Abilify (maintena) is an atypical antipsychotic medication used to treat conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression as well as to treat irritability and symptoms of aggression, mood swings, temper tantrums, and self-injury related to autistic disorder in children.
The drug works by leveling out certain neurotransmitters – in effect inhibitting the more extreme moods associated with psychotic disorders. Specifically, it dampens the action of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, lowering abnormal levels of excitement.
Unlike antipsychotics of the past, Abilify acts as a partial agonist to dopamine receptors, rather than a full agonist like previous antipsychotic drugs. This makes it a markedly safer alternative to standard antipsychotics.
Sales of this drug have been very high in recent years and many people have been switched over to an Abilify prescription. The rise in consumption is partly due to the effectiveness of the drug as well as a widespread adverting campaign that was run through TV ads. In fact, Abilify is one of the most successful drugs in the pharmaceutical industry. Last year this medication had sales of over $5,000,000,000. Yes, five billion dollars. This makes it the 2nd highest selling pharmaceutical drug on the US market.
If you’re new to Abilify you likely have some questions about the drug. So let’s dive into the most important information about this drug.
Can you Overdose on Abilify?
1.) The amount of this medication needed to result in an overdose greatly depends on the individual characteristics of the user. Body weight, length of use and individual brain chemical balances all factor in. Everyone has different chemistry and will experience an overdose from different amounts of the drug.
2.) Symptoms that might indicate an overdose has occurred include:
- Extreme confusion
- Chest pain
- Irregular or fast heartbeat; slowed heartbeat (beyond usual levels of change)
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing, tightness in the throat or neck leading to breathing airway restriction.
- Severe rash, itching, or hives
- Pronounced swelling of face, eyes, or extremities
- Swollen tongue, odd tongue movements, or tongue that protrudes from the mouth (Tardive dyskinesia)
- Muscle stiffness
- Strong Fever or sweating
- Unusual, uncontrollable facial or body movements
- Vision changes
3.) Can an overdose of this drug result in death? Yes, Abilify is known to cause death when taken in too high of a dosage. Overdoing an aripoprazole medication often results in serotonin syndrome for the user. The effects of this syndrome range from mild irritability and accelerated heart rate all the way to fatality. It depends on how much of an overdose it is.
4.) In the event of an expected overdose, you or your loved ones should take immediate action and seek medical help. Any noticeable negative side effect is cause for a medical consultation. These and other symptoms might be signs of an allergy, incompatible aripiprazole drug interactions, or other complications and should be addressed as soon as possible.
5.) Treatment options for an overdose will vary. If the overdose was recent, a healthcare provider may give certain medicines or place a tube into the stomach to “pump the stomach.”
However, once Abilify has been absorbed into the body, there is no treatment that can remove it quickly. In these cases treatment must revolve around supportive care in addressing the symptoms that occur as a result of the overdose. For example, supportive treatment options may include:
- Fluids through an intravenous line (IV)
- Seizure medications or medications for other complications
- Other treatments based on complications that occur.
Can Abilify Cause People to Feel Sleepy or Drowsy?
Yep, it can. And it often does. Many people complain about Abilify making them feel too sleepy to function well.
6.) Abilify and drowsiness are often known to come together. It’s just the nature of this medication to effect parts of the brain which dictate feelings of energy and awareness. Abilify can make you extremely drowsy; using alcohol with Abilify can worsen this side effects, so be careful about that. Extreme tiredness easily presents safety concerns.
7.) How to combat feelings of sleepiness:
- Occasionally, some people find they cannot handle any amount of Abilify (even 1mg doses) without experiencing disabling bouts of extreme tiredness. If you find that this medication makes you able to do very little more than lay around in bed all day, then you might need to find an alternative medication. You shouldn’t have to suffer that much tiredness.
- Experiment with taking it during different times in the day. Maybe you function best when taking Abilify in the morning, soon after you wake up. Or, maybe you feel your worst when you take it in the morning. Better try taking it in the late afternoon or before you go to sleep. Switching things up like this might really help you. If Abilify makes you feel exhausted you might want to time it for when you’re feeling more low key.
- Give yourself some adjustment time if you’ve only just started taking Abilify. It can take several months for your body to feel “evened out” on the drug. If you feel like the drug isn’t causing you too much fatigue right now then you might as well give it a little longer before trying out an alternative. Of course if it is too bad to handle, make a switch sooner rather than waiting.
