Alzheimer's Drug Can Be Used to Treat Shopaholics

If you can't walk into a store without buying something, help may be at hand. New research suggests that a drug designed to treat Alzheimer's disease can be used to successfully treat people who suffer from shopping addictions.

Serious addiction to shopping, which is correctly referred to as "compulsive buying disorder", is actually a from of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). While the it may sound amusing, people with the disorder can rack up huge debts—and to date doctors have struggled to find an effective treatment.

But now a team of psychiatrists from the University of Minnesota has tested out an Alzheimer's drug called memantine in a small clinical trial to assess its effectiveness in treating compulsive buying. The medication acts on a chemical called glutamate which is found in the brain, and is linked to both the development of dementia and obsessiveness.

The results suggest that the medication can reduce symptoms by half—measured in terms of time and money spent shopping— cutting impulse buying and generally reducing impulsive urges, thoughts and behavior. The results are published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry.

For some perspective on the disorder, an average patient involved in the study was earning $60,000 a year, but spending 61 percent of that income on impulsive purchases—so the reductions make a marked difference to the financial circumstances of those involved. [Annals of Clincial Psychiatry via Telegraph]

Image by Robbi/Shutterstock