All nine people were taking levodopa and a dopamine agonist when their gambling problems began.
Levodopa is a drug that changes into dopamine in the brain, and dopamine agonists help the body use the created dopamine. People who have Parkinson's disease have low levels of dopamine, which is believed to help control smooth movement. Dopamine also appears to affect mood and personality.
Of those with a gambling problem, eight were taking a dopamine agonist called pramipexole and one was taking pergolide.
None of the people who were taking levodopa alone reported problem gambling, and none of those taking a different dopamine agonist, ropinirole, reported any gambling problems.
Stacy says he's not sure how the medications cause addictive gambling behavior, but seven of the patients reported that their problems started within a month of when their dosage was increased. This suggests, Stacy says, that the higher doses of the dopamine agonists act as a catalyst for problem gambling behavior.
When their medications were switched, or the doses were lowered, most of the patients were able to control or stop their gambling behavior, according to the study results. Some of the patients also attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
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