Abilify How does it Work and How to Reduce Side Effects

Abilify : How does it Work and How to Reduce Side Effects

Abilify and Its Side Effects

To minimize the side effect of Abilify or aripiprazole, an antipsychotic medication, experts often recommend that patients should refrain from taking the medicine more or in greater frequency than the doctor recommends. Abilify can make you feel light-headed or giddy. So if you have been lying down, don’t suddenly get up or sit. Move at a slower pace and rest the feet on the floor before getting up. Abilify makes it harder for the body to become cool again, so excessive exposure to heat should be avoided. Also be careful while exercising. Ensure that you drink plenty of water and other fluid.

Another important precaution to take while you are on this medicine is to avoid drinking alcohol, as this can cause excessive drowsiness and harm the sleep cycle of the body.

Certain medical conditions are associated with side effects caused by this drug, Be sure to check your medical history before choosing Abilify as well. It can react with some medicines as well. So check with your doctor regarding any prescribed or OTC medicine you may be taking and supplements you may have ingested.

Certain side effects of Abilify can be tough to handle. Minimize these effects by checking with medical professionals if any of these symptoms are experienced:

  • Changes in vision
  • Uncontrolled body or face movements
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Fast/Slow heartbeat
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • High fever
  • Sweating
  • Rash, hives or itchiness
  • Swelling of different parts of the face or limbs
  • The problem in breathing and swallowing
  • Tightening of neck muscles
  • Throat tightness

People in their 20s are also susceptible to suicidal ideation due to ingestion of aripiprazole. Check with your doctor in case you feel any of these mental symptoms:

  • Severe restlessness
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Panicking
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Impulsivity
  • Severe restlessness
  • Overexcitedness and hyperactivity
  • Inability to sleep

How Does Abilify Work?


How Does Abilify Work?
Photo By: Eike/ CC BY

Maintena or Abilify (also called aripiprazole) is an atypical medication used to treat psychosis, conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar conditions, and depression as well as aggressive behavior, mood swings, temper attacks and self-injury pertaining to autism in children. This medicine inhibits certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine implicated in extreme moods associated with mental disorders such as psychosis. It also prevents the action of serotonin in the human brain, lowering excitement level which is abnormal.

Abilify is a partial agonistic drug as far as dopamine receptors are concerned. It is not a total agonist or suppressor, unlike other antipsychotic drugs. This drug has been popular. It is considered the most successful drug in the pharmaceutical industry which is the 2nd highest selling drug in the United States

Side Effects

The following side effects are noted in patients who take Abilify.

  • Increased mortality rates and shortened lifespans in elderly dementia psychosis patients
  • Cerebrovascular medical conditions like stroke
  • Suicidal behaviors and thoughts in patients of all ages
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Compulsive behaviors like pathological gambling
  • Metabolic changes
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Neutropenia, Leukopenia, and Agranulocytosis
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Non-regulation of the body temperature
  • Cognitive and motor impairments
  • Suicide and dysphagia

Most common adverse side effects in adult patients in clinical trials were vomiting, nausea, constipation, dizziness, headache, anxiety, akathisia, insomnia as well as restlessness.

Common adverse reactions in pediatric clinical trials were a headache, vomiting, somnolence, extrapyramidal disorder, increased appetite, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, weight gain, and nasopharyngitis.

Commonly observed adverse reactions associated with Abilify for schizophrenia patients was akathisia. Meanwhile, common side effects in bipolar patients ranged across tremors, restlessness, akathisia, sedation, and extrapyramidal disorders.

In the event of acute therapies, there can be eye disorders, GI disorders, general disorders, and medical conditions, and musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. Nervous system disorders are also noted along with more psychiatric and respiratory conditions.

Eye disorders range across blurred vision. Gastrointestinal disorders, on the other hand, cover nausea, constipation, dyspepsia, vomiting, dryness of mouth, toothache, abdominal discomfort, and stomach pain. General disorders can range across fatigue and pain. Then, there are musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. This includes musculoskeletal stiffness, pain in extremities, myalgia and muscle spasms.

