A few years ago, long before she would even think about filing her Abilify gambling lawsuit, Denise Miley had what appeared to be a perfect life. She and her husband lived in a beautiful home in Maple Grove, Minnesota, with their four sons. Her career as a CPA was enjoyable and brought in a nice income.
But in 2014 things began to change for the Mileys, not long after Denise was prescribed Abilify (aripiprazole) to treat depression. Abilify is an antipsychotic prescribed to treat not only depression but schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well.
Between October 2013 and September 2014, Abilify was the top-selling drug in the U.S., with nearly 8.8 million prescriptions filled every month. But while Abilify may help some people control their symptoms, many who take the medication aren’t aware of a serious Abilify side effect: compulsive gambling. A number of studies have linked Abilify to compulsive gambling, even among patients with no history of gambling.
Not long after Miley started taking Abilify, she found herself riding her bicycle 35 miles from her home in Maple Grove to a casino in Prior Lake. “At first I just tried to tell myself that the kids are at school, it’s my escape,” Miley told Fox 9. “I think I thought if I was doing exercise at the same time that it was okay to be going there.”
She can’t really explain why, but Miley felt a strong compulsion to go to the casino. She recalls being dressed to go to work only to find herself heading to the casino. Soon, the 35-mile bike rides gave way to simply getting in the car and driving out to gamble at Prior Lake. Some days, Miley would tell her family that she was working late so she could stay at the casino, in some cases gambling well into the next day.
At first, Miley played slot machines, then later switched to high-stakes blackjack that cost up to $4,000 a hand. She dipped into her children’s college fund and even took out a secret $50,000 loan, all to continue feeding the urge to gamble.
Worried about her compulsive behavior, Miley’s husband urged her to seek help. At one point he took her car away, forcing Miley to ride the bus to work. Once she got there, it wasn’t long before her compulsion got the better of her.
“I would get on the light rail, take the light rail to the Mall of America, take a bus from the Mall of America to the casino,” said Miley. One night, she was up $50,000, which could have paid off the secret loan she had taken out. But she simply couldn’t walk away. It only took an hour for her to lose the $50,000.
In total, Miley estimates that she lost a total of $156,000 due to gambling while she was taking Abilify.
Kids Beg Mom to Stop Compulsive Gambling
Miley said she didn’t actually hit bottom until one night her kids FaceTimed her while she was gambling. They pleaded with their mom to leave the casino and come home.
“Being there for my kids and setting a good example for my kids is probably one of the most important things for me,” said Miley. The next day, she sought treatment for gambling addiction.
Her road to recovery included talking about her secret life in the casino with family, friends, and co-workers. When Miley told a close friend, Kim Swatosch, about compulsive gambling, Swatosch couldn’t reconcile that person with the friend she had known for over ten years.
Upon entering gambling addiction treatment, one of the first things her counselor recommended was to stop taking Abilify. She did, and after about a week, Miley said the compulsive gambling urges went away.
According to Dr. Timothy Fong, Co-Director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program, Miley’s story is eerily similar to other patients in his program who take the medication and have this urge to engage in compulsive behaviors like pathological gambling, hyper-sexuality or compulsive shopping.
The connection between Abilify and compulsive gambling caught the attention of European regulators in 2012. Shortly thereafter, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical, the makers of Abilify, were required to place a label on the drug warning European consumers about the link between Abilify and “pathological gambling.”
Unfortunately, it took the United States almost four years to follow suit and compel the drug makers to place labels on Abilify sold in the United States warning Americans about the link to gambling. By that point, Miley was more than a year removed from the gambling binge that almost ruined her and her family.
She has spent the last two years trying to rebuild trust among her family and friends. “I’m thankful I was able to get help before I lost my family,” said Miley.
Miley Joins Hundreds of Others in Filing Abilify Gambling Lawsuit
Last year, Denise Miley and her husband filed an Abilify gambling lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka. The Miley family’s lawsuit is one of more than 200 claims in the Abilify gambling litigation, all filed by individuals who allege taking Abilify caused them to become addicted to gambling.