The first studies linking Abilify and compulsive gambling were published in 2009. Since then, dozens of case reports have been identified and researchers have called for stronger warnings about the side effect.
UPDATE: FDA Strengthens Warnings About Gambling Addiction
May 3, 2016 — The FDA has issued a Safety Communication for Abilify and will update the label to include stronger warnings about uncontrollable urges to gamble, eat, shop, and have sex. The FDA said it had received 184 reports of impulse-control disorders since Abilify was approved in November 2002. Click here to read more.
What is Abilify?
Abilify is a prescription medication for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. It is sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and has been approved by the FDA since 2002.
Abilify & Compulsive Gambling
Abilify treats mental illnesses by balancing levels of dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals are naturally released in the brain, producing feelings of pleasure and motivation. When dopamine is released during activities like gambling, the “reward system” is activated and the behavior is reinforced. Over time, a person can become addicted to the behavior.
Abilify is an atypical antipsychotic drug that belongs to a class known as “dopamine partial-agonists.” Experts have known that these drugs can lead to impulse-control disorders since 2005, when doctors at the Mayo Clinic reported 11 cases of gambling addiction. One 52 year-old man lost $100,000 in casinos, became obsessed with pornography, and began extramarital affairs.
Compulsive gambling is an obsession with betting money or other valuables on events with uncertain outcomes, such as horse races, slot machines, the lottery, cards, sporting events, and more. Out-of-control gambling disorders can lead to devastating losses, including:
- Massive personal debt
- Thousands of dollars in losses
- Home foreclosure
- Emotional trauma
- Damaged reputation
- And more
Studies Linking Abilify and Compulsive Gambling
Two studies published in 2014 have added evidence linking Abilify and compulsive gambling. In October, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study reporting 37 cases of gambling addiction in patients on Abilify. In March, seven more cases were reported in the journal Addictive Behavior.
In February 2011, three case reports were published in this study. An additional three cases were detailed in the British Journal of Psychiatry in April 2011, including:
- “[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.”
- Click here to read more.