When Not To Spin The Wheel

In this revealing blog post, "Simon Templar" shares his harrowing experience with dopamine agonists and their unexpected effect on his impulse control, leading him into a dangerous and costly gambling experiment.

Ordinarily we’re all in favour of Young Parkies running their own home experiments to observe the effects on their PD and its symptoms. Here Simon Templar, not necessarily our writer’s real name, takes far too much of a gamble, even in his own view. Having lived to tell the tale, he recounts it here. It is published with a BOLD caveat…

* This experiment was not sanctioned or endorsed by Spotlight YOPD. PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME OR ANYWHERE ELSE, FOR THAT MATTER. *

Every person on Ropinerole or a similar drug, prescribed in good faith, has some unusual side effects. Specifically, they are contra indicated against gambling.  In general, they inhibit the natural checks and balances our brains are provided with and remove the primal responses that come to us when faced with almost any situation.

Let me be more specific and tell a story which still makes we wince as I recall the details.

Self Regulated Trial

As Kenny Rogers would sing, ‘you’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run’. I have to challenge the wisdom of the silvery haired crooner, especially if you are on any kind of Dopamine Agonists. The chances are you will know when to run but will ignore the risks, casting aside your natural reticence and keep sitting at the table, dropping in cash from your bank account just to chase the losing streak.

I wanted to see if my brain was affected by these central nervous system drugs and if contra indication on gambling was justified. I was fairly sure I could easily override the chemically-induced side effects.

First thing I needed to do to start my one person clinical trial was to open up a gaming account with an online casino/gaming site. Next was to safeguard myself by setting a weekly deposit limit of £35.

First rule of gambling – don’t bet more than you can afford to lose, OK done. I played roulette and I did OK, went ahead and this was followed by a losing streak followed by some sensationally bad bets that left me at even. Next session I was back at the table and this time lost quickly.

As the game progressed I noticed a tiny drip feed of adrenaline as the winning numbers came up but not as strong as when the result was unknown, when the wheel was still spinning. I also noted that when this changed to losses and internally the recriminations began; the need to place another bet rose quickly.

You now are hooked, waiting like a drunk at the bar door for opening time and that first pint. You need the excitement, the minor thrill, the major guilt. Oh yes you need it all. On it goes, another bet and once again the ball circles high on the polished wood wheel, it drops, juggles and jumps into its slot. Win or lose it’s a feeling you know you will have to have again.

This time it’s over and out, limit reached, end of the line.

You gotta know when to walk away

Try to manage your losses, dry your eyes then get the hell outta there. Experiment done, clearly addiction to gambling was as predicted. It is way too easy to get hooked. It was time to stop. Then the first ‘out of body experience’ takes place, you watch your fingers stretch and type in your details on a new casino site, this time you are careful to ignore the safety net and you are back in the seat, back in the game and this time it’ll be different. This time I am winning and I am £100 up and on a roll. Another burst of success and now its £250 ahead, 200 – 100 – 50 – 10 – 1.20 and out.

I had meant to withdraw the winnings when I was ahead, to make good the losses. Now I have to fund them myself… oh no, how could I be so stupid? The irrational voice begins again and once more my mind casts aside its self control, quickly followed by my risk assessing powers. All I know is I have to deposit some more, I do and I lose. Repeat and I continue to watch myself from above, unable to intervene in my downfall.

Know when to run                                                                                                                              

Thats when you want to run but your legs are stuck solid, your hand poised over the deposit button, the adrenaline just a little less per win than it was before, just a little bit short in your need for a rush. A light which would be coloured red, complete with jarring klaxon sound, blinks on as the idea hits you. ‘Bet bigger – win more.’

The die has been cast, deposits of 20 became 35, then 50, finally £100. Time passed but you didn’t notice. The losses mount and so the chase began. The strategies that win you a little go out of the window as you sneak ahead of the latest deposit and the bets get bigger. It’s wrong, you know it is and then the bets get erratic but the bets still get made, the adrenaline required comes in but you know it’s going to take more than that to fulfil your desires.

Winning and losing ebb and flow but the reality is that the tide is going out, just as the money is going out of the account. The trial is complete… you cannot control your gambling – you are a degenerate gambler and you recognise this – you fume at your stupidity – you scream inside at the losses. You worry about how to tell your loved one why you have entered into this self-inflicted, ever-so-costly, unneeded, downright dangerous, emotionally challenging experiment.

Know when to hold ’em

The last ditch attempt of the classic addict, can I be an addict so soon? Oh yes, oh yes you can you fool, you idiot, the risk and for what? You are so busy scolding yourself that you hardly notice the fingers dipping into the holiday savings account – and you are back in the game. This time its different, this time you’re sticking to your best strategy, this time your favourite 32 will come in. It doesn’t .

I don’t think I should write the last paragraph because for most of us that is where the wheel of fortune will stop. Final stop called despair and retribution.

With a lucky spin and with £2.25 showing as the balance in comes 32 (still my blind faith of a randomly selected number remained). A lifeline. A win of £72. Of course my adrenaline is running high, an addict chasing the high. Increase the bet, £20 across the low numbers, in comes 4, I let it ride and in came 6, one more time and it’s 4 again – every time feeding my habit by increasing the bet. I move my attention and wager onto  the last six, covering various numbers. I am in love with my darling 32, in comes 36 and the bet is now over £50 a time, now it’s £100 and in comes 32 and it’s a £720 return in a single spin. I even check the balance, it’s £1300, I should stop.

I know I should, I have cleared the debt and I am ahead for the first time. I really should stop, I bet one last time. I lose £150. I don’t stop, I could and would lose it all. I am aiming for perfection and there’s still £900 left, 900!!! God, where did that 400 go?

The path of self-destruction is pre-programmed into the degenerate, the Dopamine Agonist signs you up for the class of gambler called MUG. It’s inevitable, pre-ordained. As if having a progressive degenerative disease wasn’t enough. The drugs you take come with a warning and, even in the controlled environment and in full awareness of what you are doing, you can get it wrong.

Fully expecting a negative outcome but one that has been calculated and minimised, I was still surprised by my reactions. In reality the mind is destroyed by the drugs, your critical thinking, your built-in risk and reward calculator malfunctions in a hugely dangerous way. There are no checks and no balances, you see and know the dangers of what you are doing but you are left helpless as you watch from another place – as you raid your bank account to feed the habit. A habit that was developed in an instant.

The fix of the win is a sideline. It is the placing of the bet that rewards the mind. The winning and losing are inconsequential, almost lost in the rush to place the next bet. The fear and horror of your actions are nothing compared to the wager dragon you chase. The effects are well documented but I still wanted to know how it affected me. Turns out I’m not special but just like everyone else who takes Dopamine Agonists. I have no consideration of losing and a propensity for addiction and risk.

Please read the label: BEWARE

Never count your money when you’re sitting at the table. Theres time enough for counting when the dealings done. Unless you are very lucky that self same counting session will be short, winnings will be zero and checking how much has left the bank account is a desperately demoralising thing to do. 

The tale ends and I was lucky – 32 sneaked in one more time. I cleared my position. I left the virtual table. I counted my blessings as I breathed the largest of large sighs of relief. I will never bet again. It could have ended badly, house, marriage and sanity all gone. It could so easily have gone so very, but inevitably, wrong. So close so very dangerously close. Bet your world on one spin?

I was lucky, next time I won’t be. I can’t and won’t run that risk; the odds are too high and all stacked against the Agonist user.

The story continues… what happened when the luck ran out

“Dear Simon Templar,
Saintly though your story is, you finished a little early. You chose to believe you could stop. I know you didn’t, I know how it really ended. Simon Templar, you are a little devil for believing you could stop. This is your real story. You finished just a little short on your tale….

“What you forgot to mention was the fact that while you really really tried your best to quit, you didn’t. The demons that got into you via the dopamine agonists were only resting, biding their time, waiting for the chance to regain control.

“Remember to tell people about the calls to friends and family, begging for help, haggling for cash. Remember to tell people about the tens of thousands of pounds lost in a day. Remember to tell people about the lies, the deception and how close you came to a complete breakdown.

“Remember to tell them about the five weeks in hospital removing the drug from your system. Remember to tell them about the tears cried, the distress caused and the trust you frittered away. Remember Simon because you know it’s true. You know the credit card debts, the cut off phone, the empty accounts, the damage to friendships, the damage to your marriage…

“Remember to tell the whole story Simon, we believe you meant to stop, we do, but we also know that what Simon says is only part of it. Simon said he’d stopped gambling. Simon you were kidding yourself. The wheel of roulette never stops and never loses.”

Spotlight YOPD  has heard many accounts of the damage done by dopamine agonists – mostly first-hand stories. If and when reported it tends to fall foul of tabloid sensationalism. Alternatively these truths never come out as people choose to hide the ‘shame and embarrassment’.

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