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Parkinson’s Meds And Compulsive Behaviors: A Strong Link

Posted May 11 2010 2:17pm

Here’s a perplexing medical irony: For Parkinson’s disease patients, initiating certain voluntary movements such as walking and rising from a chair can be difficult. But the medications that help ease the challenging motor symptoms of Parkinson’s seem to make it harder for some patients to halt certain behaviors that can be rewarding or pleasurable — gambling, buying, eating, sexual stimulation.

While physicians have known about the link between Parkinson’s medication and compulsive gambling since about 2005, little was known about how many patients are affected this way, whether the compulsive behavior went beyond gambling for some, and whether this is clearly a medication-induced problem. A study in the Archives of Neurology released Monday answers those questions.

Some 13.6% of Parkinson’s Disease patients taking levodopa or one of the dopamine-agonist medications widely used for the movement disorder show clear signs of some impulse-control disorder. That rate was between 2 and 3.3 times higher among Parkinson’s patients being treated with these medications than among patients who did not take them. About a quarter of those patients suffered from more than one type of compulsive behavior.

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