Success! I’ve Quit Abilify

It’s been a long and turbulent 10 month ride, but I am finally off Abilify.

During past attempts to quit the med, which consisted of everything from cold-turkey at 5mg to a rapid taper down method, I was thrown into a mild psychosis.  Although I’d never presented any psychotic features in the 25 years since being diagnosed as bipolar. It appears that I’m one of the lucky few in who antipsychotic withdrawal can actually cause psychosis.  In the end, it took a lot of strategizing with my Dr to develop a safe way to rid my cocktail of this drug. What finally worked was the ridiculously slow and steady decrease of medication over an equally ridiculous long period.  But – it worked. For anyone out there who is struggling to also get off of this med, it is possible to quit Abilify. And, having a good support network is essential.

This round of withdrawal wasn’t as bad as the last, but it wasn’t without its issues, either.  Day six was when things became interesting.  My vision went through a period of not being very sharp – it was as if a grey film was over the world. My depth-of-field-o-meter was faulty, too. Then, the obsessive thoughts began.  Last time my battle with obsessive thoughts got very bad (thoughts about a character from a silly TV show I don’t even care for).  This time, they were about the US Presidential election (analyses of the debates, latest polls, etc.).    At least this time I was thinking about something much of the rest of the world was. I’m not sure if what I went through this round would even be classified as a mild psychosis – I never believed I was a candidate for the presidency, but my thinking was extremely jumbled.  Once in a while a random thought would streak through my mind and push me into a mild anxiety attack.  One thing I’ve always hated about Abilify is that whether the occasion was happy or sad, tears were always just below the surface.  It was annoying.  Going through Abilify withdrawal only made it harder to hold the tears back.    At least this time the vertigo and disorientation were bearable, though. Throughout it all, I stayed in touch with my Dr every few days and kept her informed about what was happening; a go/no go decision was made every 48-72 hours as to whether to continue with the stoppage.  Ultimately, we were able to declare victory.

Fast forward five weeks, and here I am, with confirmation from my doctors that I’m doing well.

At the risk of becoming overly philosophical about the changes that have taken place since going off the med, there are a few things that bear mentioning.

‘Dullness’ is a side effect of just about every psychiatric medication out there.  But, as time without Abilify addling my brain increases, I’m finding life to be more full…and filled with nuances I was unable to recognize or appreciate while med-ed up.  Greater cognition also means I can now begin to tune into the major life changes I have undergone in the last two years and start to digest what’s happened.   While on the Abilify I wasn’t processing what was going on and finding healthy ways to deal with things, I was skating around right on top of the whole mess.  My therapist is cheering a bit.  She’s happy I’m finally capable of feeling a kind of grief over the losses that have occurred. Abilify-free self-reflection also has me examining ideas about my self-worth – something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.   I realize it may be premature, but beginning  to take stock of my readiness to get back into the work force is actually a positive sign.

This has been a learning experience for everyone – family, doctors and me.  It’s a relief it’s finally over and that everyone is now aware that giving me antipsychotics for a prophylactic purpose is a bad idea.  I need to continue to be my own advocate when it comes to educating everyone who needs to know about me, my med and my wacky reactions to some of it.  I need to get back into serious talk therapy and work through what I’ve skated over the last two years.  And, I need to do everything in my power to stay well. Because going back on an antipsychotic medication is something I do not ever want to do if it’s within my power.  I’ve finally broken free from Abilify and am very motivated to do what it takes to reduce the chances I will ever have to use this class of drug again.  Is it realistic for someone with bipolar I to expect walking-the-walk means they will never have to take an antipsychotic again?  Maybe not.  But if I do ever have to begin taking this type of drug again, I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to stay well before I raise the white flag – if I ever have to.

This is huge! HUGE!
And, *yes*, thinking about going back to work is too ambitious now. You’ve got lots of work to do before that with your therapy and learning how to navigate this clearer head. Just be HERE for now. As ridiculously long as it took to wean off the drugs, it will take that long to get used to the new (or recovered) you.
I’m cheering and clapping.

Yay, I’m so happy you finally made it through! You’re a strong lady. And as far as your question about never taking antipsychotics with Bipolar I? I say it’s totally realistic. I happen to be coming from a perspective where I have no choice, I can’t take them, as the risk of a dystonic reaction that could put me in the emergency room is too great, but even having had full-on psychosis (not induced by any meds) in my past more than a few times, I’m not the least concerned that this class of drug isn’t in my arsenal.

