The pros and cons of aripiprazole
By Arnold Di Joseph –
The popular prescription antipsychotic drug aripiprazole, commonly known as Abilify, is an “atypical antipsychotic” that can lead to several health risks when interacting with 53 other drugs. Abilify is widely used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and it can also serve as an adjunct to antidepressants in treating major depression (clinical/manic).
Abilify is prescribed as an adjunctive or “add-on” treatment, meaning the patient adds it to another prescribed antidepressant (e.g. Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil). It is not to be taken on its own if it is expected to help those with depression.
In some instances, aripiprazole may be used to help autistic patients between the ages of six and seventeen. It has shown to help manage aggression, changes in mood, and irritability in some patients.
Abilify is not recommended for older patients suffering from dementia, as the risk of death significantly increases among elderly people with this condition. Potential side effects for this group include: heart attack, sudden death and pneumonia.
As with all drugs, if not used properly, the side effects can be fatal. Many patients or parents of patients think that the more medication they take, the faster they will feel better. This is not the case. Common mistakes may include taking more than the prescribed dosage – thinking it will work faster or doubling the dosage because of a missed dose.
Weight loss is found to be common for schizophrenic patient on aripiprazole. While this may be beneficial for some patients, this weight loss can lead to other medical issues, including anemia.
Aripiprazole is metabolized by two important enzymes, CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. When aripiprazole is taken with other drugs that decrease or increase the activity of these enzymes, the speed at which aripiprazole is metabolized can be affected.
If the enzyme metabolizes it too slowly, there is a risk that the blood levels of aripiprazole will become too high, leading to toxicity. Symptoms of aripiprazole toxicity include nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, akathisia (inability to sit or keep still), anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
Similarly, if the enzyme metabolizes it too quickly, the blood levels of the drug will become too low, reducing aripiprazole’s effectiveness.
For instance, the antifungal drug ketoconazole (NIZORAL) is an especially potent inhibitor of CYP3A4 and it can increase the blood levels of aripiprazole and its active metabolite by as much as 70 percent.
Because many drugs affect the activity of the enzymes that metabolize aripiprazole, you should find out from your doctor if your new drugs will interact with your aripiprazole treatment. If you are taking aripiprazole and begin or end treatment with a drug that can either increase or decrease aripiprazole blood levels, talk to your doctor. Your aripiprazole dosage will likely need to be adjusted.