When my neurologist settled on the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, I had a mild, intermittent tremor in my right hand, and a bit of a hitch in my right leg that caused me to drag my heel. If I concentrated, I could stop the tremor and walk with a normal gait. But it took a bit of effort.
Over the past couple of months, the tremor has become more pronounced. When I’m sitting or standing and I’m relaxed, it ranges from barely perceptible to nonexistent. But when I walk, some connection in my brain is closed, and my hand does a jitterbug. I’ve learned to walk with my thumb tucked into a fist.
My doctor prescribed Azilect, which is a mild drug used to control Parkinson’s symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s also expensive. With my insurance, it costs me $75 a month. For that kind of money, I want a drug that not only controls my symptoms, but makes me smart and good-looking as well.
Before long, I noticed that the Azilect wasn’t really doing the job. My hand still fluttered when I walked, or when I got nervous or excited. And, it was getting much more difficult to will it to stop. So I returned to the neurologist.
The doctor informed me that the next level of medication for Parkinson’s symptoms is called “dopamine agonists.” Dopamine is a hormone produced in the brain, and people suffering from Parkinson’s don’t have enough of it. Dopamine agonist drugs function in much the same way as dopamine, alleviating the symptoms of the disease. There are quite a few variations of this drug, and it’s a guessing game which will work the best for any specific individual. My neurologist flipped a mental coin and prescribed Ropinirole. One excellent benefit I noticed immediately is that this drug is cheap compared to Azilect.
Because Ropinirole is more powerful than Azilect, my doctor has to prescribe it in staged dosages, working me up slowly over a period of weeks to full strength. I thought this was excellent, because of my upcoming trip to Las Vegas to play pool in the National Championship Tournament. By the time I have to leave, I should be at full strength.
And then, my doctor explained the potential side effects.
Some are unpleasant or downright scary, like “nausea,” “insomnia” or “hallucinations.”
Some actually sound kind of cool, like “weight loss” or “increased orgasmic intensity.”
But there was one potential side effect that is so cruel, I swear I can hear God laughing: “A reduction in impulse control, leading to pathological addictions, such as gambling.” Great. Just in time for Las Vegas.