Despite decades of research and several new classes of antidepressant medications, successful treatment of depression is still an elusive goal. In particular, people with major depressive disorder (MDD) often fail to respond to the first line of treatment or relapse after a short period of recovery. The search for new therapies and combinations of therapies is ongoing. Recently, the antipsychotic medication Abilify (aripiprazole) has been prescribed as a secondary treatment for MDD patients, often with positive outcomes.
Originally designed as a treatment for symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, Abilify’s usage has expanded widely in just a few years. Now, doctors are prescribing this medication for conditions ranging from bipolar disorder to certain forms of autism. Like all psychotropic medications, Abilify works by altering the balance of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Several of these neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, are largely responsible for a person’s emotional state. Abilify has demonstrated great potential to stabilize emotional states for a wide variety of patients. This includes the capacity to reduce anger and aggressive outbursts, which is why its original usage was for psychotic patients.
In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration approved Abilify as a supplementary treatment option for patients with MDD who were already following a course of traditional antidepressants. Several clinical trials and controlled experiments have demonstrated that Abilify may offer a “boost” to the mood stabilizing attributes of antidepressants. At the same time, Abilify may work to offset some of the more unpleasant side effects of these drugs, such as sexual dysfunction.
In addition to its effectiveness as a supplementary therapy, clinical trials and tests indicated that Abilify is a relatively safe and well-tolerated medication in depressed patients. The most commonly reported side effect associated with the medication was restlessness. Rarely was this side effect bothersome enough to cause the patient to discontinue taking Abilify.
Millions of people experience the debilitating symptoms of depression every day. Nevertheless, a reliable cure or even a more effective treatment for depression is likely still many years away. Because the brain is the body’s most sophisticated organ, understanding how best to restore the proper neurochemical balance is difficult. Discovering the most successful early treatment options is therefore important in reducing relapse and improving long-term outcomes.
- PubMed Health [Internet]. (n.d.). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine. Major depression. Retrieved February 20, 2012. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/
- Pae, C., Forbes, A., & Patkar, A. A. (2011). Aripiprazole as adjunctive therapy for patients with major depressive disorder. CNS Drugs, 25(2), 109-127.
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