Prevalence of Problem and Pathological Gambling in Parkinson's Disease

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Pathological gambling (PG) has been identified in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) treated with dopamine agonists suggesting that dysregulation of brain dopaminergic activity may contribute to the development of gambling problems. The current study was undertaken to further establish the prevalence of problem and PG in patients with PD, identify any clinical correlates, and determine if psychiatric or substance use co-morbidity contributes to the increased prevalence of problem and PG. A cross-sectional survey of 140 serially recruited moderate to severe PD patients was undertaken utilizing the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, Drug Abuse Screening Test, Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and Mini-Mental State Exam augmented by chart review, completed over an 8 month period. The 12 month prevalence of problem and PG in PD was 9.3% compared to 1.6% in the general population within a comparably aged sample. The increased prevalence of problem and PG in the PD group was related to dopamine agonist use and younger age, but not co-morbidity. Most subjects with problem and PG reported their gambling increased after being diagnosed with PD and starting treatment. The results suggest that brain dopaminergic activity is involved in the underlying neurobiology of problem and PG.

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