I say again, good for you!

Ruby! Hi! I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for the kind words. I didn’t know you can’t take antipsychotics. Hearing about your situation makes me hopeful, though. I’m not inclined to go back on this class of med, except in an extreme situation. Take care – see you over on Canvas soon 🙂

Hopefully I see you before Canvas (though a piece from you there always delights me). I’m trying to catch up on writing emails, but the mono isn’t making it so easy.

I am truly glad you were able to beat this one, and I hope that you’re doing well. You’re lovely and I miss you.

A little over a month in, but I don’t know when I’ll see the end. I have an appointment with my Infectious Disease Specialist next week, but these this crap seems to hang on a while with me.

[Thumbs up] Glad to hear you made it, too! I don’t know if it’s just that I’m more aware of the situation, but lately I keep seeing more and more articles that say the same thing. Be well!

Congratulations! I was on abilify for a long time and it was awful. I wasn’t very self aware then and reading your discription helps me identify things that were happening for me but I didn’t know how to articulate it. I just new I hated being on it. It’s great that you have such a strong relationship with your doc 🙂

Couldn’t have done it without the doc. She was fantastic. How long were you on Abilify for? Glad to hear you’re a ‘survivor!’ Maybe we should start an Abilify Withdrawal Support Group 🙂

I was labeled bipolar in the late seventies..my life has been unbelievable. Luckily I have been in remission for the past 9 years and like
my current job of 8 years . I’m thinking of writing a book. Believe me it would go straight to bestsellers. I have been on every medicine you can think of . The last being abilify and tegretol. For the last two years I have not been on any medication and I am going through intensive therapy which is really helping me all the major garbage I went through in my life somewhat attributed to this condition I have. I am finally content with my life. I really believe being able to talk about everything you think or have thought about and have been through is a key issue in becoming a healthy productive human being.. I am not saying you should not take your medication. Each individual is different ..abilify really helped me. There is hope …don’t give up.

Hi, Darcy. It’s great to hear the story of someone who is in a good place. I’m happy for you. May the goodness continue! I am in total agreement that having a good therapist makes a huge difference. I stopped CBT for a year and just went back about 6 weeks ago. I’m not sure where I would be right now without it. Stay well!

I am so scared I am needing to quit Abilify. I’ve been on it over five years and I take 20 mg per day. My doctor tried reducing me last summer and I became extremely mixed episode, confused, and moody. He raised me back up. I have hand tremors, fully body jerks, the feeling that I need to be moving constantly, and my HDL cholesterol is tanking. So we are reducing starting next week. I am very thankful for all that Abilify has given me, which is freedom from the incessant obtrusive thoughts and I am scared that I am going to end up in a mixed state or possibly manic. I am on Lithium as well which seems to quiet the beast but have been on Abilify longer. Thank you for positing this it is most helpful!

You’re welcome! I won’t lie…it was very hard for me to quit this drug. I really thought Abilify was doing amazing things while I was on it. You may have a hard time weaning yourself off, you may not. The best advice I can give to anyone trying to quit is to make sure you have someone around you frequently who understands what you are trying to do. Give them a plan and some phone numbers to use in case you get into trouble.

I wish you the *very* best! Would love to hear how it is going, so stop back and let me know if you would like.

Hi!

I’m flattered you chose my blog to comment on first! 🙂 You are more than welcome – I wasn’t going to write about my experience but I’m glad I did – there are so many people who have the same story. Quitting this drug is hard, I admit, but it doesn’t have to be a horror story if you know what to look out for. Keep in constant contact with your doc. That’s the best advice I can give anyone. Like I said, the slow titer down is the only thing that worked for me. I know others that have had success with that, too. Ask doc if he thinks it will help.

All the best to you – come back and comment again if you have time – I’m always curious to hear how people finally quit this drug Take care!

I’m so glad you’ve won this battle, I’m currently fighting it myself. I was given the ok to stop abilify after 4 years after titering down to 2.5 mg. I felt great for 6 days- then the bottom rusted out of my soul and the horror set in. I’m back on 2.5 mg now with an even fiercer resolve to be off of it for good.

What titration schedule ultimately worked for you? You said low and slow, but what was the final dosage you worked down to before declaring victory?

