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Gambling risk for Parkinson's patients

PARIS: Online gambling presents a special peril for people with Parkinson's warn doctors, a disease that boosts compulsive risk-taking.

Internet casinos, poker and other online games can result in secret debts that can destroy a family, they say in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Parkinson's, a disease of the nerve system, is commonly known for problems with motor function, causing trembling, shaking and jerkiness. But, the BMJ editorial points out, Parkinson's patients also have problems with pathological gambling and other addictive behaviours. The phenomenon is worsened by dopamine agonists - the drugs that many take to ease their symptoms.

A study published last year in the journal Neurology found that the prevalence of gambling addicts among Parkinson's patients was 3.4 per cent, which more than doubled to 7.2 per cent among those who take dopamine agonists. By comparison, in the general British population, compulsive gambling afflicts just one per cent of people.

"We have noted that our patients are often secretive about their gambling and may end up thousands of pounds (dollars, euros) in debt before the problem is realised," wrote co-authors Sui Wong and Malcolm Steiger, who are neurologists at the Walter Centre in Liverpool, England.

"Many internet gambling companies actively lure gamblers with pop-ups to place free bets. This marketing technique is pervasive and can make it hard for vulnerable people to wean themselves off gambling."

People who develop Parkinson's at a young age are at even higher risk, they said.

They suggest that doctors can help to identify the problem by asking patients and carers about any change in behaviour or development of new compulsion.

For patients that become hooked on online gambling, doctors may consider such strategies as reducing or stopping dopamine agonists, while families can install firewalls to block Internet pop-ups and gambling sites or control the patient's finances if need be, they add.

Source: www.cosmosmagazine.com

admin – Mon, 2007 – 04 – 23 06:37