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buspirone experience

Posted by Peter Pelops on October 1, 2002, at 13:16:56

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for which I take buspirone. When
I was considering doing this, I searched the Net for information about
the drug. I found lots of technical information--stuff about binding
sites, and so on--but very little about the actual experiences of people
who had taken it. I hope that this brief account will help those
considering doing something about their symptoms to do it. The medical
information in it is taken from various sources on the Net and
elsewhere, and though it is faithfully reported, you should not rely
on it--or on anything that's just from "some guy on the Net"--without
checking it out with an expert.

I am now 49 years old, and have suffered from anxiety for many years.
Like many people, I didn't know it; I thought that my chronic,
debilitating anxiety was an *effect* of lack of sleep, job and
family frustration, and so on. It is, of course, to some extent.
Everyone feels some anxiety, and it gets worse when things get rough.
But not everyone has chest pains, constipation, serious sleep problems,
inability to concentrate, terrible memory, daytime sleepiness, bruxism,
and constant muscular tension. Not everyone reacts as though simple,
everyday demands were matters of life and death. These are symptoms of
morbid anxiety, of a fight-or-flight mechanism gone insane.

I am a professional man, and I had for years felt that I was just
hanging on by a thread--that if anyone found out how crazy and
dysfunctional I was, I'd be out of a job in a second. My marriage
was in pretty bad shape (and still is, I must admit; two months doesn't
fix much after twenty-five years), partly due to my inability to
tolerate conflict and change, which increase an already extreme
anxiety to intolerable levels. My relationships with other people,
including my children, were affected also as, like any chronically ill
non-saint, I had less and less time or energy for anyone but myself.
Again, there has not been time yet to repair this, but I feel that
it will now be possible.

After years of misery I finally did some research on anxiolytics, drugs
that dissolve anxiety. The mildest and safest of these, probably, is
buspirone. (Venlafaxine would be next, I guess, followed by SSRIs.
After that it's benzodiazepines, which make you dopey. I'd rather live
insane and die young(er) than spend the rest of my life on Valium, but
*cada uno con lo suyo*, as they say.) I took the Hamilton Anxiety
Scale (HAM-A) test, which is available free online, and scored a 25.
Then I talked to my tendentiously drug-averse family doctor, who, to
my surprise, agreed that my diagnosis was probably correct and that
buspirone was the thing to try first. I never did a better or smarter
thing in my life. I wish I'd done it years ago. I should say that it
wasn't easy; I was brought up to have a stiff upper lip and to take
responsibility for my feelings and actions, and I've been terrified of
drugs, especially psychoactive drugs, since some bad experiences I had
thirty years ago.

It takes two to four weeks for buspirone to work (though there's a nice
placebo effect that makes you feel better anyway for the first few days;
ain't the universe a wonderful place?). In my case it was much closer
to two. It doesn't work for everybody, and it doesn't work as well on
people who have taken benzodiazepines as it does on those who haven't.
It's been around since about 1987, and there are few reported cases of
severe side effects. The warnings, et cetera, are widely available on the
Web; read them. Don't use it if you're taking an MAOI. If you get that
far in the technical literature, you may be frightened by the fact that
buspirone binds to D2, the site to which the neuroleptics bind; I was,
and I talked to my doctor. He informed me that he did not know of any
cases of tardive dyskinesia from buspirone, or of the other awful side
effects of those much stronger drugs. I have continued to search the Net
for evidence, and have found none. (The binding to D2 is not nearly as
strong as it is for the neuroleptics.) I've stopped worrying about it...

I have now been on buspirone for two months, and my symptoms are much
relieved. I have much less anxiety, especially that awful free-floating
anxiety which used to wait to pounce on every stray thought. My chest
pain is gone. My concentration is vastly better, as is my memory.
I'm no longer constipated, my muscular tension is greatly reduced, and
my bruxism appears only when I'm exhausted. I no longer exhibit
"daytime sleepiness," a curse connected with all the others. I still
have occasional anxiety, but so do normal people; I wouldn't want that
to go away, and I don't expect it to. I don't seem to sleep any better,
but there are other reasons for that (I have obstructive sleep apnea,
and use CPAP to get as much sleep as I do).

About twenty minutes after I take a dose of buspirone (I take it at
around 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.) I get an unpleasant buzz that is probably
what the warnings call "dizziness," although it's not--it's closer to the
brain-sloshing feeling of a bad hangover, without the pain. A feeling of
weakness (what the literature calls "paresthesia") accompanies it. These
feelings peak very soon (after perhaps fifteen minutes) and then decline,
but are noticeable for at least an hour. I also often experience what is
delicately described as "loose stool." All the side effects are
dose-dependent. I went up to 30mg/day during the first month, as a trial,
but for the last month have been on 15mg/day, which seems to work fine.
At the highest dose, the side effects, which unfortunately show up long
before the therapeutic effects, were much more pronounced. During the day
I sometimes feel a little odd, as though the buzz I described was staying
with me just at the threshhold of perception.

The bottom line is this. I hate being dependent on a drug, and I hate
classifying myself as one of the mentally ill (as honesty compels me
to do), but I would never go back to living the way I lived just a few
months ago. It has certainly not solved all my problems; I still
have plenty, including some I don't know how to deal with. But it has
improved my daily life, and has made it more possible for me to cope
with what I must do.

Good luck, and Godspeed.




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