Nervous system disorders noted in patients taking Abilify range across dizziness, headache, sedation, akathisia, extrapyramidal disorder, somnolence, and tremor. Psychiatric disorders range across insomnia, anxiety, agitation, and restlessness. There can also be thoracic, mediastinal and respiratory disorders. This includes a cough and pharyngolaryngeal pain.

Akathisia and tremor are the most common side effects associated with discontinuation of treatment. Additionally, commonly observed adverse reactions associated with teen patients including those with schizophrenia were tremors, somnolence, and extrapyramidal disorders. Other side effects include fatigue, akathisia, fatigue, blurred vision, dizziness, and salivary hypersecretion.

Symptoms of dystonia occur in susceptible individuals during the initial stages of treatment, too. This includes prolonged abnormal contractions of certain groups of muscles. Dystonic symptoms range across neck muscle spasms, tightness of the throat, difficulty in swallowing and breathing and tongue protrusions.

Oral administration of Abilify covers blood and lymphatic system disorders like thrombocytopenia and cardiac disorders like cardiorespiratory arrest, bradycardia, cardiopulmonary failures, atrial fibrillation and angina pectoris as well as myocardial ischemia, myocardial infarction and cardiopulmonary failures. Moreover, eye disorders range across photophobia and diplopia. GERD disorders can also result along with conditions like asthenia.

Face edema, peripheral edema, and chest pain are rare, however. Hepatobiliary disorders include jaundice and hepatitis. Immune disorders include rare hypersensitivity. While nutrition and metabolic disorders like anorexia are also frequent, there are chances of developing muscular weakness and muscle tightness. Nervous system disorders can also occur. Rental and urinary disorders are rare, while respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders also noted. In pediatric patients, blood glucose levels further increased, while enuresis was also noted.

How to Lessen Side Effects

Countering an Overdose

The amount of medicine needed to overdose is based on factors such as body weight, the length of usage, and individual chemical balances. Different chemistries mean that people will experience an overdose from varying amounts of the drug.

Overdose signals include excessive confusion, chest aches, irregular or fast heartbeats, slowness of heartbeat, problems in swallowing and breathing, seizures, hives, inflammation of face or lower limbs, odd tongue movements or tongue that protrudes from the mouth, motor actions that are unwanted called tardive dyskinesia, muscular stiffness, uncontrolled body movements, vision changes, high fever and sweating.

Abilify, if taken in excess, can cause death. Overdoing the medication often results in mild irritability to increased heart rate all the way to a life-threatening outcome. This is called the serotonin syndrome. Immediate action needs to be taken in the event of an overdose. Aripiprazole can interact with other drugs and cause complications as well. If overdose is recent, certain medicines may be given. A tube can also be used to pump the stomach. Once the drug has been absorbed by the body, no way of removing it fast exists, however. Supportive treatment may revolve around fluid through an intravenous drip, seizure medication or other drugs depending on the complication.

Battling Sleep Problems

Battling Sleep Problems
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Often, people complain that the medicine is causing them to feel sleepy and they are unable to function well. Abilify is correlated with drowsiness. Why is this so? The nature of the medicine is such that it affects areas of the brain associated with energy and awareness. Abilify can initiate extreme drowsiness, so be careful. Extreme tiredness can create a lot of problems for a person with Abilify.

Some people find they get drowsy with even 1 mg dose. without experiencing tiredness. For those who become bedridden due to aripiprazole, the alternative drug may be considered. Experiment by taking the drugs at different points in the day. Some people may find they function best when they take Abilify in the morning while others function better at night. If the drug makes you feel tired, opt for taking it at bedtime. Sleep apnea or trouble sleeping can create a problem, so use sleep gels or an alternative to aripiprazole if you want to avoid this problem.