Abilify causing bad sleeping problems? You may already have sleep apnea or just trouble sleeping, and Abilify might make it worse. No one likes to feel more exhausted than they already are, so try an alternative to Abilify or try adding sleeping medications like ambien or Unisom sleep gels.
Abilify: good for depression? Or good at causing Depression?
8.) For some people it is great at reducing symptoms of depression. Abilify performs well at reducing symptoms anxiety and accompanying depression for many people. If it’s working for you, and the side effects aren’t debilitating, then that’s great!
9.) Many others experience new or increased depression from prescribed doses of Abilify. This is not uncommon. While some people respond well to the changes in their life caused by Abilify, the downsides to the drug just don’t mesh well with others. Abilify can be great for depression, but if it’s tiring you out and making you feel weak enough that you need an amphetamine just to feel like anything other than apathy, you might want to shop around.
Some young people have thoughts about suicide when taking medicine for a major depressive disorder and other psychiatric disorders. Your doctor will need to check your progress at regular visits while you are using Abilify. Your family or other caregivers should also be alert to changes in your mood or symptoms.
Abilify and TD (Tardive Dyskinesia) / TA (Tardive Akasthisia)
10.) Tardive dyskinesia, while rare, is a very real condition associated with antipsychotics like Abilify and needs to be addressed immediately when it occurs.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a movement disorder caused by the neuroleptic or antipsychotic drugs including the older ones such as Thorazine and Haldol and also the newer ones such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Geodon, Abilify and Seroquel.
- It can come on after you stop the drug.
Tardive Dyskinesia involves involuntary muscle control and twitching, most often occurring in the face (predominantly eyelids, tongue, mouth), but also in other areas like the neck, shoulders, torso and arms and legs.
- Inner restlessness that induces a compelling need to be in constant motion.
- Jaw constantly contorting or thrusting
- An overly “thick” feeling tongue
- Unnecessary squinting
- Inability to keep mouth closed resulting in uncontrollable drooling
- Unmanageable tic-like facial movements
Definitely let your physician note of any abnormal symptoms like those listed above. It’s worth noting that the onset of TD tends to be extremely slow with AAPs (atypical antipsychotics). But while most TD cases do not develop until at least 3-6 months of exposure, some have occurred only after a few doses or less.
How About Abilify induced Tardive disorders statistics? How common are these occurrences? In otherwise physically healthy adults, 5%-8% per year will develop the disorder, with cumulative rates in the range of at least 15%-20% for the first three years. In the elderly, the risk of tardive dyskinesia accumulates at 20% or more per year. (Abilify is not recommended for use by older adults with dementia.)
What’s more common abilify, weight loss or weight gain?
The answer to this question is that it varies. Every body is different and every reaction to drugs has it’s own unique flavor. Some people gain weight, some people lose weight, and for others their weight remains neutral. Abilify is considered to be one of the least likely AAP’s to cause weight fluctuations. But it still happens.
11.) Cases of weight gain on Abilify
- Many people experience a dramatic increase in their appetite once starting Abilify. Some individuals complain of feeling entirely insatiable. No matter what they eat or how much of it, there is rarely satisfaction. Just craving for more food. This alone can cause dramatic weight gain, but in these cases could there be additional reasons for weight gain as well? Maybe not just from the food, but from something in the medicine causing drug interactions with the body too.
- Abilify is a drug that effects central nervous system, and drugs like this are known to occasionally cause weight gain. When this side effect occurs, the weight gain is not caused by diet as much as it is to do with how the drug works. (Abilify is known to cause insulin resistance, which can then lead to metabolic syndrome). Note, this doesn’t happen to everyone and is dose dependent.
- Weight gain can be temporary and once ones body adapts to the dosage it may settle down or it may not.
- When compared to other drugs in the same class, Abilify is less likely to make people gain weight like other AP’s and AAP’s.
- Effects of weight gain can be enhanced when adding additional drugs to your regimen. Drugs like Luvox (for treating OCD) have been known to enhance the hormonal disrupting signaling of aripiprazole drugs.
- Some people are more susceptible to sugar carb cravings than others. For these people, there cravings might become far more pronounced while on Abilify. This is likely to lead to weight gain.
Withdrawals from Abilify
(Note: you should never reduce or stop your regimen without the doctor’s approval and oversight.)
