Abilify (aripiprazole) is a widely used atypical antipsychotic medication that was introduced by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in 2002, and has grown to become one of the bestselling brand name drugs in the United States.
The medication is part of a class of drugs known as partial dopamine receptor agonists and is commonly prescribed for treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, irritability, aggression, mood swings and other behavior issues.
Research has identified a potential link between impulse control problems and Abilify, along with other dopamine receptor agonists.
It appears that manufacturers knew or should have known about the risk of Abilify gambling problems for some time, yet withheld important information and warnings from consumers and the medical community.
As early as 2009, research identified a potential risk of impulse control and gambling addiction among users of dopamine receptor agonists prescribed to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In the small study that evaluated patients treated at one Mayo Clinic, researchers found unusually high rates of compulsive syndrome, including pathologic gambling, hypersexual behavior or a combination of the two impulse control problems.
Researchers are calling for a “Black Box” warning label about gambling addiction, hyper-sexuality, compulsive shopping, and other impulse disorders on the label for drugs in the dopamine agonist class, such as Abilify.
Abilify works by influencing dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is involved in feelings of pleasure, motivation, and is activated in the body’s “reward system” to reinforce behaviors.
Experts have known about the risk of impulsive behavior disorders since at least 2005. Since then, the studies have linked Abilify with dozens of reports of gambling addiction. In April 2011, three case reports were detailed in the British Journal of Psychiatry:
- “[J] was pre-occupied with thoughts of gambling and his gambling activity became both impulsive and involved extensive planning in obtaining funds to gamble, including the use of crime.”
- “[K] described an escalation in his gambling to the extent of spending all of his money and it being ‘a reason to live’.”
- “[S] began experiencing strong urges to gamble in the form of a euphoric feeling when thinking about gambling. In the following 2 years he incurred debts of around £25,000 on internet betting sites.”