Abilify, also known by its generic name aripiprazole, can be difficult to withdraw from unless the process is done in a supportive Abilify tapering program.
Before being tested on humans or coming to the consumer market, Abilify was tested in clinical trials on rats. (1) In fact, the FDA legally requires drugs to be first tested on animals before human trials can be done, as a way to demonstrate or predict their safety for human consumption. Did you ever wonder why rodents like rats and mice are so often used in drug trials?
Rodents, for instance, can be quite easily cloned (manipulated reproduction) to pass on nearly identical genetic biomarkers and traits, and so testing results may be considered generationally more uniform within this type of protocol. They are also an inexpensive resource, especially when utilized on such a large scale. The genetic blueprint of rodents is likely very different than human detoxification traits; rats live in sewers and have demonstrably superior detoxification genetics. Today, drug testing for safety on animals is common to virtually all new drugs before marketing them to humans. However, this may or may not increase one’s confidence when assessing the value of relying on animal testing. One concern, for instance, is that humans are not clones. Another is that humans do not subsist largely off of food items procured from sewers. It seems that while drug testing does provide useful information, perhaps it cannot be solely relied upon as predictive of safety in men, women, and children… an observably diverse population.
Does Drug Testing Ensure Drug Safety?
In the 1950s, a drug called Thalidomide was given the “green light” for human consumption, after much animal drug testing was done on the drug. Extensive testing was done on rats, mice, rabbits, hamsters, dogs, cats, primates, swine, ferrets, guinea pigs and even armadillos. From these test results, researchers noted only occasional birth defects. So the drug was approved for human use, specifically for pregnant women.
Tragically, as a result, many thousands of children were born missing limbs and with other deformities, and thousands more died due to the drug’s toxicity on the fetus. Mothers had been prescribed Thalidomide to reduce morning sickness during pregnancy. After the drug was recalled, animal testing was further done, but this time it was done on pregnant animals, which clearly demonstrated the toxic effect on animal offspring. The animal babies were also born with similar missing limbs or other deformities or suffered fetal deaths. As a consequence, legislation was passed in 1962 that required (more correctly, reinforced earlier legislation) that all drugs had to be tested on animals first to avoid future tragedies like Thalidomide. (3)
If Thalidomide was a drug designed to treat not morning sickness, but schizophrenia, perhaps a test on schizophrenic rodents or armadillos would have given a certain predictive advantage to the testing results. But of course, no such animal population is available for the purposes of such testing. So instead, human Abilify drug trials were done on schizophrenic patients after testing on non-schizophrenic rodents showed the drug to be safe. One can observe that “testing” a drug, especially one that is designed for a specific population such as schizophrenia/psychosis patients, may not be able to predict safety as certainly as we might desire.
How Safe is Abilify?
The FDA is probably the best source of information on drug safety. In the FDA’s medication guide for Abilify, we are told that there is a high risk of death when prescribing Abilify to elderly dementia (memory loss) patients and elderly patients with psychosis (loss of touch with reality). The FDA also posts a “black box” warning on the drug for increased risk of suicidality (suicidal thoughts and actions) in those taking Abilify. The drug is also linked to worsened depression, especially in children, teens and young adults or anyone diagnosed with bipolar or whose family has a history of manic-depressive symptoms, mania, etc. (4)
Also noted is that Abilify can leach into breast milk for mothers who are breast-feeding and that this can harm the baby.
Other risks listed are strokes that can lead to death, tardive dyskinesia, (an often irreversible muscle movement disorder), a frequently fatal condition known as NMS or neuroleptic malignant syndrome which is a toxic reaction of severity, and others. The FDA medication guide also warns against stopping Abilify too suddenly once you have been taking it, and that TD (tardive dyskinesia) can emerge even after the drug is stopped.
Reasons to Consider Tapering From Abilify
Despite extensive testing on animals and humans, Abilify is documented to carry known health risks to all age groups and genders and even the unborn. This is safety information on Abilify that may, in part, motivate one to consider Abilify tapering as a wise choice.
Other reasons to consider Abilify tapering could be wanting to eliminate other Abilify side effects that are common such as akathisia, nausea, insomnia, headaches, drowsiness, emotional deadness, and a host others. Drugs may provide certain relief from acute symptoms, but do not offer a cure. If a healthcare provider has not explored other options comprehensively, it may be helpful to explore non-drug-based treatments before settling for a lifetime of taking Abilify.
About Abilify Tapering
Abilify is a dopamine blocker, which means that dopamine receptors become starved over time. To compensate for the starvation, the body begins establishing new dopamine receptors that crave dopamine, resulting in a person who may be craving stimulation. A person may seek this stimulation in various ways, such as caffeine, smoking, other drugs, or other avenues.
When Abilify tapering is attempted too quickly, there can be an extreme shock as a flood of dopamine is released into the CNS and mania/psychosis type symptoms can result. This reaction could be overwhelming and may induce psychosis, hallucinations, or other symptoms that may or may not have been present or as intense before the drug was initiated.
Therefore, Abilify tapering must always be done in an extremely cautious, exacting and incremental fashion to avoid manic or other such reactions. Support should be 24/7, and tailored to the needs of each individual. Nutrition, toxicity, and genetic factors should all be tested and addressed before and during tapering from antipsychotic medications to ensure the most successful outcome possible. A compassionate and competent staff should be on hand to help the person through every step of the process with confidence and encouragement, furnished by medical practitioners familiar with Abilify tapering, including medical doctors, holistic psychiatrists, clinicians, therapists, and expert caregivers.
The Alternative to Meds Center Can Help
We have been helping our clients for many years to deal with the intricacies of tapering from antipsychotic medications safely, as well as offering alternative treatments for schizophrenia, depression, insomnia, anxiety or other symptoms. There is much to learn about psychosis and the drugs that are used to suppress symptoms. Our approach is to test for nutritional, genetic, and toxic sources for unwanted symptoms and actually address them in order to reduce or eliminate them without relying solely on prescription drugs. Ours is a safe and gentle approach, with many years of successful treatments for our clients.
Please contact us for more information for you or your loved one on how our Abilify tapering program could provide the answers you have been looking for in your quest for the recovery of natural mental health.
(1) NIMH study published in the US National Library of Medicine entitled “Influence of aripiprazole on the antidepressant and anxiolytic and cognitive functions of rats” (Burda, Czubak, Nowakowska, Ratajczak, Zin) accessed online December 10, 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22001977
(2) Foundation for Biomedical Research article entitled “Animals Behind the Top 25 Drugs” accessed December 10, 2019 online: https://fbresearch.org/medical-advances/animal-research-achievements/animal-research-top-drugs/
(3) Article published by Animal Friends Croatia entitled, “The Tragedy of Thalidomide and the Failure of Animal Testing”, accessed December 11, 2019 online: https://www.prijatelji-zivotinja.hr/index.en.php?id=582
(4) FDA Medication Guide Abilify, accessed December 11, 2019 online: https://www.fda.gov/media/73102/download
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.