12.) Stopping atypical antipsychotics can often lead to withdrawal symptoms, (though this phenomenon hasn’t been studied that well yet). Some possible reactions that have been reported include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, agitation, confusion, uncontrollable muscular movements and sweating.
In fact, just take a look at this long list of the side effects caused by Abilify. When considering withdrawal effects, in general you’ll want to think of typical side effects from the drug becoming an enhanced version of themselves.
- The main side effect of stopping AAP’s cold turkey is the sudden and rapid return of the symptoms you took the medicine to stop from occuring in the first place
- Some doctors will tell you that there are few or no noticable withdrawal effects from this drug. To assume that there is no withdrawal effect from a medication that alters brain chemicals and produces a sedative effect (like Abilify) is unprofessional, and unbelievable. They themselves have never taken it before and are likely making assumptions from what they’ve been told by the drug manufacturer.
- Some people are prescribed Abilify for major depressive disorder, and withdrawals when stopping the medication can include mood swings more severe than what they would experience before taking the drug.
- Because withdrawal from antipsychotic medications is under appreciated, there are few guidelines given to physicians on how to wean patients off such drugs. One thing is for sure, tapering is important. It is highly discouraged to stop taking such drugs suddenly suddenly.
- It’s important to note that some of symptoms accompanying withdrawals may be attributable to depression relapse, such as dysphoria, rumination, insomnia, and irritability, whereas other symptoms are more suggestive of withdrawal (e.g., nausea, lightheadedness, muscle twitching).
- Hair thinning and hair loss have been occasionally associated with Abilify use and during withdrawals from this drug. Take note of any hair coming out while in the shower / while brushing and bring it up with your doctor.
- Coming off of small doses of this drug can cause withdrawal symptoms similar to larger doses. Individuals who are on higher mg doses often know the importance of slow tapering. But those who are on smaller amounts (1mg, 2mg, 3mg) sometimes decide to quit cold turkey because of how little they are consuming. But many people complain of having extreme negative symptoms when dropping even small doses like this.
On Abilify and pregnancy
13.) If you are pregnant or become pregnant while taking Abilify, you should talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for your condition. Abilify can cause problems in newborns if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
If you’ve already concieved while on the drug you have some tough things to consider.
- proceed and hope to have a healthy baby.
- proceed with the risk of having an abnormal baby / developmentally disabled baby.
- have an abortion and lose a child who could have been born healthy.
You must weigh the benefits of the medication against the possible risks to the fetus.
Studies about the effects of aripiprazole’s on pregnancy are limited, but the safest course is to avoid the drug during pregnancy. This is especially important during the first trimester. Only take it if completely necessary, and if you can avoid it during the beginning and end of pregnancy.
Nursing while on this drug is not recommended. Small amounts of the drug are known to be distributed in breast milk. The manufacturers of the drug advise abstaining during nursing.
Taking antipsychotic medication during the last 3 months of pregnancy may cause problems in the newborn, such as withdrawal symptoms, breathing problems, feeding problems, fussiness, tremors, and limp or stiff muscles. However, you may have withdrawal symptoms or other problems if you stop taking your medicine during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking Abilify, do not stop taking it without your doctor’s advice.
Other information about Abilify.
14.) Your surgeon or anesthesiologist needs to know that you are taking Abilify if you are having any type of surgery, including oral or dental surgery.
15.) Abilify may cause an increase in blood sugar, particularly when you first start taking this medication.
16.) People taking Abilify may overheat more easily and have trouble cooling down after activity than those not on the drug.
17.) Avoid drinking grapefruit juice when taking this medication as it can lead to deleterious interactions.
18.) This drug will not cure schizophrenia,bipolar or depression, but it will help control the behavior that accompanies these conditions.
19.) If you have or have ever had heart disease, diabetes, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, or seizures you should talk to your doctor about these conditions before you take Abilify. Aripiprazole’s may interact with other medications or supplements, including antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-fungals, sleeping pills, HIV medications, high blood pressure medications, and more. If you are taking other prescription drugs or supplements, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking Abilify.
20.) What is the half life of abilify? Ariprazole and its active metabolite, dehydro-aripiprazole, have half-lives of 75 and 94 hours, respectively, and are seemingly unaffected by age or gender. Given these lengthy half-lives, it would seem less likely that aripiprazole would cause withdrawal symptoms.