Aripiprazole

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

Easy-to-read medicine information about aripiprazole – what it is, 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 (previously 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 improve 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. Read more about antipsychotic medication. In New Zealand aripiprazole is available at tablets.

Dose

  • The usual dose of aripiprazole is 10 to 15 milligrams once a day.
  • Some people may need 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.
  • Your doctor may start you on a low dose and increase it slowly over a few weeks.
  • 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. 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 – 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 any of these apply, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist 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, that your pharmacist will tell you about.

Precautions – while taking aripiprazole

  • Alcohol: avoid alcohol while you are taking aripiprazole, especially when you first start treatment. 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.
  • 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. You may also need to have blood tests to check your kidneys, liver, cholesterol and glucose levels. You may also have your blood pressure measured and an ECG test to check your heart rate.

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?
  • Headache
  • Try paracetamol. 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 troublesome. 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 being 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. 
  • Sexual problems — loss of sex drive or libido
  • Tell your doctor  
  • Weight gain
  • A diet full of vegetables and fibre may help prevent weight gain.
  • Limit sugary or fatty foods and exercise regularly.
  • Speak with your doctor if you think you are putting on weight.
  • Sudden fever or infection
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a 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

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 & side effects Talking Minds, NZ 
Aripiprazole
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets (NZ)
Aripiprazole Patient Info, UK

References

  1. Aripiprazole New Zealand Formulary
  2. Antipsychotic drugs New Zealand Formulary
  3. Prescribing atypical antipsychotics in general practice BPAC, 2011
  4. Managing patients with dementia: What is the role of antipsychotics? BPAC, 2013
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 03 Feb 2018