Q. Mirapex is a medicine prescribed for Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome. I read online that this medication can promote compulsive behaviors such as shopping, porn, sex, gambling and eating. Some of these compulsions have resulted in divorce or bankruptcy.

I myself developed a compulsion for buying trinkets on eBay, to the tune of $10,000 on my credit card. I no longer want these things, and evidently no one else does either! Garage-sale prices won’t move them, so they sit in tubs in my garage, a cruel reminder of when I was out of control.

Warn people that if a new compulsion crops up, they should check with the pharmacist or doctor to find out if it could be caused by medication.

A. Most people can’t imagine that a drug could cause someone to go on a shopping binge or engage in behavior such as compulsive eating or sex. Nevertheless, this has been documented as a side effect of medicines such as Mirapex and Requip. The official prescribing information for such drugs notes that patients and their families should be warned about the possibility of intense, uncontrollable urges.


Q. Ambien frightens me. I have seen two people very close to me do crazy things while on the drug and then go back to sleep and not remember what they did. My mother found herself in her nightgown, standing in a line at Subway, ordering a sub and not knowing how she got there.

My friend’s daughter got up in the middle of the night and went into the garage. She got in the family car and backed out without opening the garage door. After knocking the garage door off its tracks, she got out of the car and went back to bed. She doesn’t remember a thing.

A. Zolpidem (Ambien) has been linked to sleepwalking, sleep-eating and sleep-driving. A recent study has shown that motor-vehicle accidents are more common among people taking sleeping pills such as zolpidem, zaleplon (Sonata) and zopiclone (closely related to eszopiclone, aka Lunesta) (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology online, Sept. 12, 2012). This “hangover effect” may impair driving the next day. One reader told us: “Ten hours after taking zolpidem at my regular dose, I got into two car accidents within an hour.”

The researchers found that antidepressants also may affect driving negatively. For information on alternatives to antidepressants and sleeping pills, we offer our Guides to Dealing With Depression and Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. Anyone who would like copies, send $5 in check or money order with a long, stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. IE-7, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.


Q. My son is a vegetarian. He relies on beans and dairy for his protein. He eats lots of vegetables, especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrots.

I am convinced that his diet is responsible for “our” problem: GAS! He is so flatulent, we can hardly stand it. The smell is overwhelming. Is there anything he can take to reduce the gas and the odor?

A. The healthful vegetables your son eats often produce unpleasant smells. If he is lactose-intolerant, dairy products also may contribute.

The best way to deodorize gas is with bismuth. Products containing this compound include Devrom (bismuth subgallate) and Maalox Total Relief or Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate). The stool will turn black, but this is not dangerous.

There are reports, however, that regular use (or overuse) of bismuth has been linked to reversible neurological symptoms such as tremor, muscle twitches, confusion and memory problems. As a result, your son might want to reserve bismuth for use prior to social occasions.