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Abilify Side Effects

Abilify (aripiprazole) has been linked to many serious side effects and complications. These include compulsive gambling, unusual urges and life-threatening reactions to the antipsychotic drug. The drug also has a risk of weight gain, suicidal thoughts and withdrawal. Some of these side effects may result in permanent injury even after Abilify is discontinued. Some conditions may even become worse after stopping the drug.

Did you suffer from compulsive behaviors after taking Abilify?

If you or a loved one suffered from adverse events like compulsive behaviors after Abilify use, you may be eligible for compensation.

Abilify
Aripiprazole Side Effects
  1. Compulsive gambling Some Abilify users have lost tens of thousands of dollars
  2. Weight gain Not as common with Abilify as with other psychiatric drugs
  3. Suicidal thoughts Watch for signs and alert your doctor
  4. Sexual side effects Hypersexual activity can ruin relationships
  5. Tardive dyskinesia Causes involuntary body movements
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Abilify side effects can range from weight gain and insomnia to compulsive behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Some side effects of Abilify (aripiprazole) can cause permanent damage.

Abilify patients have reported developing impulse control problems. These uncontrollable urges include gambling, sex and shopping. They have disrupted patients’ daily lives. Patients feel the effects in finances, relationships and their well-being.

Abilify is also linked to problems with patients’ metabolism. This can lead to weight gain and dangerously high blood sugar levels. It can also cause abnormally low blood pressure, seizures and difficulty swallowing.

Abilify also carries two black box warnings. One describes life-threatening risks to elderly patients with dementia. The other advises patients that drugs like Abilify can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Abilify Gambling

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found 164 cases of compulsive gambling associated with Abilify over a roughly 13-year period. The FDA database review looked at reports between November 2002 and January 2016.

Studies going back to 2011 uncovered patients who previously did not have gambling problems and developed them when taking Abilify. The compulsive gambling associated with the drug stopped when the drug was discontinued or the dose lowered.

A researcher who has studied Abilify and similar drugs has found significant associations with compulsive behaviors, including gambling. Thomas J. Moore is a senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

“The drug triggers a pathological urge to gamble constantly, sometimes among persons with no previous interest. It might be people starting to spend $300 a week on lottery tickets, and in other cases people will gamble away tens of thousands of dollars.”

Source: Senior scientist Thomas J. Moore told The Daily Beast of Abilify’s effect on dopamine receptors

Hundreds of people who say they took Abilify and lost thousands of dollars gambling have filed Abilify lawsuits seeking compensation for their losses.

Abilify & Impulse-Control Issues

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 found dopamine agonist drugs like Abilify “are associated with serious impulse control disorders; the associations were significant [and] the magnitude of the effects was large.”

The study analyzed records of serious adverse drug events. The records involved impulse-control issues in patients using Abilify or another dopamine-receptor agonist medication.

In 2016, the FDA published a Safety Announcement warning the public about reports of “compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop and have sex” associated with Abilify.

Abilify Sexual Side Effects

Hypersexual activity is another compulsive behavior associated with Abilify. The sexual side effects of Abilify don’t appear as common as compulsive gambling, however.

The same FDA review that found 164 gambling cases found nine patients exhibiting compulsive sexual behavior.

Hypersexual Behavior
Patients who experienced sexual side effects of Abilify noticed the behavior when they first started the drug.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Four patients described in medical literature who experienced hypersexual behavior noticed the behavior when they first started aripiprazole, according to the FDA.

The behavior resolved after the drug was stopped. But it started again when the patients started taking the drug again.

A 2016 article in The Daily Beast quoted a letter from a woman who said her life was turned upside down when she started taking Abilify. She exchanged sexual messages and photographs with men.

It all ended when her husband caught her. But that wasn’t before the pictures made their way to her workplace, and she was publicly shamed.

Abilify Suicidal Thoughts

Abilify carries an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adults and young adults. The FDA requires a black box warning that details this side effect. This warning applies to antidepressants in general.

The label advises patients to monitor for the emergence or worsening of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Patients should not to stop taking Abilify without first talking to their doctor.

Abilify Tardive Dyskinesia (Uncontrolled Body Movements)

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Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a serious side effect of Abilify. TD is a disorder characterized by involuntary movements that most often affect the lower face. Tardive means delayed and dyskinesia means abnormal movement.

TD often occurs after long-term use (months or years) of these medications, but in some instances, it can result after just six weeks of drug use. Once it happens, the condition may not be reversible even after the medication is discontinued.

Abilify Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a rare, life-threatening reaction to antipsychotic drugs, such as Abilify, according to a review written by The Neurohospitalist and published by the National Institutes of Health.

NMS has been associated with virtually all neuroleptics. This includes Abilify.

The condition is characterized by fever, altered mental status, muscle rigidity and autonomic dysfunction. Autonomic functioning is related to the autonomic nervous system of the body that controls involuntary or unconscious functions. These functions include heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, urination and sexual arousal.

Common Abilify Side Effects

There are several common side effects from taking aripiprazole. For example, Abilify can make you sleepy. Or it can create trouble sleeping (insomnia).

