A pill used to treat Alzheimer's disease may also help shopaholics with "compulsive buying disorder," according to a new study.

Researchers claim that shopaholics given the memantine pill, also known as Ebixa, normally used to help treat Alzheimer's symptoms, spent less time shopping and wasted less money on impulse buys.

Shopping addiction is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and sufferers often rack up thousands of dollars of debt as a result of "compulsive buying disorder", the condition can also lead to more serious mental health issues like depression and obsessive hoarding.

More than 80 percent of shopaholics are women, and they often find it difficult to avoid going to sales and frequently buy things they do not need and cannot afford, and until now psychiatrists have struggled to find effective treatments for this type of addiction.

A clinical trial, conducted at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis that consisted of nine people aged 19 to 59 diagnosed with compulsive buying disorder, who all had a ‘senseless preoccupation’ with shopping and spending, which often led to distress, an inability to function at work or socially and financial problems.

Before the study, participants earned an average of almost $62,512 a year, but were spending 61 percent of that income on impulsive purchases that were mainly clothes and at least 38 hours a week in shops. 

Researchers gave participants prescription memantine medication, normally prescribed to prevent deterioration in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's. After eight weeks, both the men and women taking the pills reduced the amount of time and money spent on shopping, and overall symptoms were halved.

Participants who took the drug showed less impulsive buying behavior and improvements in brain functions associated to impulse urges, thoughts and behavior. 

Memantine reacts to the brain chemical glutamate, which researchers have linked to development of dementia and OCD behavior. 

"These findings suggest that pharmacologic manipulation of the glutamate system may target the impulsive behavior underlying compulsive buying. Placebo-controlled, double-blind studies are warranted in order to confirm these preliminary findings in a controlled design," researchers wrote. 

The study is published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry.