Parkinson’s Treatment Tied to Impulse-Control Problems

According to UPI, a recent study has found that standard Parkinson’s disease treatments may be responsible for a plethora of other concerns as well. Most notably, those who take Parkinson’s drugs often exhibit impulse-control issues too.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system disease that affects body movements. The disease is progressive, so it typically gets worse and worse over time. Symptoms of Parkinson’s develop gradually, and they include things like tremors, loss of balance, slow movement, impaired posture, rigid muscles, and speech changes, among others. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s, but there are treatment options available that help mitigate symptoms. To read more about the condition, click here.

Treatment options

Among treatment options for Parkinson’s disease are dopamine substitutes. Dr. Michael Okun, national director at the Parkinson’s Foundation, performed research recently that showed over half of those patients taking dopamine agonists also develop impulse-control disorders.

“These investigators followed patients for five years, and their results revealed a much higher than expected incidence of impulse-control disorders,” Dr. Okun elaborated.

The study, however, was unable to definitively prove that these particular dopamine treatments were the cause of impulse-control issues.

That’s not to undermine the vast affect these issues bring upon patients. Dr. Laura Boylan from New York University School of Medicine explained that these impulse-control issues could bring on a plethora of issues for the individual as well as those around the individual.

Financial trouble

They could potentially put families in financial trouble, put the individual in legal issues, and ruin relationships. In fact, Dr. Boylan had a patient with such an uncontrollable impulsive addiction to pornography that the individual actually went broke over it.

“The family had been unaware that his impulse-control problems might possibly be related to his medicine, and he was being repeatedly admitted to the hospital because he couldn’t afford his medicines because of his particular habit,” Boylan said of the patient.

The dopamine treatment for those with Parkinson’s is due to the fact that those who have the condition are not capable of producing sufficient amounts of dopamine in the brain. This dopamine production is crucial in the nervous system’s ability to control bodily movements. The dopamine therapies act as pseudo-dopamine transmitters to solve this problem.

The body’s reward system

Dopamine, however, is also “centrally involved in the body’s reward system,” Boylan stated. “Cocaine and nicotine produce a release of dopamine.”

Therefore, the dopamine treatment may be a double-edged sword in that it is effective in treating symptoms of Parkinson’s, but also fuels a patient’s cravings, ultimately encouraging impulsive behavior.

The study, led by French researchers, found that 52% of patients with Parkinson’s who used dopamine treatments also developed an impulse-control condition over the span of five years. 12% of patients who never used dopamine agonists developed the impulse-control disorder in comparison.

The impulsive behavior, defined by lead researcher Dr. Jean-Christophe Corvol, included sexual addiction, binge-eating, gambling, and compulsive shopping. These dopamine related treatments may also have had implications on an incident closer to home.

“It may be coincidental, but bears mentioning that Robin Williams’ suicide took place shortly after initiation of an agonist,” said Dr. Boylan.

Not only this, but the authors of the study also noted that larger doses of the treatment also correlated with greater risk of impulsive behavior development. Drugs that carried the highest risk of this were pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip), according to researchers.

As a result of this, healthcare professionals “should be extra vigilant, as impulse-control disorders in the setting of Parkinson’s disease could emerge after a significant delay,” warned Dr. Okun.

“Families should be aware of these issues, because often the families and the patients themselves don’t think these are relevant to Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Boylan elaborated.

Okun also continued that younger patients are at higher risk for developing these impulse-control issues. Also among that population include patients that suffer with anxiety or have a history of addiction.

Researchers also made sure to note that half of these impulsive disorders subsided after a year off the medication. To read more about this research, click here.

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