Dopamine agonist drugs used to treat MND and Parkinson’s symptoms have been linked to the development of process addictions like sex and gambling in sufferers of these diseases. With these drugs being essential to living with MND, what are sufferers to do?
Motor neuron disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an incurable medical condition that attacks and kills nerve cells located in the brain and the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis and death after two to five years.
Similar to Parkinson’s disease, MND is a degenerative neurological disorder that is not yet fully understood. While the disease is incurable, it is known that MND inhibits the production of dopamine in the brain. It is consequently treated with dopamine agonists – medications that alleviate the symptoms and slightly delay the progression of the condition. However, such dopamine agonists have been linked with sex and gambling addiction, as well as other compulsive disorders.
Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company that produces the drugs Cabaser and Dostinex, have agreed to compensate millions of dollars to over 150 Parkinson’s sufferers who were not warned of the drugs’ side effects. But what alternatives are there to dopamine agonists for those suffering with MND and Parkinson’s? And, how can people deal with compulsive disorders?
Motor Neuron Disease Explained
MND is a rare condition; it affects 450,000 people worldwide at any given time, though that number can fluctuate.
While conditions such as Parkinson’s and MND are currently incurable, dopamine agonists are used to relive the symptoms and delay nerve and muscle degeneration.
Cabaser and Dostinex: Why Dopamine Agonists Can Lead to Addiction
It is now understood that dopamine agonist drugs can lead users to develop gambling and sex addictions, as well as other compulsive and impulse control disorders. Naturally occurring dopamine receptors are found in the brain, blood vessels and kidneys. They’re integral to brain processes including motivation, learning, movement, memory and pleasure.
When there is an absence of naturally occurring dopamine, which can be caused by conditions including Parkinson’s, MND and restless leg syndrome, dopamine agonists can be used as an artificial replacement, but the side effects can include compulsive behaviour, leading some to become addicted to processes like sex, eating, shopping and gambling.
In short, dopamine agonists affect the brain’s natural dopamine reward system, which plays a major role in addiction.
In May 2015, a Victorian court ordered Pfizer to compensate to over 150 patients who developed gambling and sex addictions as a result of their dopamine agonist medication. These 150 users claimed Pfizer’s drugs had lead them to develop addictive traits despite never having such problems previously. Some patients said the drugs caused them to gamble away their entire life savings, while others said they developed compulsive disorders that diminished their mental state. However, when the symptoms of Parkinson’s and MND are so severe, people still need a way to alleviate their symptoms and relieve pain and suffering. So, what are MND sufferers to do?
The Future of MND and Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
Fortunately, the future of MND treatment looks promising thanks to a compound known as Copper-ATSM, which could be useful for other conditions including Parkinson’s disease. Copper-ATSM delivers copper specifically to the nerve cells in area of the spinal cord that is affected by MND, and could be a revolutionary way to extend a sufferer’s life, potentially for decades.
So far, the compound has been tested on lab mice with extremely positive results. The mice who were given Copper-ATSM survived more than 650 days, which is triple the length of time any previous tests have been able to achieve. While testing is still in its early stages, leading medical researcher Joseph Beckman thinks it could be effective for humans.
Says Beckman: “We have a solid understanding of why the treatment works in the mice, and we predict it should work in both familial and possibly sporadic human patients. But we won’t know until we try.”
Unfortunately, it will likely be years before Copper-ATSM can be safely used to treat MND in humans, which means sufferers will need to continue alleviating symptoms with dopamine agonists for now. As a result, those taking dopamine agonists need a way to avoid compulsive disorders.
Process Addiction Treatment
The most effective way to fight addiction and overcome compulsive disorders is to seek professional process addiction treatment at a specialised rehabilitation centre. A holistic approach to fighting addiction that includes counselling and behavioural therapy has been proven to help people beat their addiction and avoid relapsing, and those who are taking dopamine agonists may want to partake in such treatment.