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Addiction & Parkinson’s

March 30, 2009

Parkinson’s disease and addiction overlap in surprising ways.


Addiction and Parkinson’s Disease…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
One interesting feature of Parkinson’s disease is that people suffering from it rarely develop addictive tendencies. But in some cases the drugs people take to treat their condition can actually trigger addictions such as compulsive gambling. In a new research review, McGill University neurologist Alain Dagher says a brain chemical called dopamine is the key. He explains that Parkinson’s patients are dopamine-deficient.

ALAIN DAGHER (McGill University, Montreal, Canada):
That is the cause of the disease; it’s the cause of the symptoms. On the other hand, drug addiction appears to involve an excess of dopamine, in that all known addictive drugs release dopamine in the brain.

Parkinson’s medications boost dopamine too: hence the addictive side effects. Dagher also suggests that people with hyperactive dopamine systems may be prone to addictive behavior. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.