Can compulsive behaviors be a side effect of medication?

The side effects of some drugs may prompt people to radically change their behavior. For instance, some patients taking Mirapex began noticing behavioral problems they had not experienced before. Some occasional drinkers became heavy drinkers. People who had never been interested in gambling began finding themselves in casinos several times a week, or sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time visiting gambling Web sites.

Others turned into shopaholics, going thousands of dollars into debt because they could not control their spending, while some became hypersexual or began binging on food.

In other words, in some patients, Mirapex can lead to compulsive behaviors.

The drug works by increasing the production of dopamine in the brain to help the basal ganglia regulate body movement.

Parkinson's disease generally is diagnosed in people age 50 or older-and these people naturally have lower dopamine levels. But Mirapex also binds to some of the dopamine receptors in the brain that involve behavior, as well as reward and moods.

In 2005, Mirapex began issuing warnings about these potential side effects. However, some claim these warnings are too little and too late, and several lawsuits have been filed. A man claiming that Mirapex caused his gambling addiction won an $8.2 million lawsuit in August 2008 against the drug's makers, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim.

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