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Parkinson's Disease Doesn't Cause Addiction

Higher addiction rates in sufferers are due to the side effects of meds, not the disease itself, say researchers.

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Parkinson's sufferers still have to worry about
the effects of their meds. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

01/10/13

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Parkinson’s disease does not, as some previously suspected, cause shopping or gambling addictions, indicates a new study. Past studies have shown that people who take certain Parkinson’s medications are at a higher risk for developing impulse control problems like binge eating, shopping, sex addictions and gambling. But the new research, published in the journal Neurology, indicates that untreated Parkinson's patients don’t have any more addictions that than average person—suggesting that the meds, not the illness itself, are to blame. "It's further evidence that the increased frequency [of addictions] in Parkinson's patients is due to the treatments themselves not the illness," says Dr. Daniel Weintraub of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the study's lead author. The researchers surveyed 168 people with untreated Parkinson's disease and 143 people who don’t suffer from the condition. Each participant was asked about shopping, sexual, food and gambling habits. Overall there was no significant difference between the two groups. Dr. Anhar Hassan of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, a movement disorders researcher who wasn't involved in the latest study, also believes that the link between addiction and Parkinson’s disease is caused by medicinal side effects. "It's our routine practice to warn patients that this is a potential side effect when we're starting them on these medications," she says. "There is a potential for these to be quite devastating.” 

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