Impulse control disorders, characterized by the inability to control or refrain from carrying out actions that are harmful to yourself or others, are a group of mental illness disorders that can be difficult to cope with and challenging to treat.
However, medication is often an effective impulse control treatment, particularly when combined with therapy. When prescribing medication for impulse control, mental health professionals use specific medications for specific types of impulse control disorders.
GABA and Impulse Control Treatment
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that regulates levels of excitability and susceptibility to impulsive behavior. When GABA levels in the brain are low, people are less likely to stop impulsive behavior by using logic or reason.
Low GABA levels are associated with impulse control problems, such as compulsive gambling, stealing and episodes of rage. Some of the different types of medication used in impulse control treatment work by raising GABA levels.
Opioid Antagonist Medication for Impulse Control
Opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, are types of medication that help people control their cravings. This kind of medication is usually used in impulse control treatment for people with compulsive gambling problems. It seems most effective in impulse control treatment when cravings are associated with a reward, although it doesn’t seem to suppress appetites or help people quit smoking.
Individuals taking naltrexone should not take over-the-counter pain medications because of potential liver problems.
SSRI Medication for Impulse Control
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac, are a type of medication used to treat depression. As in depression, serotonin levels are linked to impulse control disorders, and SSRIs can be helpful in impulse control treatment. Some impulse control disorders that respond to SSRI medication for impulse control include:
- Compulsive self-mutilation: Clomipramine, a medication used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, can help individuals with this impulse control disorder.
- Pyromania: Individuals with a compulsive urge to set fires can benefit from SSRI medication and therapy.
- Trichotillomania: Also known as compulsive hair-pulling, this disorder is linked to glucose metabolization and may be genetic. Prozac, combined with pimozide, can be a helpful impulse control treatment.
Anticonvulsant Medication for Impulse Control
Treatment for intermittent explosive disorder generally includes psychotherapy and medication. Anticonvulsants, as well as antipsychotics and benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medication), have helped treat this disorder.
In addition, some anticonvulsants â€” such as topiramate â€” can help reduce cravings and have been used in impulse control treatment for people with compulsive gambling disorders.
Carver, J. (2010). GABA: Mania and seizures to relaxation and impulse control. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from http://www.enotalone.com/article/4118.html.
Gale, T. (1988). Impulse control disorders. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/impulse-control-disorders.
Impulse Control Disorders Clinic. (2009). Principles of treatment. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from http://www.impulsecontroldisorders.org/html/treatment.html.