A woman from Warwickshire, Abbi Hoxleigh, has come forward with a shocking claim that the commonly prescribed antipsychotic drug aripiprazole led to her developing a shopping addiction and spending £10,000 in just two months. Aripiprazole is typically used to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but it has been known to cause compulsive behavior in some individuals. Ms. Hoxleigh, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, decided to share her story in order to raise awareness about this uncommon reaction to the medication. In response, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued renewed guidance regarding aripiprazole and its potential risks of pathological gambling and other impulse control disorders.
Ms. Hoxleigh, a 51-year-old company director from Rugby, started experiencing uncomfortable side effects shortly after being prescribed aripiprazole in September. These side effects included a lack of sensation in her limbs and muscles. However, the most alarming effect was her sudden development of compulsive shopping behavior, leading her to spend thousands of pounds on various items. Despite typically relying on food delivery services, she would go out of her way to visit supermarkets, even going as far as taking multiple buses or walking long distances.
The MHRA’s chief safety officer, Alison Cave, has stressed the importance of patients informing their doctors about any unusual urges they cannot resist, such as addictive gambling, excessive eating or spending, or an abnormally high sex drive. While the number of reported cases of gambling and other impulsive behaviors associated with aripiprazole is relatively small compared to the frequency of its prescription, the consequences for affected patients can be significant. Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, has emphasized the need for clinicians to consistently warn patients about these potential risks. The Royal College of Psychiatrists also advises individuals to consult with their doctors before abruptly stopping their medication. From June 30, 2009, to August 28, 2023, the MHRA received a total of 69 reports linking aripiprazole to gambling side effects, despite the fact that it is prescribed over a million times per year.
During the height of her compulsive behavior, Ms. Hoxleigh found herself spending over £600 in supermarkets in a single day. In an effort to prevent suspicions of shoplifting, she diligently kept receipts to prove her purchases. In total, she spent £10,000 during this period, with £5,000 being spent while taking aripiprazole and the remaining £5,000 as she dealt with her shopping addiction after stopping the drug in October. Ms. Hoxleigh’s friend noticed that she would grab items almost robotically while shopping, causing concern not only for herself but also for young people and those without the financial resources to cope with such compulsions. The excessive spending depleted her savings and forced her to postpone her plans to move houses. However, she expressed gratitude for the unwavering support of her family throughout this challenging experience. Ms. Hoxleigh welcomes the renewed advice given to medical professionals and urges patients to report their side effects through the MHRA’s Yellow Card scheme, which collects and monitors information on suspected safety concerns related to healthcare products.