Poison Control: What Is the Toxic Dose of Abilify?

Abilify (aripiprazole), manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002. An antipsychotic medication, Abilify has shown noteworthy success in treating the symptoms of schizophrenia. Since its introduction, this medication has also been used for easing manic depression in adults. In people who have not responded well to traditional antidepressants, Abilify is sometimes prescribed as a secondary, additional treatment. As a result of increasingly diverse uses, this medication has entered the top 15 in terms of total drug sales. Like all psychotropic drugs, Abilify works by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

Determining the toxic dose of any new medication is essential in developing appropriate safety guidelines. According to the authors of a study published in Clinical Toxicology, “Limited data exist describing the characteristics of [Abilify] poisonings” (Young et al., 2009). Part of the reason for such limited data is undoubtedly the newness of the medication itself. In an effort to fill in these gaps in knowledge, researchers performed an analysis of Abilify overdose events recorded in the California Poison Control Center database. They excluded cases where the record was not sufficiently complete or other substances were ingested along with Abilify. After eliminating such results, researchers were left with 286 usable cases.

Slightly more than half of these cases were female, and the overall median age was about 19 years. The youngest recorded overdose patient was 6 months old. Researchers divided the cases into three distinct age groups (0-6, 7-17, 18+ years) to determine whether there might be an age-related response to Abilify overdose. A standard dosage for this medication depends a great deal on the individual case; however, dosage typically starts at 2 mg for pediatric patients and can increase to 15 mg for adults. It should be noted that Abilify is not prescribed for children less than 13 years old (PubMed Health, 2011). Researchers also placed each case into a group based on dosage level. Group 1 consisted of doses less than 20 mg. In group 2, dosage ranged from 21 to 90 mg. All doses of 91 mg or higher fell into group 3.

Results of the analysis showed that out of 286 cases, 128, or nearly half, showed no symptoms whatsoever. For those who did report symptoms, drowsiness was the most common complaint, followed by nausea/vomiting, muscle twitch, and tremors. In no case was the overdose considered life threatening, and none of the patients appeared to have experienced permanent effects. For adults, only those in dosage group 3 (91 mg+) were statistically likely to experience symptoms. In pediatric cases, symptoms presented themselves even at the group 2 level. In 176 cases of overdose, no treatment was required other than observation. When treatment was administered, activated charcoal given orally was the most common course of action.

While this was only one study of one database, the data seem to indicate that Abilify is not an especially toxic medication. However, the effects of overdose vary from person to person, and underlying conditions may play a role in an individual’s response. As always, keeping medications in a secure location and following dosage instructions to the letter are essential safety measures.


  1. PubMed Health [Internet]. (n.d.). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 19, 2012. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000221/
  2. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Dystonia. Retrieved February 19, 2012. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dystonia/DS00684
  3. Young, M. C, Shah, N., Cantrell, F. L., Clark, R. F. (2009). Risk assessment of isolated aripiprazole exposures and toxicities: a retrospective study. Clinical Toxicology, 47, 580-583.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Sohan

    February 10th, 2017 at 8:52 AM

    Twitching and pain is the most troublesome problem

  • Ellen

    January 22nd, 2022 at 11:04 AM

    I am currently taking 30mg of ambilify.
    It was brought to my attention that it is a high dosage. I have no side effects so far. Is this gonna overdose me??

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