Abilify and Compulsive Gambling

Abilify Compulsive Gambling

Abilify and compulsive behavior

Abilify (generic aripiprazole) is an antipsychotic medication that is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. It works by increasing and decreasing dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. This helps people with mental health issues have an easier time functioning in their day-to-day life. Abilify is manufactured by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., and it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002.

Unfortunately, some patients have developed severe compulsive behavior after taking Abilify. This can include compulsive gambling. One 2016 French case study looked at a 28-year-old man who had taken aripiprazole (a generic form of Abilify) for his schizoid personality disorder. Prior to his treatment with aripiprazole the man gambled occasionally, but afterward the man developed a severe gambling addiction. After putting himself on a self-exclusion list at the casino in order to prevent himself from playing slot machines, the man turned to scratch-off tickets. Eventually, he began taking out loans to pay for his gambling. Within two weeks of being taken off aripiprazole, the man’s gambling addiction ceased.

A2014 study published in JAMA looked at dopamine receptor agonist drugs, like Abilify, and found a correlation between their use and an increase in certain impulse control disorders. The study stated, “Our findings confirm and extend the evidence that dopamine receptor agonist drugs are associated with these . . . disorders.”

No warning on the label

Abilify’s label warns of many possible side effects, but it fails to mention any increased risk for compulsive behavior. In 2012, European and Canadian regulators required the manufacturer to put a compulsive gambling warning on the drug’s packaging, but there is no such warning on the American label. Abilify has made its manufacturers billions of dollars. As profits roll in, many patients could be at great risk.

Symptoms of compulsive gambling

The following behaviors are possible signs of a compulsive gambling problem:

  • Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks
  • Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks
  • Preoccupation with gambling
  • Reliving past gambling experiences
  • Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness
  • Taking time from work or family to gamble
  • Lying about gambling
  • Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
  • Failing in an attemp to cut back on gambling
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