Dopamine Agonists and Impulse Control Disorders: A Complex Association

Drug Saf. 2018 Jan;41(1):19-75. doi: 10.1007/s40264-017-0590-6.


Impulse control disorders (ICDs) are a well-known adverse effect of dopamine agonists (DAAs). This critical review aims to summarize data on the prevalence and factors associated with the development of an ICD simultaneous to DAA use. A search of two electronic databases was completed from inception to July 2017. The search terms were medical subject headings (MeSH) terms including "dopamine agonists" AND "disruptive disorders", "impulse control disorders", or "conduct disorders". Articles had to fulfill the following criteria to be included: (i) the target problem was an ICD; (ii) the medication was a dopaminergic drug; and (iii) the article was an original article. Of the potential 584 articles, 90 met the criteria for inclusion. DAAs were used in Parkinson's disease (PD), restless legs syndrome (RLS) or prolactinoma. The prevalence of ICDs ranged from 2.6 to 34.8% in PD patients, reaching higher rates in specific PD populations; a lower prevalence was found in RLS patients. We found only two studies about prolactinoma. The most robust findings relative to the factors associated with the development of an ICD included the type of DAA, the dosage, male gender, a younger age, a history of psychiatric symptoms, an earlier onset of disease, a longer disease duration, and motor complications in PD. This review suggests that DAA use is associated with an increased risk in the occurrence of an ICD, under the combined influence of various factors. Guidelines to help prevent and to treat ICDs when required do exist, although further studies are required to better identify patients with a predisposition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Dopamine Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Prolactinoma / drug therapy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Risk Factors


  • Dopamine Agonists