For compulsive shoplifters, covertly pinching a lipstick or a blouse brings a rush "similar to a cocaine or heroin high," says Jon Grant, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis. That's why some psychiatrists prescribe naltrexone, a drug used to treat addicts, for the problem.
Naltrexone blocks the same brain receptors used by opioids, but there's little published evidence about its effectiveness in treating kleptomania. Now, in the April issue of Biological Psychiatry, Grant and colleagues report the first placebo-controlled trial of any drug against the disorder.
Subjects were 25 kleptomaniacs aged 17 to 65, 18 of them women. Almost all had been arrested for shoplifting at least once. For 8 weeks, half were given naltrexone daily and the rest a placebo. "Two-thirds of those on naltrexone had complete remission of their symptoms," says Grant. Psychiatrist Samuel Chamberlain of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. says the results "suggest that the brain circuits involved in compulsive stealing overlap with those involved in addictions more broadly." Grant hopes to get funding for a larger study.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The shoplifting "high"
I pass on this tidbit from the random samples section of science magazine: