Abilify is a brand of aripiprazole, a medication that was first developed by Otsuka in Japan and is now marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb in the United States. The FDA approved the drug in 2002 for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Aripiprazole rebalances dopamine and serotonin to improve thinking, mood, and behavior. Aripiprazole is also FDA-approved for the following indications:
- Acute treatment of manic or mixed episodes of bipolar disorder (when used alone or with lithium or valproate)
- Maintenance (long-term) treatment of bipolar disorder
- Adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder. This means aripiprazole is used in addition to an antidepressant to help treat depression.
- Irritability associated with autistic disorders
- Tourette’s syndrome
Aripiprazole may also be helpful when prescribed “off-label” for borderline personality disorder or drug-induced hyperprolactinemia (elevated prolactin levels caused by other antipsychotics). “Off-label” means that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this condition.
How Abilify Ruined My Life
Despite its many benefits and indications, many patients have complained about the life-disrupting side effects of Abilify. In this article, we will be providing a collection of the stories of individuals who recalled how Abilify ruined their lives.
A Reddit user claimed Abilify ruined her life in under one week. According to her post “Never have I experienced side effects from the medication so severe I can’t even go to work. I have been sent home the past two times of my shift because I’ve nearly passed out or puked. My brain feels like it’s melting and my eyes are continuing to run despite me not crying. My bipolar was scary, but this drug was scarier. The worst part of it all? My psychiatrist wanted a new 10-minute meeting after my call to try the injectable version of it”.
A couple has this to say about their experience “Our autistic son was prescribed after experiencing violent tics/outbursts. The medication caused his behaviors to be more frequent when the dosage was increased. We took him off and he now has the behaviors once every couple of days”.
Bryan in California wrote “Abilify at first worked great for depression, almost an instant relief for the first month. After the first month, it just destroyed all joy and beauty in life, and in my personality. I’m assuming because it is such a strong drug, it obliterates depression and even my general happiness.
“It killed my joy in life so much that I resorted back to a drug problem that I thought I was done with. It’s also given me a mild to a moderate compulsion to gamble, an issue I never had a problem with.
“To top it off, quitting Abilify for good has been an ordeal in itself. The first time I abruptly quit Abilify, I began rapid cycling from high to low moods. That never happened before. The 2nd time I quit by titration. It seemed like there was a reoccurring periodic depression. It would just come and hit me out of nowhere, which is a symptom I never had before taking Abilify.”
Lori in Washington has this to say “I was on Abilify for 6 years when one day I ran out of it. I decided to quit taking it. I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptoms for about a week and then the symptoms came on with a vengeance.
“I developed horrible restless legs, profuse sweating, nausea, stomach pains, and a creepy crawling sensation that buzzed through my body like an electric current.
“This went on for months and now it’s been a year since I quit. I still have that creepy crawling sensation that has toned down a bit, but it’s still there. I still have horrible restless legs and have developed high blood pressure that causes migraine headaches. Cognitively, I have a poor memory and poor judgment, and I can’t socialize and I feel like I’ve had a chemical lobotomy.
“If you are on this medication, DO NOT QUIT COLD TURKEY…It can really mess you up. I am hoping my withdrawal side effects will go away but I realize they might not.”
Does Abilify have a black box warning?
Yes, Abilify has two black box warnings. One warns of suicidal thoughts among children, adolescents, and young adults who take aripiprazole. The other warns elderly dementia patients who take the drug have a higher risk of death. Black box warnings are the most serious drug label warnings the FDA requires.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the company that makes the drug. The lawsuits claim Abilify caused compulsive gambling, shopping, sex, and binge eating. Hundreds of Canadians filed an Abilify class action lawsuit in 2017. Among the plaintiffs was Christina Milisic, who said she lost upwards of $400,000 from the compulsive gambling habit she developed while taking the drug.
Abilify lawsuits claim the drug’s manufacturers failed to warn doctors and consumers that their antipsychotic medication could cause compulsive gambling, eating, sex, and shopping.
In 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb was fined $19.5 million for the “alleged improper marketing and promotion” of Abilify through a multi-state agreement with 42 States and the District of Columbia. The complaint alleges that Bristol-Myers Squibb promoted the drug for off-label uses including in elderly Alzheimer’s patients and that the company violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting and minimizing risks of the drug including metabolic and weight gain side effects.
Why People Have Bad Experiences With Abilify
While Abilify is generally considered safe and effective, some people may experience negative side effects or have a bad experience with the medication. Here are some reasons why:
- Incorrect Dosage: Taking too much or too little Abilify can lead to negative side effects. For example, taking too much Abilify can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and an increased risk of falls. On the other hand, taking too little Abilify may not provide adequate symptom relief. It’s important to follow the dosing instructions provided by the prescribing physician and not to adjust the dose without consulting with them first.
- Interactions with other medications: Abilify can interact with other medications, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements. For example, Abilify may interact with antidepressants, antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics. If someone is taking Abilify alongside another medication, there is a possibility that the medications may interact in a way that causes negative side effects. It’s important to inform the prescribing physician of all medications, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs being taken before starting Abilify.
- Pre-existing medical conditions: People with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may be more susceptible to negative side effects from Abilify. It’s important to inform the prescribing physician of any pre-existing medical conditions before starting Abilify. The doctor may need to adjust the dosage or choose an alternative medication to avoid adverse effects.
- Misuse and Abuse: Abilify is sometimes misused and abused, particularly by people who are trying to get high. Misuse of the drug can lead to negative side effects and addiction. In fact, some studies have shown that Abilify has the potential for abuse and addiction, especially among people with a history of substance abuse or addiction.
- Allergic Reactions: While rare, some people may have an allergic reaction to Abilify. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, hives, and difficulty breathing. If someone experiences any of these symptoms after taking Abilify, they should seek medical attention immediately.
- Withdrawal: People who abruptly stop taking Abilify may experience withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, insomnia, and agitation. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to gradually taper off Abilify under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
Overall, Abilify is a safe and effective medication for most people when taken as prescribed by a doctor. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and to inform the prescribing physician of any pre-existing medical conditions, other medications, or concerns about the medication.