Warning: This Medication May Cause…Uncontrollable Urges?

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  • Jim gained ten pounds in two weeks, though he’d been slim and fit his whole life.
  • Gary lost $20K at the casino in Friday night – he’d never bought a lottery ticket up to that point.
  • Linda had sex with three different people in one week, even though she had no history of promiscuity.

What do all these people have in common? They are all displaying compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive behavior is defined as performing an act persistently and repetitively without it necessarily leading to an actual reward or pleasure. So, what causes this sudden onset of compulsion? A number of different factors – biological and environmental – can play a role. But a new warning from the FDA points a finger at the drug Abilify.

Is Abilify to Blame?

Abilify contains aripiprazole, which is used to treat psychiatric disorders – like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – Tourette’s syndrome and various symptoms of autism. The drug works by changing chemical actions in the brain, stabilizing mood and decreasing hallucinations.

Abilify can cause minor side effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, drooling and fatigue. Some users have also experienced difficulty speaking, balance issues and limb stiffness. On rare occasions, it can cause more serious side effects like convulsions, loss of bladder control and high fever. Recent reports, however, point to a whole new bag of problems – similar to those of Linda, Gary and Jim.

The Compulsive Effect

All the reports of uncontrollable urges to have sex, gamble or binge-eat finally prompted the FDA to issue a new warning label for aripiprazole, letting users know the drug is linked to these problematic urges.

The FDA now recommends that Abilify patients should be closely monitored for new or worsening uncontrollable urges. This is especially important for high-risk patients – those with a history of impulse-control or other addictive behaviors.

Healthcare providers are advised to reduce dosage or stop the medication altogether if these symptoms occur.

What About the People Taking Abilify?

In 2015, about 1.6 million people received prescriptions for aripiprazole. The compulsive side effects are thought to be caused by Abilify’s influence on dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain.

If you or someone you love currently takes Abilify and you’re worried the medication might be causing compulsive or out-of-the-ordinary behaviors, speak with your doctor as soon as possible. The good news is that, once medication is stopped, the compulsive behaviors stop, too.

Additional Reading: Mars vs. Venus: How Does Gender Affect Prescription Drugs?

Image Source: iStock

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