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Buspirone

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

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

Does it work?

We don't know. More research needs to be done on this drug before we can say whether it helps people with panic disorder.

What is it?

Buspirone is a drug that's used to treat anxiety disorder and other conditions that make people feel anxious. It comes as a tablet.

How can it help?

We're not sure whether buspirone can help. The two studies we looked at had different results. [78] [79]

In one small study, people who had panic disorder were treated with buspirone and a talking treatment called cognitive behaviour therapy. [78] This study found that the drug helped.

The other small study looked at people who had panic disorder and agoraphobia (a condition in which you become afraid of many situations and have a hard time leaving your house). [79] These people were also treated with both buspirone and cognitive behaviour therapy. This study found that buspirone didn't help.

How does it work?

Doctors aren't exactly sure how buspirone might work. But it seems to affect a part of the brain that's involved in making you feel afraid. Buspirone seems to change the way some nerve cells work. And this makes you feel less anxious.

One theory about why people get panic disorder is that their alarm system for fear is triggered too easily. Because buspirone helps people feel less anxious, doctors hope it might also help the symptoms of panic.

Can it be harmful?

Buspirone has several side effects: [80]

  • About two-thirds of people who take it feel dizzy

  • About a third feel nauseous

  • And about a fifth feel sleepy.

How good is the research on buspirone?

There hasn't been enough research on buspirone to say whether it works for panic disorder.

We found two studies that looked at whether buspirone helped people with panic disorder. [81] [79] One of these studies found that it helped. [81] But the other found that it didn't. [79] Both studies were small. So we need more research to say whether buspirone helps.

Glossary

agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is often described as a fear of open spaces, but agoraphobia is more complicated than that. Technically, agoraphobia is a fear some people have of being in a place where they may feel trapped, with nowhere to escape or hide if they were to start feeling very anxious or start having a panic attack. Agoraphobia can stop people being able to do everyday things, like using public transport or going shopping.

For more terms related to Panic attacks

Citations

For references related to Panic attacks click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
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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