Drug brings relief to big spenders

日期:2019-03-01 09:14:17 作者:闫噙禺 阅读:

By ROSIE MESTEL IN the weeks before Christmas, millions of people around the world will be caught up in an orgy of spending. For most of us, the madness is only seasonal, but for some unfortunates, the obsessive urge to shop lasts all year long. Now, say American researchers, there may be drugs that can cure compulsive shoppers of their incessant need to spend. Donald Black, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, and Susan McElroy, psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati, have both conducted pilot studies with compulsive shoppers – people who cannot stop shopping, even though they know that their behaviour is causing serious problems. Such people routinely spend the bulk of their pay cheque on personal items, and spend hours each day planning their next trip to the shops. They are often in debt for thousands of dollars, frequently write cheques that bounce, and exceed credit limits on multiple credit cards. They may even be forced into bankruptcy. “People sort of joke about it, but the problem is really extremely disruptive,” says McElroy. Compulsive shopping is probably closest in nature to a series of psychiatric complaints known as impulse control disorders, which include uncontrollable urges to light fires, steal or pull out one’s hair. But it also resembles obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a strange complaint that causes sufferers endlessly to repeat pointless tasks like washing their hands, or to hoard obsessively. The similarity to OCD led Black to test the drug fluvoxamine on compulsive shoppers. Fluvoxamine is already being used to treat people with depression in Britain, and is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of OCD in the US. In Black’s study, patients take the drug for eight weeks, and the effect on their shopping urges is monitored. Then the patients are taken off the drug and watched for another month. In the seven patients examined so far, the results are clear and dramatic, says Black: the urge to shop and the time spent shopping decrease markedly. When the patient stops taking the drug, however, the symptoms slowly return. “The results are exceptional,” says Black. “I think the drug has true promise.” Fluvoxamine is not the only drug that could help out-of-control shoppers. In a study of the medical histories of 20 compulsive shoppers, McElroy and her colleagues found that antidepressant drugs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), used to treat both depression and OCD, seem to help compulsive shoppers. The drugs in McElroy’s study group were originally taken for depression, which often afflicts compulsive shoppers. But 9 out of 13 shoppers reported that their urge to buy also diminished while on medication. Both Black and McElroy point out that their findings are only preliminary, and that larger trials are needed before they can draw any firm conclusions. They are both planning such studies. And even though some estimates suggest that between 1 and 6 per cent of the US population may have shopping problems, that does not mean that 15 million Americans should be dosed with drugs to cut down on their spending sprees, says Black. “l think that the number of people needing medication would be tiny,