually develop an impulse-control disorder, according to HealthDay. The website said, though, that the study stopped short proving that the drugs actually caused the impulse-control problems.

Dr. Laura Boylan, an adjunct professor of neurology with the New York University School of Medicine, said to HealthDay that one patient was caught it a cycle of a compulsive desire for pornography, which damaged him financially.

“The family had been unaware that his impulse-control problems might possibly be related to his medicine, and he was being repeatedly admitted to the hospital because he couldn’t afford his medicines because of his particular habit,” Boylan said, per HealthDay.

The researchers in the current study stated that half of the impulse-control disorders went away within a year after patients stopped taking dopamine agonists, HealthDay wrote.

More than 1 million people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s disease, which often develops in people in their 60s and can include slowed movement, tremors, and gait or balance problems, according to the University of California, San Francisco‘s Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center.

Okun told HealthDay that doctors treating patients using a dopamine agonist “should be extra vigilant, as impulse-control disorders in the setting of Parkinson’s disease could emerge after a significant delay.”

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