I have previously written about the ten different medications my son was prescribed. While they all have their side effects, I’ve always felt the one that was most harmful to Dan was Abilify (aripiprazole). And even though he has not taken this medication in over two and a half years, I can’t seem to escape it. Newspapers, magazines, television and the internet are inundated with ads for Abilify and other antipsychotic drugs. You can even choose a video on YouTube that will tout the benefits of this medication, or qualify for a thirty-day free supply of the drug once you “discuss it with your doctor.”
What’s going on? I don’t understand why any prescription drugs should be advertised anywhere. Advertisements should be reserved for Swiffers and clothing and toys; not for heavy-duty atypical antipsychotics. These are drugs that should be prescribed only after careful thought, consideration, and discussion with a competent psychiatrist, not something to suggest to your doctor because they look so good on TV.
Abilify is typically prescribed for patients with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. It is also given to enhance the effects of some antidepressants, and this is why Dan was taking it. The antidepressants were supposed to help with the OCD, and the Abilify was supposed to help with the antidepressants. For Dan, it just didn’t work.
That’s not to say that Abilify had no effect on Dan. It affected him tremendously: increased depression, agitation, shakiness, pericarditis, tachycardia, sky-high triglycerides, and extreme weight gain (thirty-five pounds in a few months). And these are just the side effects that were visible. There may have been more.
I’m not a doctor, and I know this drug is surely helpful for some people. But seeing it advertised everywhere somehow minimizes the seriousness of the medication and the pages and pages of dangerous side effects listed on its insert. It would be nice if all of the drug ads could be offset with ones promoting the benefits of meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and healthy eating. It couldn’t hurt, and there are no side effects.