This common drug can have impulsive side effects 98



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When Parkinson’s disease strikes, it can hit a person and their family hard. But research has found that this can come in the way of the sufferer’s health, and their spending habits. Dopamine receptor agonist drugs, i.e. those given to Parkinson’s sufferers, have been found to cause impulsive spending and gambling.

In a 10-year study by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Virginia, USA, researchers looked at 2.1 million dispensed outpatient prescriptions for the dopamine drugs. There were 1,580 adverse drugs events reported in the US and 21 other countries, including cases of pathological gambling, hypersexuality and compulsive shopping, all of which can be linked back to the drugs themselves, and not the disease.

According to Thomas J Moore, author of the study, “Our findings confirm and extend the evidence that dopamine receptor agonist drugs are associated with serious impulse control disorders; the associations were significant, the magnitude of the effects was large and the effects were seen for all six dopamine receptor agonist drugs”.

There are no warnings either on the packet or by doctors about these severe impulse control disorders, which is more than a little worrying for those of us who suffer from Parkinson’s, or even restless leg syndrome or hyperprolactinemia, which are also prescribed the dopamine receptor agonist drugs.

So what can be done? If you are taking these medications, ask your doctor if you might be at risk and if your dosage may have these side effects. The Therapeutic Goods Administration says “Pathological gambling has been reported before in association with dopaminergic therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Almost all of these patients were taking long-term levodopa and some were also taking dopamine receptor agonists such as pergolide and pramipexole. In a number of cases, the appearance of pathological gambling occurred after an increase in dosage of levodopa and/or a dopamine receptor agonist”. Basically, the higher amount of medication taken, the higher the risk.


Gambling is already a national problem, so do these findings excuse this behaviour if you’re on a medication? Or should we be making more of an effort to stay away from pokies and gambling, pills or no pills? Tell us your thoughts.

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  1. When people talk about gambling, they mention pokies and the horses, but online gambling is much worse. Yet there seem to be little protection against the effects of this.

  2. No I don’t know anybody with that problem must be horrible for them and there families

  3. I am still working and can’t afford to waste money however I have friends in disability pensions and pensions who gamble daily? I can’t figure out how they do it.

  4. My husband has Parkinsons and suffers with the compulsive gambling. We have been coping with it for 6 years. I have control of our finances but he still manages to outwit me at times. His neurologist is aware of the problem and asks each time we visit how he is managing with the gambling. Fortunately it is only pokies and scratchies NOT internet gambling.

    The last event was in April when I broke both ankles and was in hospital for a week. He broke into our safe with the angle grinder (I had the key with me) and put $900 of our holiday money into the pokies at our local pub. I was livid!

    Yet, without this medication he would not be able to function so we just have to deal with it. God only knows what would happen to him if I died.

    6 REPLY
    • I think you are a very special lady Linda it is not easy coping with a partner with Parkinson’s even
      without the other issue. My wife also has the problem from her Parkinson’s treatment but is very mild compared to your husbands reaction to his treatment.

    • Well Linda my husband has Parkinson’s.he was diagnosed in 1997. Addiction gambling has been a big problem for him. The neurologist at first did not believe it was the medication and told me to leave him. We changed his nuerolologist. The only thing now is we have nothing left. The house is gone, and all his inheritance. We lost the business, during the downturn as he was too busy sneaking out to go to the clubs and casino. His condition is getting worse, and he still gambles with his pension.

    • Oh Patricia, I am so sorry to hear this. The gambling was listed as a side effect in the printout we got from the chemist when hubby was first put on Cabaser. I didn’t believe it at the time but I soon learned. He never even looked at a poker machine before starting on this drug.

    • Patricia and Linda I feel for u both but to loose everything u have to gambling isn’t very nice … I just HOPE u keep YOUR pension away from him

    • Damned if you take the drug, damned if you dont..I’m ok so far but in 2 minds about it..difficult for both of you as no doubt he feels awful when the $s are gone too..

  5. It is so sad I know a lady whose hubby passed. away in there house she has no family & doesn’t drive & goes to Pokies. by taxi nearly everyday it’s so sad I know lot of old people who are so lonely this is there only way

    1 REPLY
    • I think your right there..I know one who goes to Club daily , she doesn’t play the pokies but sits all days drinking free coffee and chatting to anyone she can, she is 87 years old

  6. It happened to my bother in law…….he went through all their money before it was discovered……came off that certain drug & is OK now but they are going through a class action at the moment against the drug company………..apparently has affected lots of people 🙁

    2 REPLY
    • We discussed joining the class action with a Melbourne firm of solicitors but we didn’t really qualify because the amount we had lost was not all that large at the time. That is only because I kept such a tight hold on our funds. If I had not controlled the money in our relationship, we would have lost an awful lot more.

  7. I am not an expert but I think for many gambling is a way to combat loneliness, they can out to a club and sit with people around them and not feel so alone, the biggest gamblers are under 36 years old and heaven knows what the cause for the would be, the world seems to be oriented towards the young

  8. why are all the posts repeating, been happening for a while now.

    1 REPLY
    • Yes happening on my computer also – very annoying………….Someone fix it please………..

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