Abilify is a third-generation atypical antipsychotic medication used in the treatment of adult schizophrenia, bipolar 1 disorder, Tourette syndrome, and in young children (age restrictions apply) presenting symptoms associated with Autistic Disorder, such as temper tantrums, mood swings and aggression. Abilify (aripiprazole) research has accumulated a significant body of data from clinical trials on various age groups and populations over the time the drug was first developed in the late 1990’s and released in the US in 2002.
Some side effects of aripiprazole led to the FDA placing a black box warning that restricted prescribing the drug within certain populations or age groups. (6)
Find more information on topics such as side effects, withdrawal adverse effects and other frequently asked questions below.
The drug is used primarily in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder in adults. The FDA expanded approved uses to include acute mania and mixed episodes (a combination of manic and depressive symptoms), in adults as well as in children who are at least 10 years of age. Elderly patients with signs of dementia should not take Abilify, as stated in the FDA black box warning regarding an increased risk of death in that population. (6)
Abilify was also approved in 2009 for use in children aged 6 and up with autism. Studies show a reduction in irritability, hyperactivity, inappropriate speech and aggression associated with autism, but an increase in weight gain, tremors, sleepiness and drooling. There are no long term studies to show safety over long term use of Abilify in young children.
In the treatment of acute manic/psychotic episodes, Abilify is considered a maintenance medicine, and is usually minimally prescribed for a period of 1-2 years.
Abilify is prescribed for these conditions:
Abilify is a trade name for the generic drug, aripiprazole or aripiprazole systemic. Other brand names for the drug include:
Abilify has not developed any significant demand or presence as a street drug, with the exception in possible cases of diversion, a potential outcome which is shared by all pharmaceutical products in general.
There are some commonly reported side effects of taking Abilify which may fade within a short time. However, if these reactions linger or worsen, they should receive immediate medical attention:
Side effects that are more severe can less commonly present, and require medical intervention immediately should they occur, including the following:
Aripiprazole is a third-generation type of antipsychotic medication, thought to be better tolerated than conventional or earlier antipsychotic drugs. Nonetheless, severe or persisting side effects should be monitored carefully and given medical attention if needed, without delay. (1)
Abilify is associated with some adverse withdrawal effects and should never be abruptly discontinued. Slowly reducing the dosage over an adequate time frame is the recommended process for coming off the drug. (2)
According to studies published by NIMH, withdrawal symptoms for Abilify can include the following:
These withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe, and a person may experience one or multiple concurrent symptoms during cessation or tapering Abilify.
Discontinuing or quitting Abilify (aripiprazole) can be best done by gradually tapering off the drug, with medical oversight and guidance. Symptoms may develop to a severe and intolerable level. The preferred approach if possible would be to taper while in residential care.
Aripiprazole has a half-life of 75 hours, and the half life of its active metabolite “dehydro-dripiprazole” is 94 hours. It was at one time thought that due to the drug’s long half-life, that withdrawals would not likely emerge on abrupt cessation, but this was not always found to be the case in more recent trials and research done. Sometimes even on abrupt cessation there is a delayed onset of symptoms, which can nonetheless be quite hard to tolerate, unless proper support is in place. Therefore the medical recommendation is to taper gradually from antipsychotic medications. (2)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Abilify and aripiprazole. For more information please contact us and we will freely offer any other available information on these or other topics of interest on request.
When the antipsychotic medication is reduced, based on existing theories about these drugs potential action of restricting dopamine, dopamine expression will begin to return. This formerly restricted dopamine now flooding into up-regulated receptors often clinically presents as a rapid expression of manic symptomology.
In many cases, the patient may become enchanted with the new found sense of reward which could result in resistance to either slowing down the medication taper, or increasing the dose to regain stability. This unwillingness to take pragmatic guidance makes this situation very labile and requires expert management.
Working closely with a doctor or center that has hospital admission privileges is highly advised as regaining control in a humanistic way may prove necessary. It is much better in extreme cases to have the individual safe and hospitalized under a trusted doctor’s admission, so that later, slower tapering efforts may be investigated.
An involuntary commitment or incarceration erupting from a situation where the tapering was either too rapid or otherwise unstructured or unsupported is certainly not a good outcome.
These considerations are especially relevant in cases where the medication has been relied upon for many years. Done well, certain dispositions can transition to being medication free or to the lowest possible dose that provides the highest quality of life successfully, which is our goal at the Alternative to Meds Center.
When Abilify (aripiprazole) medication is taken over a long period of time, as is usually the case with such prescription drugs, dependence will likely have developed, resulting in many possible discomforts associated with cessation. It may be prudent to select an inpatient program that is well equipped both in understanding the unique problems with antipsychotic drug withdrawal and also can provide comfortable, personalized assistance while withdrawing from the drug.
Our program involves multiple methods and therapies that can significantly reduce the stress that may otherwise could make the process seem and feel more difficult and time consuming than it has to be.
Using nutritional testing and support, toxic load removal, counseling, physical exercise, and many other therapeutic approaches to support the process in a beautiful and restful setting, we can help the body to ease back to a healthier state, and move toward the goal of normalizing the neurochemistry for better natural mental health. Contact us for more information on this important area of healthcare, and you may find you are closer than ever to be able to take the next step to full recovery from dependence on antipsychotic medications in a safe, nurturing and comfortable setting at the Alternative to Meds Center.
Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine. Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.