Sex, Drugs and Parkinson’s

Impulse control disorder is not caused by Parkinsons disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Impulse control is not easy, especially for those with Parkinson’s disease. Recent research has suggested that excessive gambling, shopping, eating and sexuality are symptoms of the disease medication, not the disease itself.

A recent study looked at the relationship between impulse control and Parkinson’s disease (PD). The study showed that the disease alone does not create impulse control problems.

Impulse control problems in PD are likely caused by the dopamine-related drugs sometimes used to control PD.

"Discuss your current Parkinson’s Rx with your doctor."

Daniel Weintraub, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia and colleagues studied 168 people who were diagnosed with PD and 143 healthy controls. The PD patients in this study were newly diagnosed and not yet taking any medication for the disease.

All study participants were given a questionnaire to detect impulse control and related behavior.

In addition to compulsive gambling, shopping, sexuality and eating, the questionnaire screened for aimless wandering, performing a useless task excessively, and the compulsive pursuit of a hobby.

The researchers found that about 20 percent of people in both groups had difficulty with impulse control. Those with PD were no more likely to experience impulse difficulties than the healthy controls.

"By and large, impulse control disorders in Parkinson's disease are believed to result from pharmacological treatment of Parkinson's," said Juan Dominguez, principal investigator of the Neuroendocrinology and Motivation Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas.

Whether the disorder itself also induces impulse control problems has remained uncertain in the past. This study helps answer that question.

"This supports what we've known about impulse control disorders in Parkinson's disease, namely problems with impulsivity are a function of pharmacological treatment and not a result of the disease itself," added Dr. Dominguez.

Future research could focus on whether the likelihood of having impulse control difficulties increases once a patient begins treatment for PD.

The study was published in the January 8th issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Funding for the study was provided by the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. The initiative is a partnership funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and partners including Abbott, Biogen Idec., F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., GE Healthcare, Genentech and Pfizer Inc.

Authors of this study report associations with the National Institutes of Health, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the National Parkinson's Foundation and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and over a dozen pharmaceutical companies.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 5, 2013
Last Updated:
January 19, 2013