Some people who are taking medications for Parkinson’s disease are finding themselves addicted to shopping, sex, overeating and several other vices that are deeply and negatively impacting their lives.
These medications, known as dopamine agonists, are causing patients to lose self control and act out on urges never previously experienced.
The Food and Drug Administration may insist on a “black box” warning, letting people know that these side effects can happen. A black box warning is a listing of the most serious (and sometimes fatal) side effects that can occur due to taking the medication listed.
The ingredients pramipexole (brand name Mirapex) and ropinirole (brand name Requip) are at the center of this controversy.
The drugs stimulate the dopamine receptors in the body. These medications are also used for restless leg syndrome.
Dopamine receptors are found in the central nervous system and can offer “feel-good” sensations. But these drugs' feel-good sensations are not good for some of those taking the medications.
While they work well for the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, doctors have reported patients losing everything due to irrational and compulsive actions.
According to an NPR report, “The researchers from the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices, Harvard and the University of Ottawa found 1,580 adverse drug events involving impulse control disorders. A little less than half, or 710 reports, were associated with dopamine receptor agonist drugs.”
There is no cure yet for Parkinson’s. The disease itself is a disorder of the central nervous system and is progressive. It inhibits a person’s ability to move and causes tremors. It’s not known exactly why people get it but there are thought to be both genetic and environmental factors.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s don’t happen overnight. But if you notice the following symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible:
- "Pill-rolling" tremor in the hands
- Tremors are present at rest, improve with movement, and are absent during sleep
- Stiffness and rigidity of muscles, usually beginning on one side of the body
- Difficulty and shuffling when walking
- Short steps
- Slowness of purposeful movements
- Trouble performing usual tasks, due to shaking hands
- Trouble speaking (often speaking with a low volume)
- Flat, monotonous voice
- Shaky, spidery, or small handwriting
- Poor balance
Anyone with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and who is taking medications for it needs to be aware of the troubling side effects.
The side effects have been noted before. But after reviewing more than two million side effects submitted to an FDA database from 2003-2012, experts believe warnings should be more explicit on all medication containers. (There are warnings already on some brands.)
They also want to see that increased attention is placed on the side effects of compulsive behaviors. These behaviors are more concerning than any physical side effects, according to the doctors who have reviewed the data.
One of those doctors, Dr. Howard Weiss, stated that he has at least three patients who have had to file for bankruptcy due to compulsive spending and gambling. He believes that carbidopa-levodopa, which is another successful medication for Parkinson’s, is a better option without such risks.
Patients who have accompanying dementia and who are unable to self-monitor behaviors should be carefully supervised for any strange behaviors.
NPR.com. Blogs. Health. “Parkinson's Drugs Can Be A Gateway To Sin”. Web. Retrieved October 20th, 2014.
Empowher.com. Central Nervous System. Brain. Dementia. Parkingson’s Disease. Web. Retrieved October 20th, 2014.
Reviewed October 22, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith