Ambien Makes You Sleep-Drive, but Abilify Does THIS
Bristol Meyers Squibb really, really wants you to take Abilify. And keep taking it. They want this enough that they’ve come out with a new version of the pill that contains an ingestible electronic monitoring device. It keeps track of all kinds of things, from whether you took your pill or not to stuff like whether you’re standing up or lying down. It’s more than a little creepy.
Bristol Meyers Squibb wants you to take Abilify so much that they’ve positioned it as a depression treatment when really it’s an antipsychotic. It was THE top-selling drug in the U.S. in 2013, and its popularity has waned very little since then. Originally meant to treat schizophrenia and manic depression, Abilify is now one of the most common medications prescribed when antidepressants do what they do best.
That is, when they do nothing.
Two-thirds of people taking antidepressants don’t get any relief from them. (And one-third taking a placebo instead of an antidepressant do, but that’s another story.) When this happens, doctors often reach for the prescription pad and scribble “Abilify” on it. But they shouldn’t. Abilify already has a long list of cringe-worthy side effects. And last month the FDA added a warning to the label about a side-effect people have long complained of but had dismissed:
Abilify can cause compulsive gambling.
And kinky sexual activity.
Abilify commercials end with the line, “I feel more like myself since I added Abilify.” What people are finding, however, is that Abilify is causing them to act completely unlike themselves. They’re doing crazy things they never dreamed of doing before starting the drug or after stopping it. Take Jack Harding, for example.
Jack’s just wasn’t himself after he “added Abilify”
Jack was mildly depressed the first time he went to the doctor. He wasn’t suicidal, and he didn’t sit around crying all day, but life had lost its zest. He just didn’t enjoy…much of anything…any more. Things that he used to find satisfying had lost their flavor, from food to sports.
He lost his appetite and fifteen pounds along with it. He wanted to sleep twelve hours a day. He couldn’t stay focused at work and his job was suffering. Even making it through his kids’ ballgames—which he’d always loved—was a chore.
Something wasn’t right. And it was an Abilify commercial that prompted him—at the urging of his wife—to go to the doctor. During his 10-minute office visit, his doctor prescribed an anti-depressant and told him to check back in two weeks.
He didn’t feel better in two weeks.
In fact, he felt worse. Now not only was he depressed, he had bouts of nausea and vomiting. He had chronic diarrhea. He’d gone from wanting to sleep all day to not being able to sleep. And he’d lost another two pounds—all side effects of the antidepressant. His doctor assured him that these effects would probably subside if he just “stuck with the treatment.” He made another follow-up appointment, and told Jack if he didn’t feel better then that they’d try adding another medication.
That medication turned out to be Abilify. And boy did it change his life—but not for the better.
To begin with, he did feel a little better. He found himself getting excited about things for the first time in months. But the excitement seemed a little…over the top. He not only got his appetite back, he found himself obsessing over food. Raiding the refrigerator in the wee hours of the night. Sneaking food when no one was looking. He gained back all the weight he’d lost and more.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
He also found himself obsessing over other women. He loved his wife. He loved his kids. He loved being married. But he found himself fantasizing about every attractive woman he saw. He started looking at pornography, which he’d frankly always been embarrassed by. He bought a pre-paid debit card and signed up for pay-per-view internet sites just to get his fix.
One of these sites is where he first discovered online gambling. After that, he was lost.
His wife discovered his habits purely by accident. She’d thought his secretive behavior had something to do with his depression, and in an online depression forum she read about the compulsive side effects of Abilify. She confronted him. He confessed. He stopped the drug and within two weeks had lost the urge to do all the crazy things he’d been engaged in. Today he’s starting over but it’s tough. They had a strong marriage, but rebuilding trust—and their bank account—will take time.
Many people haven’t been so lucky.
Just say NO to Abilify
The warning label for Abilify lists some fifty different side effects, from the “minor”—provided you’re not the one experiencing them—like nausea, heartburn, and constipation or diarrhea, to strokes. Among these possible side effects are high cholesterol. Diabetes. Massive weight gain. Uncontrollable muscle tics—like sticking out your tongue or smacking your lips—that can be permanent. And one of the most intolerable side effects for most people, something called akathisia.
Some have described this symptom as “an inner restlessness that won’t stop.” I would liken it to “restless leg syndrome” that affects your entire body. And now, after many years and many lawsuits, the FDA has finally added compulsive gambling, eating, shopping, and sex addiction to the mix.
How did this become the go-to medicine for every person who doesn’t ‘respond’ promptly to antidepressants?
Great drug marketing. And great marketing of depression too. Marketing that reinforces the feeling of powerlessness that often goes along with depression. The marketing of depression just solidifies the idea that you should give up all control to your doctor, no matter how awful the side effects of the “treatment” are.
And so we get Abilify. We feel powerless to say “no.” And we, like Jack, often suffer the consequences.
If you’re taking antidepressants without any improvement, keep in mind that although they do work for some people, they don’t work for everyone. And different drugs work differently for different people —what works for one person may work for another. The answer, instead of “adding Abilify,” may be to try a different drug altogether.
And if you’ve read the endless lists of side effects for every antidepressant on the market, you may want to try non-drug options. Low vitamin D levels are strongly associated with depression. Supplementing with 2,000-4,000 IU of vitamin D daily may improve your symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as a fish oil supplement, may be beneficial. And research shows that talk therapy is every bit as effective as antidepressant drugs—without side effects.
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