Buspirone, otherwise known as BuSpar, is a medicine used by physicians to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Buspirone is not at all related to other anti-anxiety medications, such as sedatives or benzodiazepines, and the effectiveness of using the drug to treat generalized anxiety disorder has been established.

The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1986 to treat generalized anxiety disorder under its brand name BuSpar, but the patent expired in 2001, allowing it to be sold as a generic drug. It belongs to the azapirone class of medications, which includes other antipsychotic and anxiolytic medicines.

Is Buspirone a Good Alternative to Benzodiazepines?

The question asked by many experts is whether buspirone is a good alternative to potent benzodiazepine drugs. Harvard University and its physicians weighed in on the topic and described it as a less effective means of treating generalized anxiety disorder than benzos.

The reason is that benzodiazepines work immediately, while buspirone may take several weeks to treat generalized anxiety disorder. The bonus of this, however, is that it does not cause physical dependence like its counterpart. Benzodiazepines have the potential to be deadly when abused, which makes them undesirable for many. You must speak to your doctor about your options and find out if the risks outweigh the negatives.

Risks of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are highly potent medications available by prescription throughout the United States. These drugs run the risk of dependence and addiction, which can be deadly in some cases, especially when taken in conjunction with opioids.

According to the American Family Physician, many of the four million daily benzodiazepine users throughout the United States meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for substance dependence. Outpatient individuals using benzodiazepines for long-term therapy have the potential to experience a protracted and uncomfortable withdrawal syndrome that may last months.

In addition to the abuse and potential to become addicted, there are other significant risks associated with benzodiazepine use, which includes:

Cognitive Impairment

Benzodiazepines will cause acute effects that include ataxia, anterograde amnesia, ataxia, motor incoordination, and decreased reaction time. Long-term use of a drug such as Valium led to substantial cognitive decline that was not resolved after three months of discontinuation.

Motor Vehicle Crashes

Estimates show the risk of driving under the influence of benzodiazepines is similar to driving with a blood-alcohol level between 0.050 percent and 0.079 percent. It is an alcohol level higher than 0.08 percent, which is illegal in every state.

Hip Fractures

Benzodiazepine use has been shown to increase the risk of hip fractures in the elderly by 50 percent.  The same study showed that zolpidem (Ambien) also increased the risk of a fractured hip by 2.55 times in elderly individuals over 65.

Buspirone or Benzodiazepines?

White pills in a handThe question of which medication you should take can only be answered by a medical professional with access to your drug and mental health history.

While one person may benefit from buspirone, another may not.

The same goes for benzodiazepines.

If buspirone does not alleviate your anxiety or you cannot take it due to medical interactions or a medical condition, your doctor will help you decide the best alternative.

It may include SSRIs, benzodiazepines, or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Speak to a professional today for help.

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