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Impulse Control and Related Disorders in Parkinson’s Disease

Weintraub D.a · Nirenberg M.J.b
aDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., and bDepartment of Neurology, NYU School of Medicine, New York, N.Y., USA Neurodegener Dis 2013:11:63–71 (DOI:10.1159/000341996)


Impulse control disorders (ICDs), such as compulsive gambling, buying, sexual behavior, and eating, are a serious and increasingly recognized complication of dopamine replacement therapy in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Other impulsive-compulsive behaviors have been linked to dopaminergic medications; these include punding (stereotyped, repetitive, purposeless behaviors) and dopamine dysregulation syndrome (DDS; compulsive medication overuse). ICDs have been most closely related to the use of dopamine agonists (DAs), particularly at higher dosages; in contrast, DDS is primarily associated with shorter-acting, higher-potency dopaminergic medications, such as apomorphine and levodopa. Risk factors for ICDs may include male sex; younger age; younger age at PD onset; a pre-PD history of ICD(s); personal or family history of substance abuse; bipolar disorder; gambling problems; and impulsive personality traits. The primary treatment of ICDs in PD is discontinuation of DA therapy. Not all patients can tolerate this, however, due to worsening motor symptoms and/or DA withdrawal syndrome (a severe, stereotyped drug withdrawal syndrome similar to that of other psychostimulants). While psychiatric medications are frequently used to treat ICDs in the general population, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that they are effective in PD. Given the paucity of treatment options and potentially serious consequences of ICDs in PD, it is critical for patients to be monitored closely for their development. As empirically validated treatments for ICDs emerge, it will also be important to examine their efficacy and tolerability in individuals with comorbid PD.


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