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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Drugs 'stop compulsive shopping'
Shoppers on Oxford Street, London
Some shoppers spend too much
Anti-depressants could help people who are unable to stop themselves shopping, researchers say.

While many people enjoy the satisfaction of buying a new pair of shoes or finding a bargain at the sales, some are unable to stop themselves spending.

Compulsive shopping disorder leads people to "binge shop" and can lead to them into thousands of pounds worth of debt.

US researchers say the anti-depressant citalopram, available as Cipramil, reduces compulsive shopping tendencies in those affected by the disorder.

Citalopram belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

The researchers looked at 24 people with the disorder.

One had bought more than 2,000 wrenches, another owned 55 cameras.

Dummy pill

All had been compulsive shoppers for at least a decade and had suffered financially or personally because of their disorders.

Their urge to shop is gone
Dr Lorrin Koran,
Stanford University

Each patient was given citalopram for seven weeks.

Two thirds reported they were much improved, or very much improved.

They were then given either citalopram or a dummy pill for a further nine weeks. They were not told which they were given.

Five of the eight who took the dummy pill reported relapses.

All seven who continued taking the medication reported they had experienced a loss of interest in shopping.

They had ceased browsing for items on the internet or television shopping channels, and reported the ability to shop normally without making impulsive purchases.

'I don't buy anything'

The researchers from Stanford University Medical Center, California, were led by Dr Lorrin Koran, who said he was amazed by the rapid improvements which had been seen.

"Patients said to me: 'I go to the shopping mall with my friends and I don't buy anything'.

"I can't believe it and they can't believe it. They've been doing this for decades and now their urge to shop is gone."

He added: "I'm very excited about the dramatic response from people who had been suffering for decades.

"My hope is that people with this disorder will become aware that it's treatable and they don't have to suffer."

Further research is to be carried out by the team.

Dr Robert Lefever, director of the Promis recovery centre in Kent, told BBC News Online it was wrong to use drugs to treat compulsive shopping, because it was simply replacing one addition with another.

"Of course antidepressants help the disorder, in the same way they would help alcohol dependency.

"They are simply another addiction. It's the same relation as methadone to heroin."

The Promis centre refers people to debtors' counselling if they have compulsive shopping disorders.

The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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12 Mar 02  |  Health
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21 May 03  |  Business
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30 Jan 02  |  Business

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