Abilify Can Spark Compulsive Sex And Gambling Tendencies

By McCarton Ackerman 05/06/16

The FDA has added a new warning label to the drug after some users reported uncontrollable urges to binge-eat, gamble, and have sex. 

Abilify Can Spark Compulsive Sex And Gambling Tendencies
Photo Wikimedia Commons

One of the most common anti-psychotic drugs on the market is about to come with a new warning label: may spark compulsive habits in users.

In a release on Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration alerted the public that some Abilify users have reported impulse control issues with gambling, sex, eating and shopping. It noted that these instances are extremely rare, with only 184 users in total reporting issues with impulse control, but suggested that more of these cases may have gone unreported. Pathological gambling was the most common issue, with 164 cases in total, but it is already listed on the label as a potential side effect.

Aripiprazole, sold under the brand name Abilify, will now carry the warning on all of its patient guides and packaging. The drug, mainly used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is used to help reduce psychotic episodes and hallucinations while stabilizing mood. Abilify was introduced to the market 13 years ago and has been prescribed to 1.6 million patients since then. In most of the cases where users did not previously exhibit these compulsive behaviors, they began experiencing them only after they went on the medication. According to the FDA, the behaviors went away within days to weeks after they either stopped using Abilify or reduced their dosage.

This is the first time the agency is doing something about it, but the FDA has been aware of the link between compulsive behavior and Abilify for some time. According to ForThePeople.com, a Florida-based law firm, the agency has received at least 54 reports of compulsive behavior issues from people taking Abilify between 2005 and 2013.

In January, a New Jersey resident sued the makers of Abilify after claiming the drug was responsible for a gambling habit that cost him over $75,000. In the lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, Jonathan Yun said that his compulsive gambling began shortly after taking the drug in 2010, and stopped after he ceased using it in 2013. Yun argued that the drug makers did not adequately warn him about this potential side effect and that “the labeling for Abilify in the United States contains no mention” of potential issues with compulsive gambling, despite similar warnings being issued by Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.