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Medical Uses and Side Effects of Buspirone

Buspirone is a drug that is prescribed for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. This Buzzle write-up provides information on the medical uses and side effects of buspirone.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Did You Know?

Unlike benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and certain sedative/anxiolytic drugs, buspirone does not pose a risk of drug tolerance and dependence.

Marketed under the brand names such as Vanspar, Buspar Dividose, and Buspar, buspirone is placed in the category of drugs called azapirones, which are pharmacologic agents that possess selective anxiolytic psychotropic activity. It is now available as a generic drug, and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Unlike benzodiazepines that act on the Gamma aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors to bring about the sedative and anxiolytic effects, buspirone has a greater affinity for the serotonin (5-HT1A and 5-HT2) receptors. This drug does not exert anticonvulsant or sedative effect that is shown by the regular antianxiety drugs.

Unlike other azapirones, this drug seems to have an affinity for D2-dopamine receptors. Though the mechanism of action of azapirones as antianxiety drugs is not known, it is believed that these either act at the receptors or cause the down-regulation of the receptors. One of the main advantages of using this drug instead of benzodiazepines is that it has little potential for abuse. Thus, it might be a good alternative for individuals with a prior history of drug or alcohol abuse.

What is Buspirone Used for?

In 1996, the FDA approved this drug for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Basically, GAD is characterized by uncontrollable, excessive anxiety that the affected individuals might find hard to control. Other symptoms include restlessness, inability to relax, difficulty concentrating, sleep-related problems, muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, etc. Buspirone is the only seratonergic drug to be approved for the treatment of GAD, even though it does not belong to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Some studies have shown that it might prove to be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety. It might help the affected individuals to relax, which in turn might help them to focus on the day-to-day activities in a better way. It might also help ease other physical symptoms associated with anxiety.

It is well tolerated by young and elderly patients. Its use has been found to be beneficial for the treatment of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, some studies have shown that this drug is less effective for panic disorders and severe anxiety. The onset of action of buspirone is delayed, when compared to benzodiazepines, which is why patients who have used benzodiazepines earlier, usually find it to be less effective. Once the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines have resolved, buspirone might appear to be effective.

Contraindications

As in case of any drug, make sure that you inform your healthcare provider about any medication that you are taking currently. Inform your healthcare provider if:

✦ You are allergic to buspirone or any other drug
✦ You are taking prescription and non-prescription drugs
✦ You are affected by a kidney or liver disease
✦ You have a history of drug or alcohol abuse
✦ You are about to undergo a surgery

In order to avoid drug interactions, inform your healthcare provider, if you are taking the following drugs:

✦ Antihistamines
✦ Anticonvulsants
✦ Dexamethasone
✦ Diazepam
✦ Diltiazem
✦ Erythromycin
✦ Haloperidol
✦ Ketoconazole or itraconazole
✦ MAO inhibitors
✦ Muscle relaxants
✦ Nefazodone
✦ Analgesic/narcotic painkillers
✦ Rifampin
✦ Ritonavir
✦ Sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers
✦ Trazodone
✦ Verapamil
✦ Vitamins

The adverse effects of buspirone might increase, if it is taken with alcohol or grapefruit juice. Since this drug can cause drowsiness, it would be best to refrain from operating machinery or driving.

This drug is categorized as a Pregnancy category B, which means that animal studies have revealed no harm to the fetus, but its effect on pregnant women is not known due to lack of studies on pregnant women. Therefore, inform your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or have become pregnant while taking this drug. There is no definitive evidence of the drug passing into breast milk. Therefore, nursing mothers should also be cautious and avoid its use.

Side Effects of Buspirone

This drug should only be taken in prescribed doses for the duration recommended by the healthcare provider. An overdose can cause dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as upset stomach and vomiting.

Do not take this drug, if you are allergic to any of the ingredients used in the drug. A serious allergic reaction is unlikely. Seek medical help at the earliest, if you develop a life-threatening allergic reaction that is characterized by the following symptoms:

✦ Hives
✦ Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat
✦ Shortness of breath
✦ Difficulty breathing and/or swallowing
✦ Palpitations
✦ Wheezing
✦ Lightheadedness

Some of the side effects of buspirone include:

✦ Drowsiness
✦ Upset stomach
✦ Vomiting
✦ Constipation
✦ Diarrhea
✦ Stomach pain
✦ Headache
✦ Dry mouth
✦ Depression
✦ Excitement
✦ Fatigue
✦ Nervousness
✦ Difficulty sleeping
✦ Lightheadedness
✦ Weakness
✦ Numbness

Seek medical assistance at the earliest, if you experience the following symptoms:

✦ Skin rash
✦ Itching
✦ Fast or irregular heartbeat
✦ Blurred vision
✦ Unusual movements of the head or neck muscles

It is extremely essential that this drug is taken as directed. Don't increase or decrease the dosage on your own. If you experience any untoward effects, consult your doctor. Do not discontinue buspirone without talking to your doctor. Also, keep this drug out of reach of children.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.