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What Is Buspirone?

By Melanie Smeltzer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Buspirone is a medication primarily used to treat the symptoms of anxiety, including irritability and jittery feelings, insomnia, pounding heartbeats, and sweating. Although its exact mechanism of action is not fully known, it is thought to affect how certain chemical substances work in the brain. This medication is generally prescribed for those undergoing a mild or moderate amount of generalized anxiety and is usually not recommended for more severe cases or long-term use.

Despite the fact that it is not entirely understood how buspirone helps to relieve anxiety symptoms, it is widely thought that it works by affecting neurotransmitters. It is believed that this drug helps stimulate serotonin and dopamine, as well as norepinephrine and acetylcholine, which would then alter the messages that certain nerves receive. Unlike other anti-anxiety medications, this drug does not have sedative, anticonvulsant, or muscle relaxant properties.

Dosage for buspirone is generally based on medical history, but is often started at a minimum of 10 to 15 mg a day. The dosage may be brought up in 5 mg increments until the patient is satisfied with the results. This may take some time, however. The drug may take anywhere from three to six weeks before the patient feels the maximum effect. Patients are often advised to continue taking this drug as prescribed, unless a doctor directs otherwise.

As with any other medication, buspirone may present some side effects. Some of the most common side effects include dizziness or lightheadedness, insomnia or fatigue, headache, or feelings of nervousness. Less-common side effects may involve anger, depression or hostility, numbness in the extremities, or sleep disturbances. Some may also experience dry mouth, flatulence, or heart palpitations. Many of these reactions are considered mild and will usually pass as the body becomes used to the new medication.

In addition to causing some potential side effects, buspirone may also interact with other medications or foods. Patients taking this drug are often advised to avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice, as they can increase the amount of medication that goes into the bloodstream. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) should not be taken 10 days before starting or after stopping this medication, as this combination may cause a potentially life-threatening increase of blood pressure. The dosage of drugs that either speed up or slow down the removal of this medication, such as azole antifungals and anticonvulsants, may be either discontinued or altered.

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