Dopamine agonists drugs are receiving some negative publicity at the moment. Dopamine agonists (ropinirole, pramipexole, apomorphine) work by switching on the dopamine receptor sites in the brain. However, they have been associated with a side effect called impulse control disorder which can change behaviours.
If you are taking dopamine agonists we will have warned you about this. But what do we mean by this and what should you and your family look out for? The behaviours that are most associated with impulse control disorder are gambling, an overactive sex drive, addictive shopping, and binge eating. Spending a lot of time on the internet to the detriment of everything else can be a warning sign. What sites are you looking at – there are plenty of ways to gamble online, shop and also endless ways to access pornography, sex chat lines and so on. These kinds of sites can be addictive and some people find that they can think of nothing else.
If you think you may have a problem don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Any behaviour that is obsessive or out of character could be related to dopamine agonists. Parkinson’s UK have a very good fact sheet, “Impulsive and Compulsive Behaviour”, which you can obtain online at www.parkinsons.org.uk or by telephone (01473 212115, order code FS77). The Parkinson’s UK’s Helpline (0808 800 0303) are aware of this problem and can offer help and support.
After reading this, you may be wondering why we give people dopamine agonists. Well, the vast majority of people who take them find that they are a useful drug in controlling Parkinson’s symptoms, and it is only a minority of people who suffer from the impulse control side effects. So if you are taking a dopamine agonist without any problems, there is no need to worry.