Sounds like 'AR-i-PIP-ra-zole'

Aripiprazole is used to treat some types of mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Aripiprazole is also called Abilify.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Antipsychotic
  • It belongs to a group of medicines known as atypical antipsychotics 
  • Abilify®

What is aripiprazole?

Aripiprazole is used to treat some types of mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (previously called manic depression). It does not cure these conditions, but is used to help ease the symptoms and help you on your recovery path. It can help with symptoms such as extreme mood swings of bipolar disorder, the experience of hearing voices (hallucinations), ideas that distress you and don't seem to be based in reality (delusions), and difficulty in thinking clearly (thought disorder). Aripiprazole belongs to a group of medicines called antipsychotics. In Aotearoa New Zealand aripiprazole is available as tablets.


  • The usual dose of aripiprazole is 10–15 milligrams once a day.
  • Some people may need higher doses.
  • Your doctor may start you on a low dose and increase it slowly over a few weeks.
  • Always take your aripiprazole exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much aripiprazole to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

How to take aripiprazole

  • Timing: Take your aripiprazole dose once a day, at the same time each day. You can take aripiprazole with or without food.
  • Avoid alcohol while you are taking aripiprazole. Drinking alcohol while taking aripiprazole can cause drowsiness and affect concentration, putting you at risk of falls and other accidents. It can also cause agitation, aggression and forgetfulness. If you do drink alcohol, drink only small amounts and see how you feel. Do not stop taking your medication.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking aripiprazole every day. It usually take a few weeks to start working and it can take several months before you feel the full benefits. Do not stop taking aripiprazole suddenly as your symptoms may return if stopped too early – speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.

Precautions while taking aripiprazole

Before starting aripiprazole

  • Do you have any heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure?
  • Do you have Parkinson’s Disease or epilepsy?
  • Do you have diabetes or problems with high cholesterol?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you taking any other medicines, including medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines?

If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s important that you let your doctor or pharmacist know before you start aripiprazole. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care. 

While taking aripiprazole

  • Weight: let your doctor know if you notice that you are putting on a lot of weight, especially when you first start taking aripiprazole
  • Blood tests and other monitoring: aripiprazole may cause changes in your blood glucose level, your cholesterol level and in your heart function. To keep an eye out for these effects, your doctor will check your physical health. You will have your weight measured regularly and may need to have blood tests to check your kidney and liver function and cholesterol and glucose levels. You may also have your blood pressure measured and an ECG (electrocardiogram) done to check your heart rate.

What are the side effects of aripiprazole?

Like all medicines, aripiprazole can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Headache
  • Try taking paracetamol but first check that this can be taken with any other medicines you are taking.
  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep (called insomnia)
  • Tell your doctor if sleep problems are bothering you. Ask your doctor if you can take your medicine at a different time or reduce the dose.
  • Don't drive if you feel drowsy. 
  • Feeling shaky and restless (cannot sit still)
  • Being anxious or on edge
  • Try and relax by taking deep breaths. Wear loose fitting clothes. 
  • Tell your doctor.
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Be careful of falls.
  • Tell your doctor.
  • Blurred vision   
  • Don't drive.
  • Tell your doctor if you are worried. 
  • Fever, excessive sweating
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a laxative, which you may need to take on a regular basis.
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, brown bread and bran-based breakfast cereals and drink plenty of water.
For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Aripiprazole Sandoz.

Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product


Aripiprazole interacts with many other medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting aripiprazole or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

The following links have more information on aripiprazole. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations: 

Med-ucation medication benefits and side effects Talking Minds, NZ 
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets, NZ
Aripiprazole Patient Info, UK


  1. Aripiprazole NZ Formulary
  2. Antipsychotic drugs NZ Formulary
  3. Prescribing atypical antipsychotics in general practice BPAC, NZ, 2011
  4. Managing patients with dementia – what is the role of antipsychotics? BPAC, NZ, 2013

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Atypical antipsychotics – safe prescribing – better, but not perfect SafeRx, NZ, 2019
Antipsychotic pearls for general practice Optimising Medicines Bulletin, ADHB, NZ
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists clinical practice guidelines for the management of schizophrenia and related disorders Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2016, Vol. 50(5) 410–472

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 03 Feb 2018