Antidepressants alone may not be enough for adults with major depressive disorder. Aripiprazole (Abilify) can be taken alongside antidepressants to treat symptoms of depression.

Antidepressants are some of the most prescribed drugs for treating anxiety and depression combined.

During 2015 to 2018, an estimated 13.2% of U.S. adults used antidepressant medications in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Antidepressants have been shown to be effective against depression and anxiety, but antidepressants alone may not be enough for some people.

Depression symptoms that return while taking antidepressants is known as breakthrough depression. It occurs in 33% of people using antidepressants.

Taking other medications, such as Abilify, alongside your antidepressants as part of your treatment may help improve your symptoms.

Abilify is a brand-name medication of the prescription drug aripiprazole. It’s an atypical antipsychotic drug, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Atypical antipsychotics are second-generation antipsychotics. Some work by blocking the action of dopamine on the receptors of specific neurons in the brain.

Second-generation antipsychotics may have fewer side effects than first-generation drugs. Second-generation antipsychotics’ effect on 5-HT-2a receptors may be linked to lower neurological side effects.

The FDA has approved Abilify as an adjunctive treatment for adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) without psychotic symptoms and when antidepressants alone aren’t enough.

Abilify is often used alongside antidepressants. This is why it’s usually included as part of augmentation therapy, when drugs are combined. It’s not approved for this use among children.

The main active drug in Abilify, aripiprazole, is used to treat schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). It’s also FDA-approved to treat symptoms of:

There are different forms of Abilify, but it’s usually taken orally in the form of tablets that are swallowed whole. Abilify can usually be taken with or without food.

Abilify works by regulating the action that neurotransmitters have on the brain.

It’s mainly known as a modulator of dopamine. It can act as a partial agonist to dopamine receptors when dopamine activity is high. It also helps balance dopamine when activity levels are low.

Similar to its effects on dopamine receptors, Abilify is a partial agonist to serotonin receptors.

Abilify can work alone for other disorders, but for depression, it’s most effective as an add-on treatment or part of augmentation therapy.

Antidepressants are the main treatment for depression, but only one-third of patients will reach remission with their initial treatment, according to 2008 research. The other two-thirds are likely to fail to reach remission, and they must continue their search for an effective treatment plan.

Adding Abilify to an existing treatment plan can have positive outcomes compared to monotherapy, or treating depression with one medication at a time.

Aripiprazole was found to increase the effectiveness of mirtazapine, an antidepressant drug, compared to mirtazapine monotherapy, according to a 2007 study. Researchers believe it may be especially effective in patients with treatment-resistant depression.

Adjunctive aripiprazole was associated with a two-fold higher remission rate than adjunctive placebo. It was also found to be relatively well-tolerated and safe, according to a 2009 clinical trial.

When people with depression don’t reach remission with one treatment, they may switch to another antidepressant drug.

A 2017 study found that augmenting with aripiprazole was more effective than switching to another antidepressant. Among patients with major depressive disorder unresponsive to previous treatment, 29% achieved remission after augmenting with aripiprazole.

Abilify is usually taken alongside other antidepressants in people with depression.

Antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Common antidepressants include:

Note that Abilify may interact with other drugs. A doctor will be able to advise about medication interactions before you decide to take Abilify.

There’s limited research on the effectiveness of aripiprazole when combined with specific antidepressants. But some studies found that Abilify and Lexapro can be an effective treatment for depression.

When combined with escitalopram (Lexapro), Abilify was found to be an effective and safe treatment for major depressive disorder, according to a 2009 study.

Many drugs interact with aripiprazole, which can lead to severe complications.

Abilify may interact with the following drugs:

  • metoclopramide
  • Adderall
  • clarithromycin
  • itraconazole
  • quinidine
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • carbamazepine
  • rifampin
  • lorazepam

This isn’t an exhaustive list of possible drug interactions with Abilify. If you take any medications, you’ll want to tell your doctor and pharmacist before taking Abilify.

Before starting any new medication, you’ll want to ask your doctor for more information. Antipsychotics are known for having many side effects. Abilify has many known drug interactions.

Here are some questions you can ask the doctor before taking Abilify alongside antidepressants:

  • Does Abilify interact with any medications I’m currently taking?
  • Should Abilify be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • How long until I see results with Abilify?
  • What are the short-term side effects of Abilify?
  • What are the long-term side effects of Abilify?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking Abilify?
  • How and when should I take Abilify?
  • When do I stop taking Abilify?
  • What foods or drinks should I avoid while taking Abilify?
  • How do you monitor Abilify?
  • How will we know if the dose needs to be changed?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?

Dealing with depression isn’t easy, and you’re not alone.

An estimated 5% of people worldwide have depression. Different treatment options exist for those with depression, but treatment effectiveness can vary from person to person.

If your antidepressants have stopped working, combining them with Abilify may provide some relief.

Abilify is a prescription drug for patients with schizophrenia, but it can also help alleviate symptoms of other mental health disorders, including major depressive disorder.

Talk with a doctor about whether Abilify is right for you and can be taken alongside any other medications you use.

Looking for a therapist but unsure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.