What Is Abilify?
In the 1950s, the development of antipsychotics, such as chlorpromazine, began to shape the world of psychiatric medications into what it is today. The first line of drugs to treat mental disorders like schizophrenia was effective, but they were linked to disruptive side effects. 1
These drugs were called typical antipsychotics. The next line of medication, called atypical antipsychotics, saw the same effect without the same risk of severe adverse side effects. Aripiprazole, also known as Abilify, is under the category of an atypical antipsychotic. The medication holds the first FDA-approved medication with a digital tracker—Abilify MyCite. 2
What Does Abilify Treat?
Abilify is the brand name for aripiprazole, an atypical antipsychotic available by prescription only. While aripiprazole is prescription-only, the medication is not a controlled substance. Used primarily for the treatment of schizophrenia, aripiprazole also provides: 3
- Treatment for bipolar I disorder
- Acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes
- Maintenance treatment of Bipolar I disorder
- Adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder
- Irritability associated with autistic disorder
- Agitation associated with schizophrenia or bipolar mania
Forms of Aripiprazole
Aripiprazole is available as tablets, liquid solutions, disintegrating discs, and injectables. Other names for aripiprazole may change depending on the form of the medication. The following names for aripiprazole are:
- Abilify MyCite (tablet with digestible sensor)
- Abilify Maintena (extended-release injectable)
- Abilify Aristada (extended-release injectable)*
- Aristada Initio (extended-release injectable)*
*Note that Abilify Aristada and Aristada Initio are aripiprazole lauroxil, which converts to aripiprazole in the body.
The dosing schedule for Abilify medication depends on each person’s situation, condition, and health status. 4
Abilify Dosage for Schizophrenia
A physician may choose to prescribe a dosing schedule unique to their client.
Abilify and Abilify Discmelt
Adults are started at 10 mg to 15 mg every day as tolerated. Dosage is adjusted upwards to no more than 30 mg per day.
Adolescents (thirteen to seventeen) start with 2 mg every day, then gradually increase up to 10 mg once daily as tolerated. The effective dosage range is 10 mg to 30 mg orally each day; though, after 10 mg, the effects are nominal. Dosage is adjusted upwards to no more than 30 mg per day.
With children less than thirteen years of age, dosing schedule is determined by the prescriber.
Adults typically start at 10 mg to 15 mg each day as tolerated. Dosage is adjusted upwards to no more than 30 mg per day. Effective daily dosage range is 10 mg to 30 mg orally.
Children and adolescents’ dosage is adjusted upwards to no more than 30 mg per day.
Abilify Maintena (Injectable)
Adults start Abilify Maintena at 400 mg through monthly intramuscular injection. A maintenance dose is given after twenty-six days. Oral aripiprazole is typically combined with the first Abilify Maintena injection to maintain therapeutic effects.
Abilify Dosage for Bipolar Disorder
Adults typically use 10 mg to 15 mg daily as tolerated, often concurrently with lithium or valproate treatment. The effective target range is 15 mg per day. Dosage may be adjusted upwards to no more than 30 mg per day.
Children from ten to seventeen years old initially start at 2 mg each day, working up to 5 mg each day after two days. The effective target dose is 10 mg each day, often concurrently with lithium or valproate treatment.
Aripiprazole Dosage for Depression in Adults
The starting dose for adults is 2 mg to 5 mg every day, along with an antidepressant. The effective target range is 2 mg to 15 mg each day. Gradual titration weekly of up to 5 mg each day until the individual meets an effective is advised.
Aripiprazole Dosage for Autism in Children
Initial dosing for children is 2 mg each day, with a gradual increase to 5 mg a day as tolerated. The recommended effective range for autistic disorder is 5 mg to 15 mg each day.
Aripiprazole can be used alone or with other drugs to treat the following disorders:
- Tourette syndrome
- Acute treatment of agitation in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (off-label)
- Drug-induced hyperprolactinemia (off-label)
Aripiprazole Medication Side Effects
The side effects for aripiprazole follow that of other atypical antipsychotics.
Short-Term Aripiprazole Side Effects
A few common short term aripiprazole side effects are:
- Dizziness and falling
- Weight Gain
- Rash at the injection site
Long-Term Aripiprazole side effects
- High cholesterol
- Low white cell count
- Dry mouth
- Body temperature regulation changes
- Higher risk for cerebrovascular events
Inform a healthcare provider right away if any of these rare Abilify side effects occur:
- Muscle spasms
- Tremors or shaking
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Increase in suicidal thoughts
- Increase in compulsive behaviors
- Tardive Dyskinesia
- Sudden and uncontrollable movements of limbs and face
- Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome
- High fever that occurs suddenly
- Stiff muscles
- Excessive sweating
- Sudden changes in breathing and heart rate
An aripiprazole overdose is rare but does occur. Prescribers are careful to administer the lowest possible doses for effectiveness. Symptoms of an aripiprazole overdose are convulsions, shallow breathing, fainting, sedation, or coma. Call 911 or the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222. 5
FAQs About Aripiprazole
Because aripiprazole comes in many forms and is used for various conditions, there are common questions people ask about the medication. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Should I Use Abilify While Pregnant?
Any woman looking to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider. Though rare, antipsychotic medications like aripiprazole during the last trimester may cause the following symptoms in the newborn:
- Feeding disorder
No current research indicates that antipsychotic medication like aripiprazole is contraindicated during pregnancy. Nevertheless, Abilify should be used cautiously during pregnancy. It’s also vital to balance the ramifications of discontinuation of aripiprazole, such as psychosis, depression, or suicide, versus any side effects it may cause. 6
What Happens If I Miss a Dose of Aripiprazole?
If an aripiprazole dose is missed, the dose should be administered as soon as possible; however, the missed dose should be skipped if the next dose is soon. It’s also critical for people taking Abilify to obtain refills before running out of medication. 6
Is Abilify FDA-Approved?
Abilify is an FDA-approved medication and received approval in 2002.
What to Know Before Using Abilify
Before starting aripiprazole, it’s essential to understand what to expect and manage the medication.
What Medications to Avoid
People looking to start treatment should let their prescriber know what vitamins, medications, and supplements they are currently taking to monitor aripiprazole interactions. Avoid drinking alcohol while taking aripiprazole.
Medications to avoid when taking aripiprazole include St. John’s Wort and Wellbutrin.
How Long Will Results Take?
During the first week of starting aripiprazole, it’s essential that people taking the medication monitor the results and offer feedback to their prescriber. Typically, it takes several weeks to see effective changes. The full benefits of taking aripiprazole begin about two to three months. 6
Is Abilify Medication Right for You?
Most people who take aripiprazole for schizophrenia will require lifelong medication. Monitoring a medication’s effectiveness and side effects is vital in long-term use. Working with a healthcare professional, making healthy choices, and adhering to medication regimens are essential in maintaining a quality of life.