Alzheimer's drug helps cure shopaholic disease

Woman shopping illustration 
By: Ryan Lee Hall 

A drug used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can reduce the urge of compulsive shopping in addicts, according to a recent study.

The drug called memantine, helps people with Alzheimer's disease to think more clearly by reducing hyperactivity in the brain. The drug also reduces impulsiveness, a trait linked to rash decisions and impractical purchases.

"In a way, compulsive shopping is similar to other addictions in that people are thinking about the immediacy of the reward regardless of the consequences," study author Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said. "We wondered: Could a drug used primarily to improve decision making also help people with their behavior?" He said.

Grant and his colleagues recruited eight shopaholics, all women, to take memantine for 10 weeks, and
used cognitive tests and surveys to track impulsive thoughts along with their expenses. At the end, significant reductions in both were shown.

"People with compulsive spending do not think through the range of consequences of their behavior, and we improved their thinking with this drug," Grant said.

The study, published in the May issue of Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, gives hope to an estimated 6 percent of U.S. citizens, who struggle with the ups and downs of euphoria plagued by compulsive buying.