Hi, Cody. I’m so late getting back with you and I hope you were able to quit this stuff since you wrote. The lowest dose I took was 2.5 mg, then cut those in half and after 2 weeks of that sat on the couch with my alprazolam bottle at the ready. That lasted for only one week. Drop me a line when you have a chance – again, I hope you’re now off of this med and doing well!
Vivien

Hi Vivian,

I think my last dose was around December 27th. For a couple weeks I was fine, and then this past week has been total hell. I found myself obsessing and tearing up at my desk constantly. I think you said the hell lasted one week after the withdrawals set in? I’m hoping I can tough this out. There is also the feeling of sincere grief over the past few years of my life that have been numbed by abilify. I can no longer, as you put it, skate on top of the mess because the ice has melted. Let’s just hope that hell week has passed!

The grief is natural I think, and I did go through everything you describe. I did have the luxury of being able to sit on the couch with my alprazolam and take it whenever needed. I’m curious, how many mg was the last dose you took?

Defeat. Last week was terribly unproductive and I anticipate having to answer for it on Monday. I caved and took a 10 mg superdose yesterday and today, then will go back to 2.5 while I re-strategize.

There is no way I’m going to keep my job while withdrawing- free time, a couch and some Xanax will be needed. Did you say it lasted 2 weeks? How suddenly did it lift when it was over?

I’m sorry to hear that. Heck, I had the same thing happen to me, too. Up to a superpose to stabilize and then back down again. From everyone else’s experiences and everything Ive read – and you probably don’t want to hear it! – it’s all part of trying to kick this thing.

Even with a lot of alprazolam and a couch it took 2/3 weeks before I declaired victory. Getting down to 2.5 and taking it every other day for a few weeks helped, too.

Is it possible to take some vacation days from work when you’re ready to try again?

I have a scrip for 2 mg pills that I haven’t filled yet. I’m thinking I can split half into 1mg, and the other half into .5mg and .25mg chunks and just stretch this ordeal out over a loooong time. I cannot acquire nor afford vacation time. That was the most intense, crushing sadness I’ve ever felt- it was just a week of obsessing over the past and contemplating there not being a future worth living for. Oddly, the intense “being held at gunpoint” anxiety wasn’t present this time around- just the sadness. Maybe it means that withdrawal will be easier at lower doses.

It is so encouraging to hear your story and well may it last for ever. I have a similliar situation regarding my son Gavin. He has been ill nearly ten years now and still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. It started when he was at university in his second year. He suddenly developed this severe anxiety, could not travel, could not sit in classes or face his friends The doctor was quick to put him on prozac for the anxiety. There was no consideration of his young age (18 at the time) no in-depth investigation to establish the real cause of the illness. Instead of alleviating the anxiety ,it brought on other side-effects, getting paranoid,and trying to harm himself superficially. Of course the next visit to the doctor he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and prescribed another anti-psychotic and an anti depressant. This was the beginning of hell for him He has been on several antipsychotic since and the side-effect has been horrific making him more psychotic and he also developed ocd. We have been seen as difficult parent, argumentative and controlling every we tried to point out how the medication was making him more ill. We carried out some investigation ourselves and found out the he had a thyroid problem and his vitD was severely low. This could have contributed to his anxiety, Had this been identified in the beginning, his treatment could have been different,but now that the have labelled him as schizophrenic and given antipsychotic they are not going to admit they were wrong. Gavin did stopped his medication abruptly and was fine for three months but relapsed soon afterwards. We took him to the Maudsley for an assessment. They were in the opinion that he was suffering from anxiety and OCD rather than a clear diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and they have agreed to treat him.He has gradually come off his medication. It is now five months free of medication but recently I have observed that he is starting to relapsed. It is not severe, but I am worried that doctor will start him on anti-pshchotic again. What shall we do? Please advise me. Thanks

Hi, Kris –

I am so sorry to hear Gavin and your family are going through this. It’s just horrible.

So – I’m not a doc, nor do I play one on TV (American joke, and a bad one at that!), if my son were in the same position and had a new doc, I would ask that every blood panel known to mankind be performed first. Above all, make sure you are comfortable with your doc. I know it sounds simple but it’s true. If you’ve read a study you think might be helpful, then make sure your doc will at least hear you out when you express any concerns, opinions or desires. And, above all, make sure they take your ambivalence toward antipsychotics or any other course of treatment seriously. There are some individuals who respond favorably to this class of med, others who do NOT and there are some who fall in between. If you can find a doc to consider your concerns and work *with* you, then you’ve got a gem!

