September 1994

Buspirone Treatment of Anxious AlcoholicsA Placebo-Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

From the Alcohol Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(9):720-731. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950090052008

Background:  Symptoms of anxiety are common in alcoholics and may contribute to relapse following initiation of abstinence. Buspirone hydrochloride, a serotonin1A partial agonist, has a pharmacologic profile that may be particularly suited to the treatment of anxious alcoholics.

Methods:  We conducted a randomized, 12-week, placebo-controlled trial of buspirone in 61 anxious alcoholics, all of whom also received weekly relapse prevention psychotherapy. Outcomes were measured at the end of treatment and at a 6-month follow-up evaluation.

Results:  Buspirone therapy was associated with greater retention in the 12-week treatment trial, reduced anxiety, a slower return to heavy alcohol consumption, and fewer drinking days during the follow-up period.

Conclusions:  Buspirone appears to have a useful role in the treatment of anxious alcoholics. Further research is needed to clarify which patient characteristics and concomitant treatments result in optimal response to buspirone therapy.