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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 10:09 GMT
Shopaholics treated with drugs
Shopping can get out of control
Doctors have begun to treat people who suffer from a compulsive need to shop with a drug originally designed to treat depression.

For many shopping can provide an uplifting boost.

But with consumer spending soaring, it is estimated that nearly one in five people has a problem keeping their shopping habits under control.

We have got a girl we have nicknamed Anne of a thousand t-shirts

Dr Robert Lefever

Debt has soared, particularly among women. Easier credit, peer pressure and advertising have been blamed.

US doctors have responded by prescribing the drug Cipramil for shopaholics who carry on buying despite running into huge debt.

The drug is an anti-depressant from the same family as Prozac.

A study of 21 female shopaholics carried out at Stanford Medical School found that use of the drug produced marked improvements in their compulsive shopping behaviour.

Dr Robert Lefever is the director of the Promis recovery centre in Kent, which treats patients suffering from a range of addictions.

Anne of a thousand t-shirts

He said compulsive shopping was a problem to rank alongside alcoholism and compulsive gambling, and could lead to serious problems, not least with unmanageable debt.

However, he was sceptical about the benefits of treating shopaholics with drugs.

He said: "You can treat anything with a pill, whether it is the right treatment is another thing altogether.

"The assumption is that if you calm people's mood then they won't do silly things. I'm not aware that is true, I think all you do is to make zombies out of them."

Dr Lefever said compulsive shopping could take on epic proportions.

"We have got a girl we have nicknamed Anne of a thousand t-shirts. She can't even get into her bedroom anymore, she doesn't even unwrap them, she just has piles on them."

He said the problem was often associated with eating disorders and over-exercising.

Promis centre refers shopaholics to debtors' anonymous for help and counselling.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Business
UK consumers fall deeper into debt
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