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Buspirone

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have anxiety disorder. It tells you about buspirone, a treatment used for anxiety disorder. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes, probably. If you have anxiety disorder, a drug called buspirone could help you. But we don't know whether buspirone works any better than other helpful drugs, such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or hydroxyzine. We also don't know whether buspirone works as well as cognitive behaviour therapy, a talking treatment. Buspirone can have side effects.

We don't know if it works for children and teenagers with anxiety disorder. There hasn't been any good-quality research.

What is it?

Buspirone is a drug that can reduce feelings of anxiety. It's one of a group of drugs called anxiolytic drugs.

You take it as a tablet. Your doctor will probably recommend a low dose to start with, working up to a higher dose over a few weeks.

Buspirone takes longer to work than some other drugs used to treat anxiety disorder. You need to take buspirone for at least six weeks for it to work. We don't know how long you should keep taking buspirone after that. You and your doctor should decide how well buspirone works for you and whether you should keep taking it.

Your doctor may recommend that you take buspirone and also have cognitive behaviour therapy. But we don't know whether this combination works better than only taking buspirone or only having cognitive behaviour therapy.

How can it help?

Buspirone can help in several ways: [30] [97]

  • It can help symptoms such as feelings of anxiety, tension, and fear.

  • It can help you sleep better.

  • It can make you feel happier.

  • It may improve physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations (when you can feel your heart beating faster than usual).

In the studies we looked at, about half of the people who took buspirone felt better or much better. [30] [96] But about a third of the people who were given a dummy treatment (a placebo) for comparison felt better.

If you're thinking about taking buspirone, bear in mind that:

  • Buspirone may not work as well if you have recently taken drugs called benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (brand name Xanax) [98]

  • We don't know how long you should keep taking buspirone [30]

  • Buspirone seems to work as well as the benzodiazepine drug diazepam, the antidepressant venlafaxine, and another drug used to treat anxiety disorder called hydroxyzine. [96] [99] But there hasn't been enough research to be sure.

How does it work?

We're not certain. Like many other drugs, it affects chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. These chemicals carry messages between brain cells.

Buspirone mimics a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which has an important effect on your mood. Serotonin works on many different cells in your brain. Buspirone works on the same cells, but less powerfully.

Scientists don't know why this should make you feel less anxious, because they don't know enough about how the brain works. All they know is that influencing the activity of serotonin seems to help. [84]

Last Updated: December 17, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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