Depression and Aripiprazole

Abilify is good at lowering depression in some people. Others may experience new or rising depression from Abilify. When people respond well to the drug, it is very beneficial. But a downside is that it tires you out, you may want to choose another medication. Be alert regarding changes in mood after taking Abilify.

Abilify and Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia is a rare movement disorder caused by excessive ingestion of antipsychotic or neuroleptic medication. It is generally associated with older drugs such as Haldol and newer ones such as Risperdal and Abilify as well. Abilify has a greater risk of tardive dyskinesia than olanzapine and risperidone. This movement disorder can be permanent and can come on after the drug is stopped.

It involves unwanted twitching and often occurs in areas such as the face, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, and torso. The onset of tardive dyskinesia tends to be slow. Most cases do not advance till 3-6 months of exposure, while some have occurred after just a few doses. In physically healthy patients. the chance of developing the movement disorder varies from five to eight percent. In the elderly, the risk is at 20 percent or more in the year. This is the reason why the drug is not taken by older persons prone to dementia.

Weight Management and Abilify

Whether you lose, gain or remain the same weight with Abilify depends on your own physiogeny. Once they start taking Abilify, most people experience a dramatic rise in appetite and often lack satiation. Medicines can also lead to drug interactions within the body. It is known to cause resistance to insulin and trigger a metabolic syndrome. Weight gain can settle down once the dosage is adapted to. Abilify is less likely to cause weight gain, Drugs such as Luvox for curing OCD have been known to enhance the impact of aripiprazole drugs.

So how can you avoid this side effect? Here are the steps:

#1 Eat a wholesome, healthy, nutritious diet

Include numerous vegetables, fruits, whole grain and low in fat and/or fat-free milk and dairy items. Opt for healthy proteins such as legumes, beans, eggs, and lean meat. Don’t eat too much sugar, salt or unhealthy fats.

#2 Avoid Snacking

Eat 5-6 small meals in a day to feel fuller. Do not snack through the day as this can increase calorific intake and lead to overeating. When you are hungry, check the signals the body is trying to send and cope with it.

#3 Limit Alchohol

Do not drink alcohol. This is because liquor is high in calorific value and drinking water all through the day is better. It prevents overeating. Drink 6-8 cups or glass full of water each day.

#4 Exercise Regularly

Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. This can reduce the lethargy and tiredness and stave off weight gain associated with Abilify.

If the gain in weight continues despite efforts, suggest a meeting with the doctor and work out an alternative solution. Check with your doctor before opting for exercise or diet regime to assess if it is safe for personal health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the most important things to know about Abilify?

A. Serious side effects can take place due to Abilify. This includes an increased risk of mortality in elderly dementia patients with psychosis. Medicines like Abilify or aripiprazole can also raise the risk of death in elderly individuals who have lost touch with reality due to memory loss and confusion resulting from dementia. Abilify, therefore, has not received approval for treatment of patients with dementia-based psychosis. There’s also a risk of suicidal tendencies and actions.

So, you need to watch out for changes in mood, thoughts, feelings or behaviors. So, when antidepressant medication is started or the dose undergoes a change, healthcare practitioners guiding you need to be alerted. If patients taking Abilify experience suicidal or death linked thoughts or attempt to commit suicide or even experience deep depression or anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia, or going towards the other end of the spectrum, they start acting violent or aggressive or there’s an extreme change in activity and talking, you need to watch out.

Q. What is Abilify used to treat?

A. Abilify oral tablets, melting tablets, and oral solutions are medicines used for treating schizophrenia, manic or bipolar episodes, major depressive disorder (in conjunction with antidepressant medicines), irritability associated with autistic disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome as well. Abilify in injection form is used for treating agitation in schizophrenia and bipolar patients.

It is not known if this medicine is safe or works in children under 13 with schizophrenia. The medicine also may not be safe or useful for those under 10 years of age with bipolar 1 disorder, and those under 6 years of age with autism and Tourette’s disorder.

