What is Abilify, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Abilify (aripiprazole) is an anti-psychotic medicine used for the medical treatment of psychotic conditions and disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It also is used with other medications for the treatment of major depression in adults.

The exact mechanism of action of Abilify is unknown. However, like other anti-psychotics, it blocks receptors on nerves in the brain for several neurotransmitters (chemicals that nerves use to communicate with each other). It is thought that its beneficial effect is due to its effects on dopamine and serotonin receptors. Its effects on these receptors are complex, involving stimulation of the receptors but to a lesser degree than the naturally-occurring neurotransmitters (a process called partial agonism).

Is this medication available as a generic drug?

Yes, this medication is available in generic form.

What are the uses for Abilify?

Aripiprazole is used for the treatment of:


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Abilify warnings, side effects, and patient safety information


  • Long-term use of aripiprazole may lead to a potentially irreversible condition called tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movements of the jaw, lips, and tongue).
  • A potentially fatal complex referred to as neuroleptic malignant syndrome has been reported with anti-psychotic drugs, including Abilify. Patients who develop this syndrome may have:
  • All atypical antipsychotic drugs have been associated with metabolic changes such as hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and weight gain. Serious cases of hyperglycemia leading to coma or death have been reported in patients treated with atypical antipsychotics. Although there is no clear link between aripiprazole and diabetes, patients should be tested during treatment for elevated blood-sugars. Additionally, patients with risk factors for diabetes, including obesity or a family history of diabetes, should have their fasting levels of blood sugar tested before starting treatment and periodically throughout treatment to detect the onset of diabetes. Any patient developing symptoms that suggest diabetes during medical treatment should be tested for diabetes.
  • Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotics are at an increased risk of death and Abilify should not be used for this indication. Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of this medicine or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk of suicide with the clinical need. Patients who are started on medical therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening, suicidal thoughts, or unusual changes in behavior.

Some of the most common side effects include:

What is the dosage for Abilify?

  • This dose for this medication usually is once a day.
  • The usual adult starting oral dose for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is 10 to 15 mg once daily. The dose may be increased over time up to 30 mg daily to achieve the desired effect.
  • The recommended dose for patients with Tourette's disorder is 5 to 20 mg once daily.

Abilify drug, food (grapefruit juice), and supplement interactions

List of brand names available for aripiprazole

Abilify, Abilify Maintena, and Aristrada are the brand names available for apriprazole in the US.


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Is this drug safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding my baby?

  • Aripiprazole has not been adequately studied during pregnancy. Neonates exposed to antipsychotic drugs in the third trimester may experience withdrawal symptoms and other side effects. Your doctor or other healthcare provider may choose to use this medication if he or she feels that its benefits outweigh this potential concern.
  • It is not known if this medicine is excreted in breast milk; however, since most medicines are excreted in breast milk, doctors and other health care professionals recommend that women should not breastfeed their infant/baby while taking this drug.

What else should I know about this drug?

  • Preparations of this medicine include:
    • Tablets in doses of 2, 5 10, 15, 20, and 30 mg.
    • Disintegrating tablets in doses of 10 and 15 mg.
    • Oral solution dose of 1 mg/mL
    • Injection solution dosages of 9.75 mg/1.3 ml (7.5 mg/ml)
    • Extended Release Injection, Abilify Maintana, in doses of 300 or 400 mg/vial
    • Extended Release Prefilled Syringe, Aristrada), in doses of 441, 662, and 882 mg.
  • Tablets, oral solution, and injection should be stored at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F).
  • The FDA approved aripiprazole in November 2002.

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Aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristrada) is an antipsychotic medication used to treat psychoses such as schizophrgenia, bipolar mania and mixed manic/depressive episodes, major depressive disorder in adults, irritability associated with autistic disorder, Tourette's disorder, agitation associated with schizophrenia or bipolar mania. This drug should not be taken by patients with certain diseases and health conditions.

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See more info: aripiprazole on RxList
Medically Reviewed on 9/20/2019
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aripiprazole patient packaging information. Revised: Dec 2014. ABILIFY is a trademark of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company.

Medscape. "aripiprazole (Rx)."

Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns about new impulse-control problems associated with mental health drug aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada)." Updated: Jun 07, 2016.