Description, Characteristics, and Uses of Aripiprazole

Aripiprazole, sold under the name Abilify, is an atypical antipsychotic. It causes few side effects and many studies support its efficacy and safety.
Description, Characteristics, and Uses of Aripiprazole

Last update: 22 January, 2021

Aripiprazole, also known as Abilify, is an atypical antipsychotic. It’s a rather effective and well-tolerated drug. In fact, doctors prescribe it to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and manic episodes.

Europe approved it for the treatment of schizophrenia in 2004. Later, in 2008, some health organizations also authorized its use for the treatment of bipolar disorders, type I in particular.

It’s a different drug within its group, which is what makes it more interesting. Some of its advantages against other antipsychotics are:

  • Less frequency of sedation.
  • It doesn’t affect the patient’s cognitive function.
  • There’s a lower incidence of side effects.
  • Doctors can administer it through an intramuscular injection.
  • There’s greater adherence to treatment.

As you can see, this makes it a widely used drug nowadays. Continue reading to find out more about it.

“Oh, and I certainly don’t suffer from schizophrenia. I quite enjoy it. And so do I.”

-Emilie Autumn-

A bottle of pills.

Description and uses of aripiprazole

Doctors prescribe aripiprazole for the treatment of:

It’s effective in the treatment of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or manic episodes. It works in both the acute and maintenance phases. It’s also proven effective in preventing relapses. As you can see, Aripiprazole acts on both the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Positive symptoms. Hallucinations, agitation, altered behaviors, etc.
  • Negative symptoms. Flattening, apathy, depression, lack of interest, etc.

An important novelty of this drug is its various routes of administration. They’re useful in many different situations. In fact, they can be a good alternative for many patients. Thus, intramuscular administration is often used to control agitation in these patients. Similarly, the injectable extended-release presentation also has positive results in delaying relapses.

This form of administration improves treatment compliance. Furthermore, it isn’t necessary to take the drug orally every day with it. In fact, a monthly injection is enough. People also use it in conjunction with other drugs for the treatment of depression. In resistant major depressive disorder, for example. The addition of aripiprazole in low doses potentiates the effect of antidepressant drugs.

Some studies say it may be helpful in other disorders as well. For example, Alzheimer’s disease. It may help with psychic and psychotic symptoms. Another case is Parkinson’s disease, in which the appearance of psychosis is common. Some studies found there’s an improvement with this drug, but others didn’t. Thus, scientists need to conduct more studies in order to find out for sure and be able to support the use of this medication.

Mechanism of action

Aripiprazole is an atypical antipsychotic. It has a different mechanism of action. Most drugs in its group are dopamine antagonists. In contrast, it exerts a partial agonist action on dopamine D2 receptors.

Thus, the increase in the neurotransmission of dopamine increases its concentration in the brain. In turn, it exerts a beneficial effect on the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Furthermore, it has a partial agonist effect on 5HT1A serotonin. In fact, this action is associated with increased efficacy against:

In addition, aripiprazole exerts a powerful antagonism on the serotonin receptors 5HT2A, 5HT2B, and 5HT6. However, its action on other types of receptors is minimal.

A tired woman.

Side effects

The most common side effects during treatment with aripiprazole are:

  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Akathisia (psychomotor agitation).
  • Extrapyramidal disorder.
  • Trembling.
  • Headache.
  • Sedation.
  • Somnolence.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea, vomiting, etc.

However, the incidence of side effects is low for this drug, especially in comparison to other antipsychotics in its group. It’s a well-tolerated and safe drug, according to several studies.

Treatment with aripiprazole is associated with minimal weight gain and a minimum alteration of metabolic parameters. Likewise, there’s a low risk of experiencing extrapyramidal symptoms and metabolic syndrome.

Its side effects profile is quite favorable, but it’s still important to properly adjust the doses because the side effects are more common when the levels increase. Thus, people must begin with low doses and increase them progressively.

It might interest you...
How Is Integrated Psychological Therapy Used in Schizophrenia?
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
How Is Integrated Psychological Therapy Used in Schizophrenia?

In this article, we'll put forward the case for integrated psychological therapy as an effective treatment for schizophrenia.



  • Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos sanitarios (2017). Ficha técnica Abilify. [Online] Disponible en: https://cima.aemps.es/cima/dochtml/ft/04276002/FT_04276002.html
  • Vieta, E., Franco, C. (2008). Avances en el tratamiento de la manía: aripiprazol. Actas Esp Psiquiatr36(3), 158-164.
  • Agüera-Ortiz, L. F., López-Álvarez, J., & Segura-Frontelo, A. (2012). Aripiprazol en pacientes ancianos: una revisión de la evidencia.