Good luck with the treatment at Maudsley (I’ve heard good things about them!) and please tell Gavin I’m routing for him! Let me know how you are all doing when you have a chance!

Hi there,
Thank you for your response.Like you said it is difficult to find the gem of a doctor unless you go private, then they all become a one. Presently Gavin is doing fine . He has been off medication for nearly six months now. There were some signs of a relapse,but no serious cause for concern. I am so hesitant to see a psychiatrist as I am pretty sure they will embark him on the road to hell by prescribing another anti -psychotic again. He is doing more than ever before, travelling to shops or library, doing his shopping and cooking. Yesterday I heard him playing his sax again, something he has not touched for over 4 years.It was a joy to hear. I am praying he is begining to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks
Kris

Hello,
Thank you so much for sharing your experience about quitting Abilify. I myself am quitting Abilify under the supervision of my doctors and it has been really tough. It’s nice to know that I am not alone and that if it doesn’t work out this time I can certainly try to quit some other time.
Congrats on your great achievement!
Kei

From reading the above, I get:
1. It’s possible to quit Abilify.
2. It’s hard to quit ability.
3. No tel on how to quit it.
I became anxious, tense and nervous, probably due to tight schedule with
lots of pressure. My family doctor started prescribed me Xanax – did not work.
Then Psychiatrist started me with 2mg Abilify every day since Feb 2010. It showed a totally different me in two weeks. (Even Dr was surprised.) The 2 mg continued for a few months. Dr. started me to tapping off by cutting down on the dosage – 1mg/day, then every other day… I have been on .05mg every 5 days since 3/14/2014. Wonder if I would need to take this Abilify for the rest of my life? Or, if I want to stop taking it, how do I do it? I moved from S. California to N CA at the end of year 2010. I did go to a Psychiatrist near me now , but, finding he has not really guide me in any way. I liked my prefixes Psychiatrist very much, but, don’t know if I can still ask for his guidance to quit my Abilify? I am not on any other medicine, not even Vita.

Thank you for sharing. I am convinced that, Abilify has landed my teen daughter in the hospital twice. Right now, she is there because my husband and I figured out she is a poor metabolizer and the month of slow withdrawal has wreaked havoc on our lives. Your blog has helped us continue to research and advocate to psychiatrists who wanted to put her on another anti psychotic. She is bipolar 2 with depression; and never was psychotic. I am convinced that abilify gave her suicidal ideation, attempt, and other strange thoughts. I cannot wait for this intelligent, sweet girl to be off this horrible drug. She is currently on lithium, which seems to help and we will be adding lamictal, which acts on glutamate and gaba; and are hoping this combo will help with withdrawals and stabilize her. Incidentally, we had her genetics done through 23 and me and mthfr support. From our elementary research, this new combination has promise. I am wondering why psychiatric patients are not routinely genetically tested. Testing could potentially save years of hard ache and expense.

https://www.alternativetomeds.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Medication-Withdrawal-Neurochemistry.pdf

Please go thru the above link which has helped a lot for my daughter to withdraw Ablify.

I had prepared a plan at least 1 month before the start of tapering from 10mg, at the rate of 1.25 mg every 2 weeks.
Importance to be given to intake of healthy food and supplements

She i the final stage of total withdrawal of the drug at .25mg.alternative days.

Thanks and Good luck .
KSNchen

37 Comments

Leave a Reply

Abilify
3
Abilify in Court – July 2017 Update

It’s been five years since I wrote, Success! I’ve Quit Abilify.  Since then, the post has received over 3500 views.  And all told, views for posts (linked below) related to the BS I endured while taking Abilify total over 49,000. The struggle is real. I haven’t posted for over a …

Bipolar
8
Polypharmacy and Bipolar Disorder

How many meds do you use to treat your bipolar disorder?  And your co-morbid afflictions?  Personally, I get off easy and take only four. In the treatment of bipolar disorder, polypharmacy (the use of multiple meds to treat a disease or disorder) is the norm.  And generally, bipolar I patients …

Bipolar
5
Heritable bipolar phenotypes pinned down

(I don’t usually quote an entire article, but this subject is near and dear to my heart….) Heritable bipolar phenotypes p inned down Published on February 14, 2014 at 5:12 PM By Eleanor McDermid, Senior medwireNews Reporter   A large study has pinpointed brain and behavioural traits that are genetically influenced and …

error: Content is protected !!