It’s difficult to believe. Like many people, I had serious doubts. Very serious doubts. Can a drug really cause compulsive behaviors like uncontrollable gambling? Many Abilify victims suffered the doubts of family and friends. Yet, new medical research now supports a link between the drug and these dangerous compulsive behaviors.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the drug Abilify (aripiprazole) in 2002 as a treatment for schizophrenia. The Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company developed the drug and partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb to market it.

Only a small number of patients are diagnosed with schizophrenia. So, these drug companies sought FDA approval to market the drug for additional uses. Abilify is frequently marketed, by itself or in combination with other drugs, as a treatment for major depression and other conditions.

Older generation antipsychotics targeted dopamine receptors in the brain. These older drugs had a greater risk of neurologic side effects. More recent antipsychotics like Abilify work on both dopamine and serotonin. Many of these newer drugs block both dopamine and serotonin to control patient symptoms. Abilify works by either enhancing or inhibiting dopamine and serotonin levels to achieve a balance. The drug is often viewed as a stabilizer and used in conjunction with other medications.


Abilify is one of the world’s most prescribed drugs. It has produced billions of dollars in sales for its manufacturers. The drug has topped $6 Billion in annual sales. In 2015, alone, doctors in the United States issued 1.5 million prescriptions of the drug to treat conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and autism-related irritability. Abilify remains a top-selling drug.


On May 3, 2016, the FDA released a new safety communication about Abilify. What new safety warnings did the FDA issue? This new safety communication warned doctors and patients that Abilify (including Abilify Maintena, Aristada and generic versions) may cause uncontrollable urges, including urges to gamble and binge eat.

The issue of uncontrollable urges is very different than the harm caused by many other dangerous medications. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we have represented patients in many different defective drug claims. We recognize the issues related to Abilify are different and have resulted in much confusion. So, what is the current research related to Abilify and uncontrollable urges?

A 2010 case study published in Australia and New Zealand followed a woman with schizophrenia who took Abilify. After taking the drug, this patient gained extensive weight through compulsive eating and lost thousands of dollars through compulsive gambling. The patient had no prior history of this problem behavior and related to her doctors that she could not control herself while on the medication. The patient’s uncontrollable urges stopped when she quit taking the medication. Later research followed numerous patients.

A 2011 study involved schizophrenia patients given Abilify. Shortly after taking the medication, these patients began suffering uncontrollable gambling problems.

A separate 2011 British study was conducted by the National Problem Gambling Clinic. This study also indicated a relationship between Abilify and excessive gambling.

A 2013 French study examined several patients already in a clinic because of impulsive gambling behaviors. Eight of these patients were given Abilify. Seven of the eight patients given Abilify lost control of their gambling habits.

A 2014 paper also detailed research into Abilify and compulsive gambling. A scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Thomas J. Moore, studied over 1,500 cases involving Abilify and its adverse effects. After conducting his extensive research, he found the association between Abilify and compulsive behaviors was “significant, the magnitude of the effects was large.”

A new 2017 article just released by the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology also indicates a link between Abilify and compulsive gambling. After studying numerous patients, the authors of this study concluded users of the drug demonstrated an increased risk of pathologic gambling.

Does Abilify cause other problems? We are closely studying Abilify and its link to uncontrollable, compulsive behaviors. However, additional studies also indicate the drug may be linked to childhood diabetes. A November 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that antipsychotic medications like Abilify may substantially increase a child’s risk of diabetes. A separate October 2013 study indicated Abilify may increase the risk of diabetes in children by a factor of seven.

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we have represented numerous Alabama patients injured by dangerous drugs and defective medical devices. We are currently helping consumers in a number of active claims. If you have questions, please call or read our articles. Consultations are always free and confidential.