Does this new RLS drug cause compulsive gambling?

March 21, 2007
Volume 04    |   Issue 12

I didn?t believe it myself when I first saw the news. A drug that leads to compulsive gambling? Sounds like someone?s just looking for a good excuse to play Blackjack. But it just might be true. There?s a new drug out for restless legs that gives some who take it an uncontrollable desire to gamble. Here?s what you need to know.

You may have seen commercials on TV lately talking about restless leg syndrome (RLS). It?s a condition that?s very common in people over the age of 50. Of course, the solution for RLS, according to these commercials is a prescription drug. But researchers at the Mayo Clinic recently discovered that this drug has already resulted in losses of more than $100,000 in two people who never gambled before!

The drugs are dopamine agonists. They stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain, which causes your body to release more of this "feel good" neurotransmitter.

It?s not the first time this type of drug has been linked to gambling. This side effect occurred a few years ago with a small group of Parkinson disease patients. The patients took L-dopa, a dopamine-stimulating drug. And they reported an uncontrollable urge to gamble. The higher the doses of their medications, the more difficult it became for them to resist gambling.

Now we?re seeing this same side effect with small doses of dopamine agonists, pramiipexole, and ropinirole, in people who have RLS. The urge to gamble began about nine months after starting these drugs.

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Now for the good news.

You don?t have to gamble with your money or your health. There?s no reason to take drugs to stop RLS. You can usually reduce or eliminate most cases simply by taking magnesium.

You heard me correctly. Magnesium can have a major impact on RLS. I?ve used it with patients for years. In fact, my neighbor, Larry, who doesn?t take any other supplements, swears by it.

"Whenever my legs start to twitch, I take more magnesium," he told me recently. How much is enough? From 200-1,000 mg a day with half that amount of supplemental calcium, and a low-dairy diet. Just take magnesium to bowel tolerance: the amount that gives comfortably soft stools.

Why magnesium? Simple. It causes muscles to relax.

Why risk becoming a compulsive gambler when all you may need is a little more magnesium?

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Tippmann-Peikert, M, MD. Neurology, January 23, 2007.

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