Another precaution you need to take is not to take Abilify if allergic to ingredients in the medicine. Before taking Abilify, it is essential to tell healthcare practitioners about problems like high blood sugar, diabetes or seizures, and convulsions. Low or high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or cardiac system issues also need to be noted. Women planning to become pregnant should also not take Abilify without medical supervision. In fact, Abilify could well pass onto the breast milk and harm the baby if a nursing mother takes it. Abilify needs to be taken with care if there’s a low WBC count. Additionally, orally disintegrating tablets contain phenylalanine so patients with PKU or phenylketonuria are at serious risk of problems if they take this drug. Abilify and other medicines can cause effects too. Abilify can influence how medicines work and vice versa. So, don’t stop or start medicines while taking this drug without talking to your doctor first. Be clear about the mediciines you can take and maintain a list of medicines that are approved by your doctor.

Q. How can Abilify be taken?

A. You need to take Abilify as your healthcare provider tells you to take it. The dose should not be changed or the medication stopped without consulting your doctor first. Abilify can be taken with or without food. These tablets need to be swallowed completely. If the dose of Abilify is missed, take the dose as soon as you remember it. If it’s time for the next dose, just take your regular dose and skip the missed one. Do not take 2 doses of Abilify at exactly the same time.

If you have to take Abilify Discmelt, it is important not to open the tablet until you are ready to take it. Open the package and peel back the foil to expose the tablet. However, do not open the tablet through the foil as this could damage the former. On opening the pack, always place the tablet on the tongue using dry hands. Tablet disintegration occurs in saliva. Abilify should ideally be taken without the liquid. But if needed, it can also be taken with the water. Do not split out the discreet tablet.

Q. What do you need to avoid while taking Abilify?

A. It is imperative that patients taking Abilify need not operate heavy machinery or other tough activities until there is knowledge of the degree to which this medicine makes one drowsy. Another thing you need to avoid is getting overheated or parched. Do not, under any circumstances, overexercise. In hot weather, it is important to stay at a cool place and avoid the sun. Avoid wearing heavy clothing and make sure you drink plenty of water.

Q. What are the possible side effects of this drug?

A. Abilify causes serious side effects, such as stroke in elderly patients or cerebrovascular problems that can cause death. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome requires telling the healthcare providers right away. You need to inform your doctor regarding changes in blood pressure, heart rate, pulse, or sweating, stiff muscles, confusion, and high fever.

Another side effect of this drug is tardive dyskinesia. This involves uncontrolled body movements, that means you cannot control your tongue, face or other parts of the body. Tardive dyskinesia may not stop, even if you cease taking Abilify. Tardive dyskinesia also starts when Abilify is stopped.

Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar and diabetes are just some of the other conditions you need to watch out for. Blood glucose elevation can happen in individuals who take Abilify. Extreme blood sugar can even trigger coma or death. If there is diabetes or other risk factors for it like being overweight, your healthcare provider needs to check blood sugar before starting Abilify and during the treatment as well.

Call your doctor if you experience huge amounts of thirst, feel the need to urinate more than regular, feel really hungry, weak or tired. If you feel sick to the stomach or confused and your breath smells fruity, you also need to take this into account. Increased fat levels in the blood including cholesterol and triglycerides need to be monitored. Healthcare providers also need to check weight regularly. Some people taking Abilify may even experience compulsive urges and need to guard against this.

Orthostatic hypotension also needs to be watched out for. This is decreased blood pressure causing fainting or lightheartedness when rising too quickly from lying or sitting positions. You also need to check the white blood cell count and monitor any seizures or convulsions. Problems with body temperature while exercising in areas that are hot makes it essential for you to stay well hydrated.

Most common side effects of Abilify in adults include vomiting, dizziness, nausea, anxiety, constipation, insomnia, restlessness, headache, blurred vision, upper respiratory illness, and akathisia. Most common side effects of Abilify in children include insomnia, sleepy feeling, nausea, headache, weight gain, stuffy nose, fatigue, increased or decreased appetite and uncontrolled movements like tremor or restlessness. Increased drooling or saliva and muscle stiffness may also be experienced. Check with your doctor about dealing with these side effects.

