Parkinson’s Drugs Could Lead to Compulsive Behaviors

A recent report in  the Archives of Neurology put out by the Journal of the American Medical Association[1] reveals that those taking certain medications for Parkinson’s disease exhibit higher rates of impulsivity and higher instances of compulsive personality disorders. These medications, called dopamine agonists, give patients with Parkinson’s more control over their movements. Research shows that these drugs are twice as likely to cause impulse control problems as other medications for movement disorders.

Reward-Seeking Behaviors

Dopamine agonists affect the part of the brain that seeks rewards. When impulse control is weak, patients engage in compulsive pleasure seeking. Parkinson’s patients are more likely to gamble pathologically, binge eat or partake in other dangerous compulsive activities when taking dopamine agonists. Patients rarely realize their behaviors have crossed the line from acceptable interest to socially unacceptable obsession. These patients can risk losing everything, including loved ones and life savings, before the source of the impulsive behaviors becomes known.

Higher Doses Increase Symptoms

As doctors study the problem, they find that those taking higher doses of dopamine agonists are approximately 33% more likely to suffer impulse control problems. Patients taking medium sized doses face a 25% chance of developing impulse control problems. Doctors usually recommend that the patient’s family members watch carefully for any unusual behaviors so they can intervene with treatment before the problems cause serious damage. The solution is to switch to a different medication. Although other medications may not be as effective in helping control Parkinson’s symptoms, the risk of compulsive disorders is too great for some patients.

Lifestyle Plays a Part

Research shows that the likelihood for patients to develop impulse control problems is affected by age and lifestyle. Research shows that younger males who are not married develop impulse control problems more often than other patients do. People who live in the United States and smoke cigarettes are also more likely to develop problems when they take dopamine agonists. A family history of gambling can be another indication that someone may be more likely to lose impulse control when taking this medicine.

Problem Medicine Commonly Used

Even though doctors understand the risks of dopamine agonists, they now prescribe the medicine more frequently and for a wider range of problems. Among other disorders, the drug can help those with restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia. Prescribing the medicine more widely could create a larger problem for impulse control disorders.

Currently, doctors are not sure whether dopamine agonists will create the same impulse control problems for patients with disorders other than Parkinson’s disease. More research is needed to accurately assess the risk for patients with other movement disorders who take dopamine agonists.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love suffered an impulse control disorder that might be caused by medication, contact our office right away. Our experienced attorneys will talk with you about your legal options. A free consultation with our attorneys can help you decide if a lawsuit is the right course of action for your case.


[1] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110324104141.htm

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