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Abilify: Side Effects, Indications & Contraindications

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Abilify is used to treat psychotic disorders. In this lesson we'll discuss the most common side effects and contraindications that need to be considered.

What Is Abilify?

Most of us have had a day or two when we just didn't feel like ourselves. We're in a funk, or maybe our emotions are all over the place for no real reason. This is something that can happen from time to time and usually resolves itself in a day or less.

But some people have a harder time controlling their changes in emotions and use medication to help gain better control and stabilize moods. One such drug is Ablify.

Abilify is used to treat psychotic disorders
Picture of a bottle of Abilify

Abilify is an anti-psychotic medication that alters how different chemicals work in the brain that control our moods along with other psychological aspects. It's used to treat:

  • manic-depression, also called bipolar I disorder - when a person suffers erratic changes between depressive states and hyper states.
  • schizophrenia - a mental disorder that makes it difficult or impossible to interact appropriately with others, or distinguish reality from imagination.
  • Tourette's syndrome - causes involuntary movements (tics) or sounds
  • autistic disorder symptoms - can cause uncontrolled behavior.

Side Effects

We've all heard those commercials that advertise for some medicine but list in fast speed all the possible side effects at the end. Some of them will make you think really hard about if you want to take it or not. Abilify is no exception. There is quite a list so we will cover the more common side effects here, but check with your doctor and read the label for a more extensive coverage.

Abilify has some relatively mild side effects including headache, restlessness, heartburn, constipation, or consistent leg movement even when sitting or lying down. Another set of common side effects that some people notice is nausea, vomiting, and sour stomach. Some gain or lose weight.

There are also some more concerning side effects that may require immediate medical assistance. Ablify may cause:

  • an allergic reaction causing hives and itching, or, in more severe cases, anaphylactic shock, characterized by swelling and itching in the throat and mouth and difficulty breathing.
  • stroke indicated by a sudden, severe headache along with tingling and/or numbness on one side of the body can indicate stroke.
  • sleeplessness due to severe leg restlessness.
  • slow or rapid heartbeats
  • uncontrollable movements, twisting of muscles, spasms and jerking. These are even more problematic if they occur in the back or head regions of the body.
  • dizziness and lightheadedness that can lead to fainting.
  • lethargy or sudden loss of consciousness.
  • change in blood pressure (high or low).

Contraindications

Patients With Other Conditions

So who should not take Ablify?

Elderly patients with dementia who take Abilify are at a higher risk for death and should not take this medication. Teenagers and young adults have more thoughts of committing suicide when they are taking Abilify. This is the exact opposite of what you would expect to happen! It's likely due to the changes in hormone levels during that period of life.

It is also not advisable for breastfeeding or pregnant woman to take this drug, as it can be passed on to the fetus during pregnancy or a baby through breast milk and cause developmental problems.

This drug could wreak havoc in a person with diabetes. Abilify can cause the blood sugar levels to spike at time that could make it harder to control diabetes.

Those that have phenylketonuria (PKU), a condition in which the body is not able to breakdown phenylalanine, should avoid Ablify, as it contains phenylalanine.

A person with a cardiovascular disease, such as heart failure or blood vessel disease, can take Abilify, but extra monitoring is required since the side effects include causing heart troubles.

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