Their stories are absolutely heartbreaking. People, often with no prior history of compulsive addictive behaviour, suddenly and unexplainably begin gambling away their life savings, falling deep into debt, and sometimes deceiving loved ones to hide it all.
One person describes stuffing pillows under bed sheets to hide her late night casino visits from her sleeping husband. Another, who eventually lost custody of her children, tells a story of missing a flight while playing the slots and then missing the rescheduled flight for the same reason. Another woman, who gambled away her children’s college fund, admits she reached her breaking point when her children called her at the casino and begged her to come home.
Coming to the realization that you have a gambling addiction, particularly if you have reached rock bottom by losing vast sums of money and precious relationships, is a painful process. But imagine learning that the reason for this addiction and all the harm it caused is a medication that was prescribed to help you? And, worse still, that patient reports and medical studies had identified this side effect years before the manufacturer began warning doctors and consumers about it.
In this blog post, I examine how Abilify, a popularly prescribed drug often used to treat a variety of psychiatric illnesses, has been found to cause compulsive behaviour such as problem gambling. I also outline what victims should know about their eligibility to join an Abilify impulse control lawsuit.
What is Abilify and What Are Its Side Effects?
Abilify (aripiprazole) is a second-generation, atypical anti-psychotic drug known as a stabilizer. Unlike earlier anti-psychotics that simply blocked the brain’s chemical receptors to dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters that affect feelings associated with pleasure, mood, impulse and obsession – Abilify is intended to adjust and balance these chemicals.
Although initially approved as a treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar (Type I) in people 13 years of age or older in Canada, it is also often prescribed for “off-label” uses, including for treatment of general depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, and irritability related to autism.
Abilify has helped many Canadians to manage their mood disorders and other conditions. Yet, like most pharmaceuticals, it can cause adverse reactions in some people. Known side effects include: headache, insomnia, nausea and/or vomiting, seizures, blurred vision, high blood sugar and diabetes, and strokes in the elderly, among others.
Although Abilify’s manufacturer advertised these potential side effects in promotional materials, reports that people taking this drug were known to engage in destructive, “out of character” compulsive behaviour were not communicated to doctors or patients in North America for years after they were known.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Destructive compulsive behaviour can take many forms, including: hypersexuality, excessive shopping, uncontrollable eating, or problem gambling. None of these activities in and of themselves are necessarily harmful. However, when a person loses the capacity to control their actions and set healthy limits, they can cause significant financial damage, physical harm to an individual, or strain personal relationships.
If you find that you are exhibiting some or all of the following symptoms, you may have developed a compulsive gambling disorder:
- Preoccupation with gambling compared to other activities.
- The need to gamble with increasingly large sums of money to achieve the same feeling of excitement.
- Using gambling as an escape from other problems.
- Lying to or deceiving friends and family about your gambling activities.
- Missing work, school or other commitments in order to gamble.
- Feeling irritable, stressed, or restless when you attempt to limit your gambling
- Stealing, committing fraud, or asking for money from others in order to gambling
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible to Join a Mass Tort Legal Action?
Sadly, by the time you or your loved ones realizes there may be a problem, it is likely damage has already been done to your finances, interpersonal relationships and health. However, there is always hope for the future when you recognize the harm that has been done, seek treatment to stop the compulsive gambling, and begin to rebuild was had been damaged or lost.
In cases where Abilify has been found to cause problem gambling, the compulsive urge to gamble usually begins after a person begins taking Abilify and usually ceases once the patient stops taking the medication. However, it is essential that you consult with your doctor if you are seeking to make any changes to your dosage.
If a clear connection between taking Abilify and the compulsive behaviour is established, the victim may be eligible to participate in a mass tort legal action to seek damages for the harm they experienced. To qualify for participation a person must have experienced significant financial losses (typically $50,000 or more) that can be clearly identified. The person must also not be a part of any related class actions.
If you or a loved one has experienced Abilify-related compulsive gambling and you believe your losses qualify you to take legal action against Abilify’s manufacturer, you should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights and options. As a legal professional with experience in mass tort actions, I would be pleased to listen to your story and to explain the kinds of information and evidence you will require to file a claim.