Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Requip: A Gamble

Requip Put Mother in Rehab
February 7, 2009. By Jane Mundy

Ocean Springs, MS: Chris M. has her name on a list so she can't step into a casino without being arrested—her choice. However, in the right frame of mind, she wouldn't have chosen to gamble: the prescription drug Requip made that decision for her. Requip compulsive gambling has become a huge problem for people suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome and Parkinson's Disease: they are prescribed the drug without knowing Requip's gambling side effects.

"Before moving here, we lived in Maryland which does not have casinos—buying a lottery ticket was my only gamble," says Chris. "In 2004 my neurologist diagnosed me with Restless Leg Syndrome and prescribed Requip—it really helped but I had no idea how damaging the side effects would be.

"That time of my life was a milestone—we also moved here with my disabled father and I became his full-time caregiver. Then Katrina hit and that put a damper on everything. I started going to the casino by myself and was still taking Requip. I hadn't noticed anything different about my behavior. Then something snapped; I would drop by the casino for a few hours and I would win, then bet more and more. I guess that is part of the disease.

By Christmas of 2005 more casinos started to open; the ones on the coast were still closed from the hurricane. Around this time I was getting into serious trouble: I had opened 5 different credit card accounts and I was paying one with the other—the credit card companies enable you to go deeper into debt. I am not blaming them because the ultimate responsibility was mine, but you get caught up in the gambling disease itself, and Requip was "Mother's Little Helper". This drug puts you in an altered mental state so you don’t realize what is going on.

Once you start with the Requip it creates added stress, it feeds on the anxiety. How do you now get out of debt? And I continued to hide the fact that I was in debt. Eventually the lying, cheating and stealing becomes a way of life, and I was like a full blown alcoholic or drug addict. I hid in the casino to try and make myself feel better.

My father's credit card company had notified him that he was maxed out and he caught me. I joined Gamblers Anonymous for a few months to try and get some help—by this time I had been gambling intensely for about one year--but it didn’t do a whole lot; we have a very small community and nobody attended meetings, just me and another guy.

So I went back to the casino.

My family had no clue, even though I was at the casino a few hours each day, 7 days a week. My husband, Jimmy, didn't know either until he went through the family's finances one day—I used to handle our budget so he didn't find out right away…Jimmy was out of town and I had burned through all the money in our checking account. He tried to pay for parking at the airport and his credit card was denied—maxed out. We had a confrontation and that's when I told him what was going on.

This time I went to some therapy sessions and rehab in Jackson. I was still taking Requip and nobody mentioned anything about Requip gambling side effects. Every addict was at this rehab center and I soon discovered gambling is rather new on the addiction scene; it is weird but drugs and alcohol are more acceptable whereas gambling is more private, yet it comes with the same amount of guilt and shame.

I stayed in rehab for 30 days and came home in October, 2006. I haven't gambled since. I had to file bankruptcy the following year and all debts were discharged in December, 2007. Plus I had to leave the family home for 6 months—that was part of the personal bankruptcy law.

We were watching TV one night and a Mirapex ad flashed onscreen, mentioning compulsive behavior and its association with Restless Leg Syndrome. Then I did some research on the Internet: I was outraged—there was Requip, on the same page as Mirapex.

My first thought was, 'Ohmigod you've got to be kidding me!

But at the same time I was relieved, I wasn't the bad person I thought I was. And I was appalled that this powerful drug-- that could alter your life-- was on the market. Here we are in a huge gambling mecca and this doctor prescribes Requip for many patients. She told me that none of her patients had come back to her with compulsive behavior problems. How could a doctor have a patient like me fall through the cracks? She knew about these side effects but didn't say anything to me! I wondered how many other people she hasn't told about Requip and its association with compulsive behavior.

It is just now that Jimmy and I trust each other again. I have my own ATM card back but for the longest time, if I wanted any money I had to ask; it was so embarrassing and humbling. At the age of 53 I had to ask a family member for $10. I always thought I was a good person; taking Requip and dealing with compulsive gambling is a horrible thing to go through."

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