Could Alzheimer's Pill "Cure" Shopaholics?

By McCarton Ackerman 05/30/12

A trial at the University of Minnesota suggests that people with compulsive buying disorder benefit from the drug Exiba.

Compulsive buying disorder is no joke.

Can you remember to leave your credit card at home? Researchers responsible for a new study published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry seem to think so, claiming that a pill used to treat Alzheimer's disease may also help treat shopaholics with "compulsive buying disorder." The pill—Ebixa—was used on nine people between the ages of 19-59 in a clinical trial held at the University of Minnesota. The participants earned over $60,000 a year on average, but were spending 61% of that income on impulsive purchases, and all spent at least 38 hours per week in shops. Not only were they experiencing financial problems as a result, but their spending habits also negatively impacted their careers and social lives. After eight weeks on the Alzheimer's meds, the participants reportedly spent less time shopping, wasted less money on impulse buys and showed improvements in brain functions associated with impulse urges, thoughts and behavior. Researchers say that shopaholics, over 80% of whom are women, generally find it very difficult to avoid compulsively making purchases that they don't need and can't afford. This study—although it was only carried out on a very small scale—could be a breakthrough in the treatment of this condition; psychiatrists have long struggled to find an effective program.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.