My World of Parkinsonian Delights

Parkinson's Patients Subject to Compulsive Disorders

I was compelled to write about this.

The fact that people with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to fall victim to compulsive behaviors is nothing new — that story has been kicking around since 2005.  But in a story released yesterday, the full scope becomes much more apparent.

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.

I don’t doubt that for a minute.  I know that I am motivated by a compulsion — and you’ve probably noticed it if you’re a long-time reader.  The care and feeding of this blog, including changing it’s look on a frequent basis, has been something of a compulsion for me.

But wait.  There’s more!

Compulsive buying was the most common manifestation of such impulse-control problems, affecting 5.9% of all medicated patients; 5% experienced problem or pathological gambling;  4.3% engaged in binge eating behaviors; and 3.5% engaged in compulsive sexual behavior.

Compulsive buying and binge eating were more common among women patients than among men; compulsive sexual behavior afflicted more men than women. The researchers also found some evidence that genetic inheritance might make some patients more vulnerable to these side effects of Parkinson’s disease medicine: Patients were far more likely to develop compulsive buying, eating or gambling behaviors if they had a first-degree relative with a known gambling problem.

As for me, I haven’t been LESS interested in sex since pre-puberty.  I eat about as much as I ever did, although on some days I do feel an urge to gorge on “comfort foods.”  Gambling holds no interest for me.

But then, I’m not taking levodopa AND a dopamine agonist.

Finally, the study, which included 3,090 Parkinson’s disease patients, found that those taking a combination of levodopa and one of the other dopamine-agonist medications (including pramipexole and ropinirole) were most likely to develop an impulse-control disorder; those on a dopamine agonist without levodopa were slightly less likely to develop such behavioral problems; and those on levodopa alone were about half as likely as the first two groups to develop impulse-control problems.

So that’s that.  So if you will excuse me now, gotta go wash my hands.  Wash my hands.  Clean my hands.  Hot water.  Hot.  Never get clean.  Never get clean.  Always dirty.  Always SO dirty…

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