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My Journey with Schizophrenia: Finding Support and Treatment - GymFitly - Health and Fitness

My Journey with Schizophrenia: Finding Support and Treatment

Sponsored by Alkermes, Inc.

The story you are about to read may not be representative of all people living with schizophrenia. The opinions expressed here are those of Keira, a person living with schizophrenia, and are not a substitute for medical advice or judgement. Always talk to your doctor.

For most of my young adult life, I lived in a perpetual state of noise.

I often heard voices others couldn’t, avoided eye contact, experienced unstable moods, and saw increasingly vivid hallucinations. Sometimes I would talk and nothing I said would make sense. Looking back, I can see that those were my signs that I might be living with a mental health condition.

I remember I had a bad breakdown my senior year of high school and was hospitalized for the first time. During this experience, I wasn’t completely open and honest with the nurses and doctors about my symptoms because the voices in my head told me not to talk about them and I was scared.

For the next several years I experienced a repeated pattern of worsening symptoms, followed by hospitalization and treatment, and then a recovery period. When I was deep in my illness, I did not want to be seen or come in close contact with others, preferring to avoid people all together. After numerous hospitalizations, I finally decided to be more open and honest about what I was experiencing in order to get the help I needed.

I was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious mental health condition that affects about 1.1% of the U.S. population, by a healthcare provider.1 I learned from my doctor that symptoms typically begin in early adulthood and can include hallucinations, delusions, difficulty functioning normally, trouble focusing and behavior associated with psychosis.2,3 Most people living with schizophrenia require long-term treatment with medication, along with therapy, to manage their condition.4

The diagnosis — and the mixture of fear and relief that accompanied it — gave me the clarity I needed to share my experiences with my care team, evaluate treatment options and, with my doctor, make a decision that set me down a new path. I talked it over with my mom, my main support system and best friend, and together with my doctor decided that the 2-month (1064 mg) dose of ARISTADA® (aripiprazole lauroxil) was a good choice for my schizophrenia treatment journey. ARISTADA is a prescription medicine given by injection by a healthcare professional and used to treat schizophrenia in adults.5

Here is some important safety information about ARISTADA: It is not known if ARISTADA is safe and effective in patients under 18. It’s also important to know that elderly people with dementia-related psychosis are at increased risk of death when treated with antipsychotic medicines including ARISTADA. ARISTADA is not for the treatment of people who have lost touch with reality (psychosis) due to confusion and memory loss (dementia). The most common side effects of ARISTADA include restlessness or feeling like you need to move (akathisia). These are not all of the side effects associated with ARISTADA. For additional Important Safety Information, please see below.

Since starting on ARISTADA, I’ve noticed an improvement in my symptoms. This has just been my experience and your experience may be different. Talk to your healthcare team about what may be best for you. I do still have bad days every once in a while, but I have learned coping skills and how to better handle these difficult times.

I take my journey one day at a time. I focus on things that are important to me, like being a daughter, friend, teammate, and volunteer, having a social life and attending events, such as a recent pride festival.

I like that with my current schizophrenia treatment I don’t have to remember to take a pill every day. A nurse gives me my injection at home. I’m engaged in my treatment, attend therapy sessions, and interact with and support others living with schizophrenia. My choices and my support system make this life possible. No medication is right for everyone, this is only my personal experience, and treatment results may vary. It’s exciting to know that there are treatment options for people living with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. I encourage others to be open about their experiences, especially with their care team, so that they can discuss treatment goals and the pros and cons of available treatment options, and find the right support at the right time along their treatment journey.

This is intended as informational only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical and/or mental health condition.

Please read the Important Safety Information for ARISTADA below. Discuss all benefits and risks with a healthcare provider. See Prescribing Information and Medication Guide.

INDICATION and IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION for ARISTADA INITIO® (aripiprazole lauroxil) and ARISTADA® (aripiprazole lauroxil) extended-release injectable suspension, for intramuscular use

INDICATION

ARISTADA INITIO® (aripiprazole lauroxil) is a prescription medicine given as a one-time injection and is used in combination with oral aripiprazole to start ARISTADA® (aripiprazole lauroxil) treatment, or re-start ARISTADA treatment after a missed dose, when ARISTADA is used for the treatment of schizophrenia in adults.

ARISTADA is a prescription medicine given by injection by a healthcare professional and used to treat schizophrenia in adults.

It is not known if ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA are safe and effective in children under 18 years of age.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

Elderly people with dementia-related psychosis are at increased risk of death when treated with antipsychotic medicines including ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA. ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA are not for the treatment of people who have lost touch with reality (psychosis) due to confusion and memory loss (dementia).

