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What to Know about Aripiprazole (Abilify)

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about Aripiprazole (Abilify).

Aripiprazole, often known by the brand name Abilify, is one common medication often used to treat mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Tourette’s syndrome. For many people with a mood disorder, taking medication is a significant step in allowing them to improve their mental health. On this page, we’ve outlined some important information about the drug.

What is aripiprazole?

What is aripiprazole? How does it work?

Aripiprazole is known as an antipsychotic medication approved to treat mental conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome. It may sometimes be used off-label in conjunction with an antidepressant to treat depression.

Aripiprazole belongs to a class of medications called atypical antipsychotics. It is used alone or together with other medicines to treat mental conditions. Aripiprazole works to change the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects feelings of motivation and pleasure, while serotonin affects our overall mood and feelings of well-being. Adjusting the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain has an impact on how we feel. 

How should aripiprazole be used?

Aripiprazole should only be used under the supervision of a doctor, especially when taken in conjunction with an antidepressant for depression. A typical starting dose for those taking it with an antidepressant is 2 to 5 mg per day. It may be increased, depending on the condition. Many people take around 10 or 15 mg per day. However, you should not take more or less than what you are prescribed without talking to your doctor. 

Aripiprazole is not recommended for those with allergy to aripiprazole or older individuals with dementia and psychosis due to an increased risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

When your doctor believes that you are ready to come off of aripiprazole, they will begin gradually reducing the dose over several weeks. This process is called “tapering”, and it is designed to prevent negative reactions. Because aripiprazole is a dopamine blocker, stopping the use too fast can rapidly change dopamine levels and lead to adverse side effects. 

What are some possible side effects?

The most common side effects of aripiprazole include:

  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness/lightheaded
  • Weight gain

Some serious (but uncommon side effects) include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, lips, tongue, throat, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion
  • Suicidality

You can find information about side effects here on WebMD. If you experience any severe side effects, call 911 or seek emergency care. 

Why do these side effects occur? 

Any antipsychotic medication can potentially lead to side effects, and a person’s likelihood of having side effects depends on many factors, including age, lifestyle, and the type of medication itself. Side effects may occur because drugs often have broad or poorly targeted effects, or the drug target itself may have many downstream effects on the body. 

Many non-serious side effects of mental health medications like aripiprazole go away after a few weeks as your body gets used to the medication. However, if a side effect persists, is intolerable, or severely hinders your ability to go about your daily life, talk to your doctor, because this might be a sign of a deeper problem. Find out more information from MedlinePlus.

How do your genes relate to aripiprazole? 

Genetics can affect your body’s response to medication. For example, some people with a certain variation of the CYP2D6 gene might be slow metabolizers for aripiprazole. Being a slow metabolizer means your body will break down the medication more slowly than others, which means the drug sticks around for longer than intended and may lead to side effects. For slow metabolizers, a doctor might opt to prescribe a different medication or prescribe a lower dosage. 

One way to predict whether you’ll have a positive outcome while taking sertraline is by taking a genetic test to determine what genetic variations you have and how they affect medication metabolization. Your DNA can help your doctor rule out less suitable medications and make more informed decisions so that you can get better, faster.

Take this free quiz to see if you can benefit from a genetic test

Special Precautions

  • Abilify may interact with other medicines that make you sleepy such as narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, medications that treat high blood pressure, etc. 
  • Abilify and grapefruit juice may have adverse effects when combined.
  • Other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine such as alcohol abuse, drug dependence, diabetes, hyperglycemia, heart disease, etc. Consult with your doctor before taking the medication. 

If you show signs of an allergic reaction to aripiprazole such as hives, difficulty breathing, rash, swelling, etc. call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

Some medications, vitamins, and herbs may interfere with how aripiprazole works. Make sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking before starting aripiprazole to avoid negative interactions. For full details, see the FDA’s full list of precautions.

Looking to find the right medication for your mental health? Join Prairie today to connect to expert providers and affordable medication options. 

Tue Nov 02 2021

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