September 24, 2004
Anti-Depressant Drug Treats Kleptomania

Stanford researchers have shown in a preliminary non-double blind trial that the anti-depressant Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram (Lexapro) reduces the severity of kleptomania.

STANFORD, Calif. – Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are reporting promising early results in a study of a medication to treat kleptomania. More volunteers are needed for the confidential 24-week trial that, the researchers say, has curbed the urge to steal in the majority of patients who have entered the study so far.

“The preliminary results from the first patients to go through the study are even better than we expected,” said Elias Aboujaoude, MD, a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and one of the study investigators. “What we have seen so far is very impressive, with 78 percent of the patients responding to the drug in the open-label phase.” The open-label phase is when trial participants are aware that they are taking a particular drug and not a placebo.

Kleptomania, the guilt-ridden, impulsive stealing of inexpensive and unneeded items, often goes untreated as many who suffer from the disorder hesitate to seek help out of fear of being turned in for their illegal activities. More than 1.2 million people in the United States are thought to suffer from kleptomania. The condition differs from shoplifting, in which the action is usually planned, guilt-free and motivated by need or monetary gain. Kleptomania appears to affect more women than men, and the age of onset often dates back to childhood or adolescence.

Although the cause of kleptomania remains unknown, some researchers believe it involves disruptions of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin. Earlier studies have suggested that a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can be effective in treating disorders with similar aspects, such as compulsive skin picking or compulsive shopping.

Lorrin Koran, MD, the professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who is leading the study, said it is the first double-blind, placebo-controlled test of a medication to treat kleptomania: in this instance, the study is researching the effect of the SSRI escitalopram, which is marketed as Lexapro and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating major depressive disorder.

SSRIs are being tried for a number of other obsessive compulsive disorders. For example, Stanford researchers have previous shown that the anti-depressant SSRI citalopram reduces the severity of obsessive compulsive shopping disorder.

Since so many people are taking SSRIs (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa) it is quite possible that the incidence of obsessive compulsive disorders has dropped as a side effect of treating millions of people for depression.

BTW, if you are interested in taking SSRIs check out this table of SSRI side effect rates. There is no one SSRI that is best on all side effects for all people. Many depressed people have to try out a few SSRIs before finding one that works best.

If you want more natural alternatives to SSRIs then consider the research results on anti-depressant effects of Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids (and more on omega 3 fatty acids).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 September 24 01:31 PM  Brain Disorder Repair

Vansen said at September 27, 2004 9:10 PM:

Is there any divergence/disorder that serotonin hasn't yet been implicated in? I'm not denying that SSRI's work, just pointing out something curious. Seriously;-)

Alice said at November 8, 2005 5:22 PM:

I need a few answers about kleptomania, my mom is going through this and it landed her to be in jail. Now she has a heart condition of mitroprolap, now is this medication you talk about would that effect her heart?
And does the medication make you depressed?
She is going through depression thats why I think she does these things. Now they say behavior therapy helps I was wondering on how long of a period that would usually would take? Is there anything that you could tellme that could help her in her situtation of court in all?
Please help me and answer these questions as soon as possible. Thank You

crystal said at January 24, 2006 8:25 PM:

I had a ruptured cerebral anuerysm in 1999 every since I have had a problem with depression and taking things in stores I don't need. I always have plenty of money to pay for the taken items but something tells me to just take it, often time just walking out with the item in my hands in plan sight. Could this be due to my brain trauma? I never had this problem prior to my anuerysm I am desperately seeking information as well as help

Laurel said at August 6, 2008 8:20 AM:

I was forty-eight when I started Paxil for anxiety due to chronic pain and depression, by the end of that year i was starting a one year sentence for shoplifting. I did it over and over. I would leave court and one hour later be back in jail. I did a lot of research when I got out. I thought it was the pain meds i was taking so I did not start back when my year was up. I went to doctor for depression and put back on paxil. The same behavior started again leading to another arrest. Now go forward eight years and alot of reading on what Paxil has done for alot of people. I steared clear. Three months ago in preparing for surgery I wanted to quit smoking. I started on Wellbutrin. Now I am facing eighteen months for a bandaid I did not pay for. I had a purse full of old bandaids Unopened. sat and put it on foot , securtiy tackled me and empty out purse there was loose bandaids and a box opened. HE asked if I had ever been arrested before and that was it I am out on 35,000 bond the state wants 18 months. The only time I have ever done this is while taking SSRI's

Does anyone have a story about SSRI's causing this type of behavior anything to take to court will be helpful. I go August 12, 08


I take care of my eldery mother and four young grandchildren. I have spent these last eight years trying to get them all in school so I could start my life.

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