Contraindication: Do not receive ARISTADA INITIO or ARISTADA if you are allergic to aripiprazole or any of the ingredients in ARISTADA. Allergic reactions to aripiprazole have ranged from rash, hives and itching to anaphylaxis, which may include difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, and swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue.

ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA may cause serious side effects including:

  • Cerebrovascular problems (including stroke) in elderly people with dementia-related psychosis that can lead to death.
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), a serious condition that can lead to death. Call your healthcare provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away if you have some or all of the following signs and symptoms of NMS
    • high fever
    • stiff muscles
    • confusion
    • sweating
    • changes in pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Uncontrolled body movements (tardive dyskinesia). ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA may cause movements that you cannot control in your face, tongue, or other body parts. Tardive dyskinesia may not go away, even if you stop receiving ARISTADA. Tardive dyskinesia may also start after you stop receiving ARISTADA.
  • Problems with your metabolism such as:
    • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Increases in blood sugar can happen in some people who receive ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA. Extremely high blood sugar can lead to coma or death. If you have diabetes or risk factors for diabetes (such as being overweight or a family history of diabetes), your healthcare provider should check your blood sugar before you receive ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA and during your treatment with ARISTADA.
      • Call your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms of high blood sugar:
        • feel very thirsty
        • need to urinate more than usual
        • feel very hungry
        • feel weak or tired
        • feel sick to your stomach
        • feel confused, or your breath smells fruity
    • Increased fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) in your blood
    • Weight gain. You and your healthcare provider should check your weight regularly.
  • Unusual and uncontrollable (compulsive) urges. Some people taking aripiprazole have had strong unusual urges such as gambling that cannot be controlled (compulsive gambling). Other compulsive urges include sexual urges, shopping, and eating or binge eating. If you or your family members notice that you are having unusual strong urges, talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Decreased blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension). You may feel lightheaded or faint when you rise too quickly from a sitting or lying position.
  • Falls. ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA may make you sleepy or dizzy when standing which may make you at risk for falls and related injuries.
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Problems controlling your body temperature. Avoid becoming too hot or dehydrated. Do not exercise too much. In hot weather, stay inside in a cool place if possible. Stay out of the sun. Do not wear too much clothing or heavy clothing. Drink plenty of water.
  • Difficulty swallowing

The most common side effects of ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA include restlessness or feeling like you need to move (akathisia). These are not all the possible side effects of ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA. You should tell your healthcare provider about any side-effects you have.

Do not drive, operate hazardous machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA affect you. ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA may affect your judgment, thinking or motor skills.

Before receiving ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have not taken Abilify®, Abilify Maintena®, or any aripiprazole product before
  • have or had heart problems or a stroke
  • have diabetes or high blood sugar or a family history of diabetes or high blood sugar. Your healthcare provider should check your blood sugar before you receive ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA or during your treatment with ARISTADA
  • have or had low or high blood pressure
  • have or had seizures (convulsions)
  • have or had a low white blood cell count
  • have problems that may affect you receiving an injection in your buttocks or your arm
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA will harm your unborn baby. If you become pregnant while taking ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA, talk to your healthcare provider about registering with the National Pregnancy Registry for Atypical Antipsychotics. You can register by calling 1-866-961-2388, or visit http://womensmentalhealth.org/clinical-and-research-programs/pregnancyregistry/
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA can pass into your breast milk. It is not known if it may harm your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby if you receive ARISTADA INITIO and/or ARISTADA.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA and other medicines may affect each other causing possible serious side effects. Do not start or stop any medicines after you receive ARISTADA INITIO and ARISTADA without talking to your healthcare provider first.

If you have any questions about your health or medicines, talk to your healthcare provider. You are encouraged to report all side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

References:

1 Cloutier M, Aigbogun MS, Guerin A, et al. The Economic Burden of Schizophrenia in the United States in 2013. J Clin Psychiatry. 2016;77(6):764-771. doi:10.4088/JCP.15m10278

2 Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/sites/default/files/documents/health/publications/schizophrenia/schizophrenia.pdf. Revised 2021. Accessed November 15, 2022.

3 American Psychiatric Association. Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychiatric Disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.

4 Living well with schizophrenia. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/seriousmental-illness/schizophrenia#tips. Updated September 27, 2022. Accessed October 11, 2022.

5 ARISTADA [prescribing information]. Waltham, MA: Alkermes, Inc.; 2021.

Alkermes® is a registered trademark Alkermes, Inc. ARISTADA® and ARISTADA INITIO® are registered trademarks of Alkermes Pharma IrelandLimited, used by Alkermes, Inc. under license. ©2022. Alkermes, Inc. All rights reserved. ARI-004823.

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