In a recent Men’s Health article, journalist Cindy Kuzma explores the scariest — and most unexpected — side effects of some of the U.S.’s more popular prescription medications.
Of these drugs, one of them immediately jumps out: Abilify®, an antipsychotic (generic name aripiprazole), has been continually linked to impulse-control problems, including the compulsive desire to gamble, have sex, binge eat, and shop.
The simple question to ask here is the following: All of the above, when done in excess, are considered dangerous addictive behaviors – so, does this drug, used to treat a host of psychological disorders, in fact, cause addiction?
Arguably the scariest thing about this drug is its commonality. Nearly 1.6 million patients filled a prescription for the drug in 2015. Since the drug was approved back in 2002, the FDA has identified at least 167 cases of impulse-control disorders related to it – and, given the recent traction the drug has seen in the news and the courts, only more cases should be expected.
Abilify® May Create More Problems Than It Solves
Abilify was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 to treat schizophrenia. Over the last decade, the drug was further approved by the FDA to treat other conditions, including bipolar disorder and Tourette syndrome.
The drug has become one of the most popular prescription on the market and rakes in billions of dollars for its makers and distributors, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.
Given its popularity, it is shocking for many to hear of the drug’s baffling and strange side effects. As recent as this past May 2016, the FDA updated the drug’s warning labels to include impulse-control problems, including uncontrollable urges to gamble, have sex, and spend.
Needless to say, if any of this sounds at all quite frightening — that’s because it surely is.
The FDA noted that those at an elevated risk for developing impulse-control problems include patients with a personal or family history of the following:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Drug abuse
- Impulse-control disorder
- Impulsive personality
The FDA also stated that those who have or suffer from bipolar disorder are at an increased risk for compulsive behavior when taking Abilify. This is interesting, especially when one considers that this is one of the very psychological conditions that the drug was designed to treat.
How the Drug Works – and Why It’s Scary
Abilify’s primary function is to control psychiatric symptoms. It does this by partially blocking brain receptors for an organic chemical called “dopamine.”
You’ve probably heard of dopamine before. This chemical plays a vital role in the brain’s so-called “risk and reward system”; it’s responsible for giving people that near-bliss feeling when they place a bet and win, when they have sex, or when they buy a brand-new car.
“Some people taking the drug might feel the urge to seek out greater thrills to attain the same positive feelings, much the way addicts need ever-larger doses of drugs to get high, says Mohamed Jalloh, Pharm.D., a pharmacist at Creighton University in Omaha.”
Abilify’s Link to Gambling Found in a 2014 Study
By law, drug makers are required to list all possible side-effects on their labels and in their advertising, but the peculiar side-effects revealed in a 2014 study have been all but absent from Abilify’s marketing and promotional materials.
The 2014 study showed that patients who had no prior history of compulsive behavior began showing signs of binge eating, excessive spending, hyper-sexuality, and compulsive gambling while using Abilify.
And, sure enough, the urges were reported by patients to have completely stopped once they stopped taking the drug. Some of those patients were reported to have lost tens of thousands of dollars in gambling losses.
An MDL in the Drug’s Near Future?
Dozens of Abilify® lawsuits involving the antipsychotic’s alleged link to gambling addiction and other compulsive behaviors could soon be consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Florida. An official request for transfer was issued on the 24th of June.
Other plaintiffs, in addition to Abilify’s makers and distributors – Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals – have already agreed to the request for transfer.
Hundreds of federal court suits are anticipated, and 13 Abilify-related lawsuits have already been consolidated in New Jersey state court.
Those who have suffered losses due to gambling and have experienced compulsive behaviors as a result of using this drug are strongly encouraged to seek legal help.