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. It can be downloaded for $2 from www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I had tried all the remedies for body odor described on your website. Oddly, I had only one smelly armpit. Antiperspirant worked fine on the other pit.
My primary-care doctor conferred with a dermatologist, who recommended using a topical erythromycin gel twice daily for a month. He suggested this is most likely due to a corynebacterium infection.
A: We're surprised the dermatologist was willing to make such a diagnosis without seeing you. It is plausible, however, as the skin-dwelling bacteria known as corynebacteria can colonize the armpit and cause odor or even colored sweat (yellow, red or black). The usual treatment seems to be shaving, washing with antibacterial cleanser and applying benzoyl peroxide. Topical erythromycin also is reported to work against this infection.
Q: I have migraines that I used to control with ibuprofen. After suffering severe stomach erosion, I gave up on that except for an emergency.
Now that we know that ibuprofen can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, I need a headache medicine that will be safe. I searched the Web, and all the prescription medicines have warnings about heart attacks. Is there anything I can safely take when I have a migraine?
A: NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen can cause life-threatening bleeding ulcers. Since you are susceptible to this reaction, you must avoid such medications.
Danish scientists found that people who had experienced heart attacks were about 50 percent more likely to have a second one if they were taking ibuprofen, diclofenac or similar drugs (Circulation online, Sept. 10, 2012).
This presents a dilemma for people like you who need pain relief. Our Guide to Headaches and Migraines offers alternative approaches, including magnesium, vitamin B-2, acupuncture and herbs such as butterbur, feverfew and ginger. It can be downloaded for $2 from our website, www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Inducing "brain freeze" by drinking a very cold icy beverage or quickly eating a frozen dessert can sometimes stop a migraine, especially if used early.
Q: My cat was attacked by two pit bulls. Her abdomen was extremely swollen, and she had two severe puncture wounds.
We live on an island, and the vet was out of town for a week. His advice to us was to wash the area with sugar water and then pack the wounds with sugar. I was shocked: Within 12 hours, the area was light pink instead of bright red, and the puncture wounds had scabbed over. It truly was amazing how quickly the healing occurred.
A: The healing power of honey or sugar has been known for millennia, but it often is overlooked. Dr. Richard Knutson, a retired orthopedic surgeon who has treated 7,000 patients, recommends a 3:1 ratio of confectioners' sugar to cooking oil to pack wounds once they stop bleeding.