The National Problem Gambling Clinic in England warns people about a disturbing trend surrounding the relatively new drug aripiprazole, which is increasing compulsive behaviors in some people. As a result, some patients have lost vast sums of money and had relationships fall apart due to compulsive gambling, a known but purportedly rare drug side effect. While the gambling clinic may be one of the first institutions to sound the alarm, aripiprazole has been causing gambling issues and other impulse control disorders (ICDs) for years. Yet few people know about the harm it could cause if this is not addressed.
What Is Aripiprazole and Who Takes it?
Aripiprazole is an atypical antipsychotic medication primarily used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Doctors also sometimes prescribe it for Tourette’s syndrome.
Aripiprazole affects the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, which regulate mood, behavior, and thought processes.
Doctors prescribe the drug to people who experience psychiatric symptoms that interfere with their everyday life and functioning. This can help treat delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking/executive dysfunction, and other abnormalities associated with schizophrenia and manic episodes.
Which Side Effects Are a Problem for Users?
People who live with addiction or have it in their family should not be prescribed this drug. In addition, people who have engaged in compulsive behaviors should not take it. The risk of developing ICDs while taking aripiprazole may be higher in individuals with a history of impulse control disorders or substance abuse.
Reports say aripiprazole can cause compulsive behaviors, including gambling, binge eating and eating disorders, and hypersexuality in some patients. Therefore, people with poor impulse control or diagnosed with an ICD should steer clear of this drug.
According to the drug’s prescribing information, the frequency of ICDs associated with aripiprazole is unknown, but it is essential to be aware of the potential risk. If you or someone you know is taking aripiprazole and experiences any compulsive behavior or uncontrollable urges, it is important to avoid this drug. People with a history of substance use disorder or who are dually diagnosed should also steer clear.
Dangers of Aripiprazole Causing Addictive Behaviors
The clinic director at England’s National Problem Gambling Clinic spoke with the Guardian, saying that patient education is an urgent missing component of prescribing and monitoring patient use. Gambling addiction leads quickly to family issues, financial ruin, and even homelessness. So, just like any addiction, it must be treated seriously.
“This is not just any side-effect – it can come with a risk of losing your own home. What we constantly see is that not enough people know about this. I gave a recent lecture to all the psychiatrists in my trust and a very large proportion had never heard about it,” Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the clinic’s leading psychiatrist. “We constantly hear about mental health teams not being aware. More needs to be done to prevent people from being put on aripiprazole without being warned and monitored.”
An audit of the clinic’s patients in 2022 found that nearly 9% were taking the drug. Most didn’t know about the side effects.
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