Aripiprazole

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

Easy-to-read medicine information about aripiprazole – what is it, how to take aripiprazole safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Antipsychotic
  • 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 (manic depression).
  • It does not cure these conditions, but will help to ease the symptoms and support your recovery by making you feel calm and relaxed.   
  • Aripiprazole works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters).
  • Aripiprazole belongs to a group of medicines called antipsychotics.
  • Aripiprazole is available at tablets.

Dose

  • The usual dose of aripiprazole is 10 to15 milligrams once a day.
  • Some people may require higher doses.
  • 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.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking aripiprazole. Alcohol may increase your chance of side effects such as drowsiness.
  • 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.

Monitoring

Aripiprazole may cause changes in your blood sugar level, your cholesterol level and in your heart function. To keep an eye out for these effects, your doctor will monitor your physical health. You will have your weight measured regularly. You may be sent for tests such as blood tests to monitor your blood, kidneys, liver, cholesterol and glucose levels. You may also have your blood pressure measured and be required to undergo an ECG test to assess your heart rate.       

Possible side effects

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

Side effects What should I do?
  • Headache
  • Try paracetamol.  Check that this can be taken with any other medicines you may take.
  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep (called insomnia)
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome — Ask your doctor if you can take your medicine at a different time or reduce the dose.
  • Feeling shaky and restless (cannot sit still)
  • Being anxious or being on edge
  • Try and relax by taking deep breaths. Wear loose fitting clothes. 
  • Blurred vision   
  • Don't drive.
  • See your doctor if you are worried. 
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a suitable laxative, which you need to take on a regular basis.
  • You also need to eat more fruit, vegetables, brown bread, bran based breakfast cereals and drink plenty of water.

Interactions

When certain medications are taken together, an unintended reaction may occur – this is known as an interaction. Aripiprazole interacts with a number of important medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

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

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

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Nicola Rowbottom, Pharmacist, South Canterbury Last reviewed: 12 Oct 2016