Q. How should Abilify be stored?

A. Store Abilify at regular or room temperature between 68 to 77 degree F or 20 to 25 degree C. Opened bottles of Abilify oral solution can be used for close to six months after opening, but not exceeding the bottle’s expiration date. Abilify also needs to be kept out of children’s reach. You need to check that you do not give or take Abilify for conditions it was not prescribed for, or without doctor’s concurrence.

Q. Name the ingredients in Abilify.

A. Abilify has an active ingredient called aripiprazole. Inactive ingredients include the following. In tablets, there is cornstarch, lactose monohydrate, hydroxypropyl cellulose, magnesium stearate, and microcrystalline cellulose. Colorants are also added.

In the orally disintegrating or melting tablets, there is aspartame containing phenylalanine, calcium silicate, acesulfame potassium, croscarmellose sodium, crospovidone, creme de vanilla or natural and artificial colorants and flavors, magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, microcrystalline cellulose, xylitol and tartaric acid.

In the oral solution, there is disodium edetate, fructose, dl-lactic acid, glycerin, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, sodium hydroxide, sucrose, and purified water. The oral solution comes with natural flavors and additives.

Q. When did the USFDA approve Abilify?

A. Abilify was first accorded approval by US FDA to treat schizophrenia in 2002.

Q. Is there an Abilify generic version?

A. The generic name for the medication is aripiprazole and is available for purchase in the US and worldwide.

Q. What are the major differences between Abilify and other antipsychotics?

A. Abilify belongs to a medication class known as atypical antipsychotics or second-generation type of antipsychotic medication. Atypical antipsychotics have fewer side effects, as against conventional antipsychotics. Check with your doctor about which antipsychotic may work best for you and consider not just the costs, but also the benefits of taking the medicine. Find medication which has the maximum impact and fewest side effects.

Q. What are the potential interaction issues for persons taking Abilify along with other medications?

A. There are countless drugs known to interact with Abilify in mild, moderate or major ways. You need to let your doctor know which medications you need to take before taking Abilify. Some of the medicines which interact with Abilify include antidepressants, antihistamines, antifungals, HIV protease inhibitors, high blood pressure, or anxiety medications, IBS medicines, mental illness drugs, or medications used to cure urinary problems, sedatives, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, motion sickness or Parkinson’s disease and seizures.

Q. What medical conditions that make it impossible for you to take Abilify?

A. Consult your doctor about medical conditions before taking Abilify, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, low WBC count, tardive dyskinesia, dementia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, seizures and dementia or histories of suicidal thoughts.

Q. What is the typical dose for psychotic treatment?

A. Starting dosages typically range across 10 to 15 mg per day for adults with schizophrenia. There’s 2mg daily prescribed, on an average for adolescents with schizophrenia. A daily dosage above 30 mg is not advisable.

Q. What are the potential long-term side effects of taking Abilify?

A. Doctors need to monitor for the progression of long-term side effects, including tardive dyskinesia. All antipsychotics are associated with increased cardiac abnormalities and death due to irregular heartbeat, so doctors may recommend EKG.

Q. Can symptoms also take place if Abilify is discontinued?

A. It is important not to discontinue drug use if one feels better. Always maintain contact with the doctor and seek medical attention while discontinuing the medicine. Withdrawal symptoms of Abilify an include tachycardia, nausea, diaphoresis, headaches, lightheaded feelings, tremors, flu-like symptoms, and anxiety.

Q. What should be done if one overdoses on Abilify?

A. An overdose of Abilify is lethal. So seek help immediately if you overdose. Overdose symptoms include vomiting, nausea, drowsiness, weakness, pupil dilation, confusion, changes in heartbeat, seizures, loss of consciousness and involuntary movement.

Q. Is Abilify addictive?

A. Abilify does not have any habit-forming effects. But the drug should be not discontinued without doctor recommendations, as symptoms of withdrawal can occur.


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