An article in the British Medical Journal warns that Parkinson’s disease sufferers could be adversely affected by the growth of web-based betting sites because they are more likely to become gambling addicts.
The physician author, Dr Sui Wong , says while the motor symptoms and signs of Parkinson’s disease are well recognized, the behavioral disorders, such as problem gambling, are less well known.
Parkinson’s disease is common. It is estimated to affect one in 200 people in the developed world. It is estimated that 3.5 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease are pathological gamblers.
That figure rises to 7.2 percent if they are taking drugs known as dopamine agonists. By comparison, in the general population only 1 percent of people become pathological gamblers.
Characterized by excessive betting, pathological gambling is a chronic and progressive mental disorder which can have devastating effects. Dr Wong says her patients are often secretive about their gambling and may end up thousands of pounds in debt before the problem is discovered.
The reason for the greater incidence of pathological gambling among users of dopamine agonists is unclear, says Dr Wong, as the drugs should lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Many sufferers take dopamine agonists in the early stages of the disease. They work by directly stimulating the receptors in nerves in the brain which normally would be stimulated by dopamine.
Dr Wong goes on to warn about the effect easy accessibility to instant gambling on the internet could have on Parkinson’s sufferers. Nearly 5.8 million people, or one in ten online users, log onto internet gambling sites each month. This figure is expected to rise as more households connect to the internet.
Dr Wong says many internet gambling companies actively lure gamblers with pop-ups to place free-bets. This proactive marketing technique is pervasive and she warns it can make it hard for vulnerable individuals to wean off gambling.
She says “the current debate on regulating gambling is relevant to this group of patients. This provides an ideal opportunity to deal with the problem through appropriate legislation to protect a small, though highly vulnerable, group in our society.”
The complete editorial may be found at: http://press.psprings.co.uk/bmj/april/edit2104.pdf
Source: British Medical Journal