Abilify Side Effects – Should You Avoid Using It?
Living in a world where everything is available at your fingertips could be both a blessing and a curse. It is, however, the perfect balance between using a particular product or entity that makes it either beneficial or harmful for us.
The same is the case with drugs or medicines. If used within the prescribed limits as told by the physician, they could help resolve and get rid of the primary problem in no time. In contrast, if they are used as per the individual’s own will – something that is termed as ‘self-medication’, then the patient might not be so lucky in experiencing the same beneficial effects that others do.
The reason behind the occurrence of side effects is partly attributable to the patient as well – it is sometimes because of their non-compliance or incorrect means of intake that makes them deprived of the effects of drugs.
One such drug that is under discussion today is Abilify. This is the market name for Aripiprazole. Abilify is a drug that is most commonly prescribed for patients suffering from Schizophrenia associated with bipolar disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and major depressive disorder.
Abilify – An Overview
Abilify is a second-generation antipsychotic drug. Its pharmaceutical name is Aripiprazole. Since it is an anti-psychotic drug that is used for some of the major psychiatric illnesses, it is only available under a certified doctor’s prescription. (1)
Aripiprazole is an FDA-approved drug, which means that it is considered safe to be prescribed and used by people suffering from the specified psychiatric disorders for which it is designed. (2)
Indications of Abilify:
Abilify is most commonly indicated to be used in patients with:
- Tourette Syndrome (from 6 to 18 years of age)
- Major Depressive Disorder (in those adults in whom one antidepressant is not enough to suppress the symptoms)
- Schizophrenia (between 13 to 17 years of age)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (between 6 to 17 years of age). (3)
Administration of Abilify:
Abilify is available in three forms – tablet, oral solution, and an injectable (IM) form. However, only the former two are seen to be more commonly used than their latter counterpart.
Depending upon the patient’s response and the severity of their symptoms, the dose of Abilify may be altered by the physician as deemed feasible. (4)
Mechanism Of Action:
Abilify is termed a ‘dopamine system stabilizer’ (DSS). This means that it has a dual mode of action, for the purpose of understanding its mechanism of action.
When there is low dopamine in the system, Abilify work increases the activity on the dopamine receptors to restore the normal function.
In contrast, when dopamine levels are high or the dopamine receptor is seen to be overactive, Abilify works to minimize its activity and make sure that the brain does not go into overdrive when such a situation is present at hand. (5)
Side Effects of Abilify
Just like every other drug, there are both good and bad sides to Abilify as well. Its excessive or unwatched usage could lead to people developing side effects, and that is when things take a turn for the worse. (6)
Abilify has its side effects, but they are only seen when it is taken either in an uncontrolled or unchecked amount or taken at odd times each day, which leads to an overall decreased efficacy of the drug alone.
Some of the common side effects of Abilify include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, rash, hives formation, or itching. However, these side effects are self-resolving and usually disappear on their own.
But for the sake of simplicity, here is a list of the most commonly experienced ‘major’ side effects that an individual might experience due to the long-term usage of Abilify:
Cerebrovascular accident or stroke is a rare side effect that may occur in the elderly population, especially in people with dementia. Its incidence could be linked to the drug trying to restore the balance of neurotransmitters within the brain. Any excessive action from Abilify’s side could lead to the people experiencing stroke, which if uncontrolled, could also lead to death.
2. Uncontrolled Body Movements:
This phenomenon is medically termed as ‘Tardive Dyskinesia’. When it occurs, some of the body parts, including the face, tongue, hands, and feet, may develop uncontrolled movements which might not go away easily.
It becomes really difficult for a person to manage their other mental conditions along with this side effect, as it might alter the intake of Abilify in all circumstances.
3. Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome:
Although rare, in some instances, people were also seen to suffer from a condition called Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.
It is a life-threatening condition that begins with the stiffening of muscles, high-grade fever, sweating, confusion, and changes in blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate. It is for reasons like these that individuals are told to report any serious symptom at once to their doctor.
4. Compulsive Behavior:
Some individuals also reported having to experience compulsive behavior such as urges, binge eating, shopping impulses, and even sexual urges. All these could be attributed to the dopamine-related changes that go on within the body due to the usage of Abilify.
5. Orthostatic Hypotension:
Some people have also reported having experienced lightheadedness when standing due to the usage of Abilify. This, again, has to do with the mechanism of action of the drug itself.
6. Other Uncommon Side Effects:
Apart from some of these major side effects, there are other side effects too that people have reported. Some of them are listed as follows:
- Hyperprolactinemia (increased levels of the hormone Prolactin)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hyperglycemia leading to diabetes
- Increased fat levels. (7)
Should I Still Take Abilify if Prescribed?
All the adverse effects and reactions to this drug are just one side of the story. There is always another side of the story, and that, too, has been shown above. Abilify has proven to be of great help to the people who took it for their mental health and psychiatric disorders and they have seen successful results in front of their eyes as well.
All these positive outcomes should be sufficient enough to convince people that Abilify is indeed a safe drug. After all, it is FDA-approved and that in itself is proof that it is a safe drug to be used, but only under the correct prescription and within the limits advised by the doctor.
The side effects do not, in any way, make the use of Abilify controversial by people. In case of any fear or questions, it is always better to consult the physician who prescribed it. Usually, psychiatrists also resort to prescribing it from the lowest dosage.
So, it is completely safe to say that Abilify is indeed a great drug that could help resolve several psychiatric illnesses if taken within the prescribed limits and according to the timed schedule.
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- Gettu N, Saadabadi A. Aripiprazole. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 May 9]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547739/
- Shirley M, Perry CM. Aripiprazole (ABILIFY MAINTENA®): a review of its use as maintenance treatment for adult patients with schizophrenia. Drugs. 2014 Jul;74(10):1097–110. Aripiprazole (ABILIFY MAINTENA®): a review of its use as maintenance treatment for adult patients with schizophrenia – PubMed (nih.gov)
- ABILIFY® (aripiprazole) | Official Site [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 9]. Available from: https://www.abilify.com/
- Drugs.com. Abilify Dosage Guide [Internet]. Drugs.com. [cited 2023 May 10]. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/dosage/abilify.html
- Aripiprazole – Mechanism of Action, Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects [Internet]. Psych Scene Hub. 2023 [cited 2023 May 11]. Available from: https://psychscenehub.com/psychinsights/aripiprazole-mechanism-of-action-psychopharmacology-and-clinical-application/
- Pae CU. A review of the safety and tolerability of aripiprazole. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2009 May;8(3):373–86. A review of the safety and tolerability of aripiprazole: Expert Opinion on Drug Safety: Vol 8, No 3 (tandfonline.com)
- Abilify Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term – Drugs.com [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 10]. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/sfx/abilify-side-effects.html