Conditions the medication is used for: Schizophrenia

Other names for the medication: Abilify Maintena®

What is this medication used for?

Aripiprazole long-acting injection (known as Abilify Maintena®) is mainly used to help treat the symptoms of schizophrenia and to help stop them coming back. Aripiprazole is also made as tablets, melt-in-the-mouth tablets, a short-acting injection and a syrup.

What is the usual dose for this medication?

The usual dose of aripiprazole long-acting injection 400mg a month. Some people only need 300mg a month.

How and when should I take the medication?

How to take:

The injection will be given to you by a nurse, into one of your buttocks or arm/shoulder, every month. This should be a different side each injection.

When to take:

The dose is given once every month. There should be at least 26 days since your last injection.

What are the alternatives to this medication?

There are many other antipsychotics, talking therapies and treatments for psychosis and schizophrenia. See our “Handy charts” to help you compare the medicines.

How long does the medication take to work?

This will depend on what you are having it for. Please look at one of the “Handy charts” for more help and advice.

How long will I need to keep taking this medication for?

This will depend on what you are having it for. Please look at one of the “Handy charts” for more help and advice. It could be months or years to help stop the symptoms coming back.

Can I just stop taking this medication?

It is unwise to stop having it suddenly, even if you feel better. Your symptoms can return if treatment is stopped too early. This may occur some weeks or even months after aripiprazole has been stopped. You should discuss this fully with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose or overdose?

If you have the long-acting injection (Abilify Maintena) and miss a dose, you can have the next dose straight away. However, future doses should be every month from then on.  

  • If you missed the 2nd or 3rd dose by more than a week you can have the injection but will also need to have two weeks of aripiprazole tablets to help tide you over, then an injection every month from then on.
  • If you miss the 4th or later dose by more than 2 weeks you can have the injection but will also need to have two weeks of aripiprazole tablets to help tide you over, then an injection every month from then on.

Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?

If you drink alcohol while having aripiprazole it may make you feel more sleepy. This is particularly important if you need to drive or operate machinery and you must seek advice on this.

Will this medication affect my other medications Including the Contraceptive pill?

Aripiprazole has only a few interactions with other medicines.  

  • The effects of aripiprazole can be decreased by carbamazepine
  • The effects of aripiprazole can be increased by ketoconazole (an antifungal) If you have aripiprazole with benzodiazepines or alcohol it may cause more sleepiness.
  • You should have no problems with "The Contraceptive Pill" and aripiprazole
  • Not all of these interactions happen in everyone.

Some of these medicines can still be used together but you will need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. There are many other possible drug interactions.

What sort of side-effects might I get from taking this medication?

The table below will show you some of the main side effects you might get from aripiprazole. Some of these are more marked when you start aripiprazole and usually wear off in a few weeks or months.

Side effect

What happens

What to do about it

COMMON (more than about 1 in 100 people might get these)

Akathisia

Being more on edge or restless. You may sweat a lot more.

Try and relax by taking deep breaths. Wear loose fitting clothes. This happens much more at the start of treatment but does wear off in a few weeks. Your doctor may think about giving you a medicine to help this for a few weeks.

Stomach upset

This includes feeling and being sick and getting diarrhoea.

This usually improves after the first few days. If it is severe discuss with your doctor.

Constipation

When you want to poop but can't (the opposite of diarrhoea). You can't pass a motion.

Make sure you eat enough fibre, cereal or fruit. Make sure you are drinking enough fluid. Keep active and get some exercise

e.g. walking. If this does not help, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a mild laxative.

Headache

When your head is painful and pounding.

Ask your pharmacist if paracetamol is safe to take with any other medicines you may be having

Insomnia

Not being able to get to sleep at night.

Discuss with your doctor. He or she may change the time of your dose. This happens much more at the start of treatment and you may need some sleeping tablets for a couple of weeks

Injection pain

Pain where you had the injection

This normally starts the day after the injection and last for about 4 days. A warm bath and some exercise can help.

Blurred vision

Things look fuzzy and you can't focus your eyes properly.

Don't drive. See your doctor if you are worried. You won't need glasses.

Tremor

Fine shaking of the hands

This is not dangerous but can be irritating. If it annoys you, your doctor may be able to give you something for it.

UNCOMMON (fewer than about 1 in 100 people might get these)

Postural hypotension

A low blood pressure - this can make you feel dizzy, especially when you stand up.

Try not to stand up too quickly. If you feel dizzy, don't drive.

Seizures

Having a fit or convulsion

If you have a fit or seizure, contact your doctor straight away.

Palpitations

A fast heart beat.

It is not dangerous. It can be treated if it lasts for a long time.

 

Do not be worried by this list of side effects. Some people get no side effects at all and others may get some effects that are not listed in this table. If you think you might have a side effect to your medicine, you should ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Will I need to have blood tests?

If you have bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other long-term mental health problem, it is important to look after your physical health as well. National guidelines recommend that you should at least have your blood pressure, weight, blood glucose and blood fats (e.g. lipids, cholesterol) checked regularly. This may be done by a hospital to start with, but after that your doctor should arrange for all these to be checked at least every year. And then to do something about it if there is anything that needs treating.

Can I drive or cycle while on this medication?

You may feel a bit sleepy at first when having aripiprazole. You should be careful as it may slow down your reaction times. Until this wears off, or you know how aripiprazole affects you, do not drive or operate machinery.

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