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Abilify for Bipolar Disorder

Aripiprazole (Abilify®) is an atypical antipsychotic prescribed for patients with Bipolar I Disorder for the treatment of acute manic and mixed episodes, to keep symptoms from returning in patients with a recent manic or mixed episode who have been stabilized and then maintained for at least 6 weeks.

Abilify® is also prescribed as an add-on treatment for depression.  It is also used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia.

You might want to discuss Abilify®, the newest of the atypical antipsychotics, with your doctor if you are having problems with side effects with your current medication or you don’t feel it is controlling your symptoms.

How does it work?
Experts believe that Abilify® works by adjusting dopamine, instead of completely blocking it, as other atypical antipsychotics do, as well as affecting serotonin. It raises the level of these brain chemicals when there’s not enough and lowers the level when there’s too much.

How fast does it work?
Your doctor may start you on a low dose of aripiprazole and gradually increase your dose. It may take two weeks or longer before you feel the full benefit of aripiprazole.

How is it taken?
Aripiprazole comes as a tablet and a liquid to take by mouth, and a disintegrating tablet that dissolves quickly in the mouth. Tablets are available in 2-, 5-, 10-, 15-, 20- and 30-mg strengths. Abilify DISCMELT® orally disintegrating tablets are available in 10-mg and 15-mg strengths. Abilify® is also available as a 1 mg/mL oral solution.

It is usually taken once a day. Take aripiprazole exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor. Take a missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Do not stop taking aripiprazole without talking to your doctor.

What side effects can this medication cause?
Aripiprazole may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • agitation, restlessness, difficulty standing or sitting still (akathisia)
  • sleep problems
  • headache
  • tremor
  • dry mouth
  • drowsiness
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea or vomiting

Other common side effects include nervousness, anxiety, heartburn, constipation, upset stomach or stomach pain, weight gain, loss of appetite, increased salivation, joint pain.

Some side effects may be reduced or avoided by adjusting the dosage.

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms or any unusual problems, call your doctor immediately:

  • seizures
  • slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • changes in vision
  • unusual movements of your body or face that you cannot control
  • high fever
  • muscle stiffness
  • confusion
  • sweating
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should tell your healthcare professional right away.

What else should I know about Abilify?
Abilify® may make it harder to lower your body temperature. Avoid overheating and be sure to drink plenty of water every day while you are taking this medication.

While taking Abilify®, avoid drinking alcohol. Do not take it if you are breast-feeding.

Tell your healthcare professional if you have a history of seizures, or are pregnant or intend to become pregnant, and about all prescription and non-prescription medicines you are taking or plan to take. Tell him/her if you have or have ever had heart disease, heart failure, a heart attack, high or low blood pressure, a stroke, a mini-stroke, seizures, or if you or anyone in your family has or has ever had diabetes.

If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking aripiprazole.

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