Anti-depressant drug on offer to shopaholics

Jasbird jasbird#deletethis# at
Fri Jul 18 05:17:05 EST 2003


Fri 18 Jul 2003

Anti-depressant drug on offer to shopaholics


FOR those whose shopping trips leave their credit cards smoking and
their bodies buckling under the weight of excessive purchases, help
could finally be at hand. 

Doctors in the United States believe they have found the antidote to
the medical condition known as compulsive shopping disorder - an
anti-depressant drug widely available in the UK. 

A 16-week trial involving volunteer "shopaholics" at Stanford
University Medical Centre in California reported that patients taking
citalopram were able to curb their previously uncontrollable urges to

The 24 guinea pigs were selected because of the seriousness of their
addictions; most had been compulsive shoppers for more than 20 years.
One had bought 2,000 wrenches, another owned 55 cameras and others had
racked up more than £25,000 in credit card debt. 

Fifteen of the patients (63 per cent) rated themselves as "much
improved" or "very much improved" after completing the course of
medication and said they had lost interest in shopping. 

"I'm excited about the dramatic response from people who had been
suffering for decades," said Dr Lorrin Koran, professor of psychiatry
and behavioural sciences at Stanford. 

"Patients improved within one or two weeks. I've never seen anything
like it. No disorder I’ve treated has reacted like this. I hope people
will become aware that it’s treatable and they don't have to suffer." 

The news comes too late for Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of
the Philippines, who famously spent a sizeable chunk of her country’s
wealth on jewellery and more than 3,000 pairs of shoes. 

But it might be of interest to celebrities such as the actress Winona
Ryder, who "bought" £4,000 of designer clothes in a Beverly Hills shop
(but neglected to pay and was convicted of theft), and the singer
Elton John, who admitted to spending more than £100,000 on flowers
alone in a £40 million spree lasting 20 months. 

Compulsive shopping disorder affects up to 8 per cent of the adult US
population, with 90 per cent of the victims being women. The study
group contained 23 women and one man. 

"Compulsive shopping leads to serious psychological, financial and
family problems, including depression, overwhelming debt and the
break-up of relationships," Dr Koran said. "People don't realise the
damage it does." 

Earlier studies suggested that anti-depressants known as selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors, of which citalopram is one, might be
useful in treating the disorder, but the Stanford trial was the first
time significant results were recorded in the use of the medication
against a placebo. 

When switched to the placebo, five of eight patients relapsed, but
those who stayed on the drug, marketed in the UK as Cipramil, reported
a continued loss of interest in shopping, cessation of browsing for
items on the internet or television shopping channels, and the ability
to shop normally without making impulsive purchases. 

"Patients said to me: ‘I go to the mall with my friends and I don't
buy anything. I can’t believe it and they can’t believe it’," Dr Koran
said. "They've been doing this for decades and now their urge to shop
is gone."

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