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.
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.
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.
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.
Kranzler HR, Burleson JA, Del Boca FK, Babor TF, Korner P, Brown J, Bohn MJ. Buspirone Treatment of Anxious AlcoholicsA Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(9):720–731. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950090052008