Parkinson’s disease drugs may cause some users to become sex addicts or gamblers, a study shows.
“Impulse control disorders” were found in 13.6% of patients in the US and Canada.
Problem gambling afflicted 5% of the 3,000 patients, while 3.5% were sex addicts, 4.3% binge eaters and 5.7% were affected by compulsive buying.
Those on drugs that increase the effects of dopamine in the brain were more likely to suffer from the disorders, according to the research reported in the journal Archives of Neurology.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps nerve cells pass messages to each other.
Low levels of dopamine affect muscle control and lead to the tremors and rigidity that are typical of Parkinson’s. But dopamine is also linked to addictive and compulsive behaviour.
Some drugs act as “agonists”, which stimulate dopamine responses in the brain.
The study authors, led by Dr Daniel Weintraub from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, wrote: “Dopamine agonist treatment in Parkinson’s disease is associated with a two to 3.5-fold increased odds of having an impulse control disorder.
“This association represents a drug class relationship across impulse control disorders. The association of other demographic and clinical variables with impulse control disorders suggest a complex relationship that requires additional investigation to optimise prevention and treatment strategies.”