The antipsychotic drug Abilify has been linked to gambling addictions and other disturbing impulse-control disorders that can devastate a person’s financial and emotional health.

UPDATE: FDA Issues Warning About Impulse Disorders from Abilify

May 3, 2016 — The FDA has issued a Safety Communication to warn about the risk of uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex with the use of Abilify. The FDA identified 184 case reports of impulse-control problems since Abilify was approved in November 2002. Click here to read more.

What is Abilify?

Abilify (aripiprazole) is an atypical antipsychotic drug manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. It was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

Abilify and Compulsive Behavior

Abilify belongs to a class of drugs known as “dopamine partial-agonists,” which work by balancing levels of dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is involved in feelings of pleasure, motivation, cognition, and learning. When the dopamine system is stimulated in response to a certain activity, such as gambling, the “reward system” is activated and the behavior is reinforced.

Experts have known about the risk of gambling addiction from drugs in the dopamine agonist class for about a decade. In 2005, doctors at the Mayo Clinic linked the medications to 11 case of gambling addiction One 52 year-old man lost $100,000 in casinos after previously gambling only once in his life.

Are You in Serious Debt?

Compulsive gamblers cannot control their desire to bet money or other items of value on cards, sporting events, casinos, the lottery, or other events with an uncertain outcome. Over time, out-of-control betting habits can lead to:

  • Massive personal debt
  • Thousands of dollars in losses
  • Home foreclosure
  • Bankruptcy
  • Divorce
  • Unemployment
  • Emotional trauma
  • Damaged reputation
  • And more

Studies Linking Abilify and Gambling Addiction

Since 2009, a number of studies have linked Abilify and impulse-control disorders that could potentially lead to gambling addictions, obsessive shopping, hyper-sexuality, or other unusual behavior.

In October 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study confirming a link between dopamine agonists and impulse-control disorders, with 37 cases linked to Abilify.

In April 2011, the British Journal of Psychiatry published details of three case reports describing pathological gambling addiction in schizophrenic patients on Abilify — all of whom improved soon after stopping Abilify.

According to the reports:

“[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.”

Another study published in February 2011 described three more case reports linking Abilify and gambling addiction. In all cases, the behavior disappeared quickly after the patient stopped taking Abilify. Seven more “possible” case reports were published in Addictive Behavior in March 2014.


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