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Compulsive gambling in Parkinson's link

13th February 2007

Parkinson's patients who are younger when they develop the disease could be at risk of developing compulsive gambling habits as a side effect of their medication, researchers have argued.

According to a study in the Archives of Neurology, those with a personality trait known as novelty-seeking or with a history of alcohol abuse are also at risk of displaying pathological behaviour.

The medications used to treat Parkinson's disease, dopamine agonists, are also thought to provoke other issues associated with impulse control – such as compulsive shopping, hypersexuality and binge eating.

Researchers led by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke examined the characteristics of 21 Parkinson's patients who became pathological gamblers after starting to take dopamine agonists alongside 42 Parkinson's patients who displayed no compulsive behaviour.

"Patients with Parkinson's disease who developed pathological gambling when receiving dopamine agonists had a younger age at Parkinson's disease onset, higher novelty-seeking scores, a personal or immediate family history of alcohol use disorders and impaired planning on an impulsivity scale," the authors wrote.

"A robust association was found with medication-induced mania [a psychiatric disorder involving excessive physical and mental activity and impulsive behaviour]. Pathological gambling was also weakly linked to younger age Parkinson's disease that began in the brain's left hemisphere and a high score on a scale measuring the impulsiveness of behaviours."

They concluded those at higher risk should be screened and offered advice.