High risk of compulsive disorders linked to dopamine-mimic drugs, Mayo confirms

Typically prescribed for Parkinson’s, restless legs syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression

A Mayo Clinic study(1) has verified earlier findings that harmful compulsive / impulsive behaviors such as binge eating, spending, computer use, and gambling affect one in four people taking a “medium dose” of a dopamine agonist drug such as pramipexole/Mirapex or ropinirole/Requip (see video report, below).

These drugs act like or mimic the chemical messenger dopamine – “stimulating the reward pathways in the brain.” They are FDA-approved for treatment of Parkinson’s disease symptoms (associated with the death of the nerve cells in the brain that make dopamine) and restless legs syndrome. They are also often prescribed off label for fibromyalgia and depression.

Risk of harmful behaviors increases with higher doses – up to one in three, according to Mayo, so patients and their families should be made aware in order to catch behavioral problems early before they cause harm. Reducing or stopping the medication usually resolves the problems, the researchers have found. But this can also involve sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms.(2)


1. “Dopamine agonist-triggered pathological behaviors: Surveillance in the PD clinic reveals high frequencies,” Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, Feb 2011. Hassan A, et al. Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.

2. “Dopamine Withdrawal is Difficult” Rick Nauert. PsychCentral, Jan 13, 2010
Source: Mayo Clinic Minnesota news release, Mar 23, 2011

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