Drug may cause compulsive gambling

Patients that are given 'dopamine agonists' to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS) may lead to a side-effect of compulsive gambling, a Mayo Clinic study has revealed.

The American non-profit medical practise has found that compulsive gambling can develop in patients diagnosed with RLS as well as Parkinson disease, which was already known as a side-effect of dopamine agonists.

Approximately ten per cent of the US population may have RLS, a neurological condition where an individual has the overwhelming need to move their legs, feeling sensations of creeping, itching and gnawing.

The Mayo Clinic believes there is a link between the drug and compulsive gambling owing to the nature of the new generation of dopamine agonists. Pramipemole and ropinirole target the receptors in the brain responsible for motivation, emotion and reward behaviours. The Mayo Clinic also believes that only a small dose is required for the side effect to kick in.

"Physicians should not only monitor Parkinson disease patients for this behaviour but also screen their RLS patients who may be on much lower doses of dopamine agonists,” said Maja Tippmann-Peikert, managing director of the Mayo Clinic and author of a report on RLS.

In one example, a lady who previously described those with compulsive gambling disorder as “unfortunate individuals”, lost over $140,000 in her local casino following her treatment for RLS with pramipexole. As her dose increased, so did an uncontrollable urge to gamble. However, once Mayo Clinic physicians took her off the treatment, her urge to gamble disappeared.

Although they only found the condition in three cases, the losses were so dramatic in people with no history of compulsive gambling, that Mayo Clinic have urged for more studies to be carried out.

"Future studies are needed to establish if the prevalence of this condition in this population is different from that in the general population," Tippmann-Peikert advised.

Editor, Jackpot.co.uk - 2007-02-09 12:12:46

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