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.