Aripiprazole

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

Aripiprazole is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.

What is aripiprazole?

Aripiprazole is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It doesn't 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 mania associated with 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 atypical antipsychotics. Read more about antipsychotic medicines and how they work. 

Dose

In Aotearoa New Zealand aripiprazole is available as tablets.

  • The usual dose of aripiprazole is 10 to 15 milligrams once a day.
  • Some people may need higher doses, up to 30 milligrams a day.
  • 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

  • Take your aripiprazole dose once a day, at the same time each day. You can take aripiprazole with or without food.
  • 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. Don't 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. Don't stop taking aripiprazole suddenly as your symptoms may return if stopped too early. Talk to your doctor or nurse before stopping.

Things to consider while you are taking aripiprazole

  • Avoid alcohol while you are taking aripiprazole, especially when you first start treatment. Alcohol can increase your risk of side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness. 
  • Aripiprazole can interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all medicines you are taking including over the counter medicines, herbal and complementary medicines or recreational drugs. 
  • Aripiprazole may cause changes in your blood glucose level, cholesterol level and heart function. Your doctor will check your physical health – you may need to have your weight and blood pressure (BP) measured regularly. You may also need blood tests to check your kidneys, liver, cholesterol and glucose levels. 
  • Aripiprazole is best avoided or may need special care for people with certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression and diabetes. Contact your doctor if you have or develop any of these conditions while taking it.
  • Contact your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding.

Possible side effects

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?
  • Feeling shaky or restless, unusual or uncontrollable movements
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy, or tired
  • Feeling dizzy
  • This is less common with aripiprazole. Some people may feel more alert. 
  • As a precaution, don't drive or use tools or machinery until you know how this medicine affects you. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol – it can make drowsiness worse.
  • Tell your doctor if they bother you. 
  • Weight gain
  • This is very uncommon with aripiprazole.
  • Talk to your doctor if this concerns you.
  • Constipation
  • 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.
  • Sweating, high temperature, confusion, disorientation
  • Contact your doctor immediately, especially if you are taking higher doses.
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.

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 
Aripiprazole
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets, NZ
Aripiprazole Patient Info, UK

References

  1. Aripiprazole NZ Formulary
  2. Antipsychotic drugs NZ Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Nov 2022