Common side effects of Abilify include:
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Excess saliva/drooling
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Feeling the urge to move constantly
  • Trouble sleeping

Abilify Weight Gain

A study published in JAMA found drugs like Abilify are associated with significant weight gain.

Researchers in 2009 studied second-generation antipsychotic medications, including Abilify, and their association with “rapid and significant” weight gain in youth.

Infographic about Abilify Weight Gain
Source: JAMA

Study participants who took aripiprazole gained 9.7 pounds after an average of about 11 weeks. A group of participants who didn’t take the drug gained less than half a pound.

Researchers wrote that previous studies also found weight gain in adults taking the drug, but it was not as rapid and as significant as in youth. In general, Abilify’s effects on weight are thought to be less than other antipsychotics.

Abilify Withdrawal

Because Abilify affects how your brain works, suddenly stopping the drug may lead to withdrawal symptoms. This is especially the case if you have taken Abilify over an extended time or if you take a higher dose.

Abilify withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes
  • Concentration problems
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Medical professionals recommend gradually tapering off the drug. This should always be done in consultation with your doctor.

When Do Abilify Side Effects Occur and How Long Do They Last?

If Abilify side effects occur, they generally start while people are taking the drug. Some side effects can occur after people stop taking Abilify.

Most side effects of Abilify go away over time as the body adjusts to the drug. This is especially true for common side effects.

In general, compulsive behaviors happen after patients start taking Abilify and stop within days or weeks after the drug is discontinued. The risk of suicidal thoughts is enhanced at the beginning of Abilify treatment and any time the dose is changed.

Tardive dyskinesia can occur after as little as six weeks of drug use. It usually happens after long-term use over months or years. This condition may also develop after you’ve stopped taking Abilify. It may not go away.

Other Abilify Risks

Abilify has also been linked to several other potential risks. For example, the FDA has issued a black box warning about elderly people and Abilify.

Fact
Elderly patients with dementia who take Abilify are more likely to die.

According to the warning, elderly people with dementia who are treated with Abilify or other antipsychotics are more likely to die than those who don’t take antipsychotics.

Other potential Abilify risks include:
  • Abilify may increase the risk of stroke in elderly people who take Abilify for dementia, which is not an approved use.
  • Abilify may also increase levels in blood sugar and the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Abilify may increase the risk of seizures. You should talk to your doctor before taking Abilify if you have a history of seizures or epilepsy.
  • Abilify may cause patients to have trouble swallowing. This can lead some to inhale food, which can lead to pneumonia.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

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18 Cited Research Articles

  1. Gaboriau L, Victorri-Vigneau C, Gerardin M, et al. (2014, March 10) Aripiprazole: a new risk factor for pathological gambling? A report of 8 case reports. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24315783
  2. Nestel, M.L. (2016, November 28). Patients Say Abilify Turned Them Into Compulsive Gamblers and Sex Addicts. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/patients-say-abilify-turned-them-into-compulsive-gamblers-and-sex-addicts
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016, May 3). FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns about new impulse-control problems associated with mental health drug ariprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm498662.htm
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Abilify label. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021436s042,021713s033,021729s025,021866s027lbl.pdf
  5. Mental HealthDaily. (n.d.). Abilify Withdrawal Symptoms: How Long Do They Last? Retrieved from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/04/16/abilify-withdrawal-symptoms-how-long-do-they-last/
  6. Wilson, D. (2009, October 27). Weight Gain Associated With Antipsychotic Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/business/28psych.html
  7. Correll, C.U. (2009, October 28). Cardiometabolic Risk of Second-Generation Antipsychotic Medications During First-Time Use in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/184782
  8. Mental Health Daily. (n.d.). Abilify and Weight Gain: Causes & Contributing Factors. Retrieved from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/01/29/abilify-and-weight-gain-causes-contributing-factors/
  9. Alfano, A. (2015, July 1). Many Psychiatric Drugs Have Serious Effects on Body Weight. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/many-psychiatric-drugs-have-serious-effects-on-body-weight/
  10. Berman, MD, MS, B.D. (2011). Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome: A Review for Neurohospitalists. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3726098/
  11. FDA. (2016). Medication Guide: Abilify. Retrieved from  https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm085804.pdf
  12. MedlinePlus, NIH. (30 May 2016). Tardive dyskinesia. Retrieved from  https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000685.htm
  13. Monson, PharmD, K. and Schoenstadt, MD, A. (6 January 2017). Abilify Warnings and Precautions. Retrieved from  http://bipolar-disorder.emedtv.com/abilify/abilify-warnings-and-precautions.html
  14. Muench, MD, MPH, J. and Hamer, PharmD, BCPP, A.M. (1 March 2010). Adverse Effects of Antipsychotic Medications. Retrieved from  http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0301/p617.html
  15. National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml
  16. Moore, T.J. et al. (2014, December). Reports of Pathological Gambling, Hypersexuality, and Compulsive Shopping Associated with Dopamine Receptor Agonist Drugs. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1916909
  17. Mental Health Daily. (n.d.). Abilify Side Effects: List of Common Possibilities. Retrieved from  https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/08/14/abilify-side-effects-list-of-common-possibilities/
  18. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.) Ariprazole. Retrieved from  https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a603012.html
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