Can I Take BuSpar for OCD Symptoms?
Did you know that approximately 31% of Americans (children and adults) struggle with or have struggled with an anxiety disorder like OCD? It is true.
And, with the pandemic in full swing, this percentage is likely to rise.
Do you feel “tethered” to OCD? Does it control your days and nights, affecting your work or school productivity and relationships? Do you feel compelled to repeat certain behaviors and “acts” to get relief from the never-ending intrusive thoughts? Is it all too much, not just for you, but for everyone in your orbit?
Do you wish you could make it all stop but are unable to find the path to “OCD freedom?” If the answers to any of the questions posed are “yes,” you may have an anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. If this is the case, you will need OCD treatment to “untether” yourself from this involuntary, repetitive, and highly upsetting condition.
Treating anxiety disorders, like OCD, can be tricky to treat. Complete recovery often hinges on a multi-treatment approach that involves medication, therapy, and self-help tools. One such treatment that is not only affordable and accessible but also effective, is buspirone, the generic version of BuSpar.
BuSpar was not a popular anxiety medication, however, it became more popular over the years, primarily because of its milder side-effects – in comparison to other anti-anxiety medications. BuSpar was originally developed to treat psychosis, however, studies indicate that it was either equally effective or more effective for anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and OCD. American psychiatrists and other medical doctors began to prescribe BuSpar more often to people, struggling with anxiety disorders like OCD – before it was taken off the market.
So, what should you do if you or a loved one is struggling with OCD?
Keep reading this article because it will help you better understand what BuSpar was, why it was prescribed, how worked, its side-effects, and what to do now that BuSpar is unavailable. Thus, the main goal of this article is to help you determine if the generic version of BuSpar, buspirone, could work for your OCD symptoms.
Can you take BuSpar for your OCD symptoms? No. However, there are alternative medications and other resources and tools you can take to get your symptoms under control.
What is BuSpar?
BuSpar, the brand name of buspirone, belonged to a group of medications, known as azapirones. It was used to reduce or eliminate anxiety. BuSpar was usually prescribed with an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or an SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) to ease stress and reduce your jitters.
However, the exact way BuSpar functioned in the body is still largely unknown. But what is known is that BuSpar did not relax your muscles – unlike most current anti-anxiety meds. Moreover, most people did not experience severe drowsiness or sleepiness after taking the medication, which is why it was prescribed to people suffering from OCD.
According to researchers, BuSpar attaches to certain serotonin receptors in the brain. These cells bind to serotonin, a hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for regulating and boosting your mood.
In 1985, the FDA approved BuSpar for the treatment of GAD and other anxiety disorders, like OCD, phobias, social anxiety disorder, etc. However, this approval was revoked in 2010 due to safety reasons.
Researchers studied the effects of BuSpar and doctors used the medication in the treatment of the following conditions:
- Clinical Depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
- SSRI & SNRI Sexual Side-Effects
- OCD, Social Phobias, Panic Disorder, Panic Attacks, etc.
While BuSpar was prescribed for anxiety conditions, like OCD, buspirone, the generic version, is still being studied for its effectiveness in the treatment of mood disorders, like depression and bipolar disorder.
More specifically, researchers have determined that buspirone can be beneficial for people, who are either currently experiencing some relief from SSRIs or SNRIs (antidepressants) or who experienced some relief from one of them in the past. In other words, buspirone (generic) appears to be extremely effective for people, who respond will with SSRIs or SNRIs, but still need another medication to successfully manage their anxiety and OCD symptoms.
According to a 2006 study, approximately 33% of people, who are unable to garner noticeable relief from an SSRI antidepressant, benefit from adding buspirone to their treatment plans. While a more recent 2020 study found that buspirone does not provide significant relief or added benefits when added to an SSRI antidepressant.
Is BuSpar Still Available?
No, it is not.
In 1986, BuSpar received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, in 2010, the FDA revoked its approval of BuSpar and discontinued the medication due to safety and efficacy concerns (i.e., risk of suicide). Buspirone, the generic version of BuSpar, is still available for those seeking relief from their anxiety and OCD symptoms. However, you are no longer able to purchase the name-brand version, BuSpar.
Was BuSpar Offered in Pill Form, Liquid Form, or Both Forms?
BuSpar was only offered in pill form for oral consumption. The pills came in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, and 30mg doses of buspirone hydrochloride.
What Medications Can Help Alleviate Anxiety and OCD Symptoms?
SSRIs and SNRIs are normally the first lines of treatment for anxiety conditions, like OCD. However, BuSpar was also prescribed for OCD as an add-on for SSRIs and SNRIs (anti-depressants).
Many mental health providers prescribed SSRIs and SNRIs to people struggling with OCD and other anxiety disorders because are highly researched and effective for a variety of anxiety conditions. BuSpar came later and was designed to enhance the effects of SSRIs and SNRIs. Moreover, all three (SSRIs, SNRIs, and BuSpar) medications appeared to be well-tolerated by a large number of people.
Note: Other medications (besides SSRIs, SNRIs, and buspirone), like MAOIs and beta-blockers, can also help you effectively manage your OCD symptoms.
Common FDA-approved medications for anxiety disorders, like GAD and OCD:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants, can increase your production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter or brain chemical messenger that is responsible for regulating your moods, libido (sex drive), sleep quality, appetite, and memory. SSRIs can also alleviate your stress and ease your angst.
Note: Doctors typically start you off with the lowest SSRI dose, gradually increasing it as needed.
Listed below are SSRIs commonly used to treat anxiety conditions, like OCD:
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), antidepressants, are commonly prescribed to people, who are suffering from clinical depression, however, they are also sometimes prescribed “off-label” conditions, such as a wide variety of anxiety disorders (i.e., OCD, GAD, phobias, etc.), along with long-term chronic nerve pain. SNRIs interact with neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain), which reduces anxiety and OCD symptoms.
Similar to most antidepressants, SNRIs alter your brain chemistry and your brain nerve cell circuitry, which is responsible for balancing your moods, reducing your depression, and easing your angst. Ultimately, SNRIs prevent your brain from reabsorbing serotonin and norepinephrine.
Listed below are SNRIs that can help you better manage your anxiety and OCD symptoms:
- Effexor XR (extended-release venlafaxine)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
- Fetzima (levomilnacipran)
Benzodiazepines (“Benzos”) are sedatives or drugs created to promote calmness or cause sleepiness. “Benzos” are designed to relieve muscle tension and “quiet” the mind. “Benzos” can enhance the effects of specific neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters transfer messages throughout your body. “Benzos” are suitable for a wide range of anxiety disorders, such as OCD, GAD, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.
Listed below are benzodiazepines drugs that may alleviate your OCD symptoms:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are used to treat a variety of anxiety conditions, such as panic disorder, social phobia, and OCD. MAOIs work by boosting the production of neurotransmitters or chemical messengers in your brain responsible for calming your jitters and balancing your mood. Although the FDA has only approved MAOIs for the treatment of depression, many doctors prescribe them for off-label conditions, such as OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, GAD, etc.
Listed below are MAOIs commonly used to treat anxiety conditions:
- Marplan (isocarboxazid)
- Nardil (phenelzine)
- Emsam (selegiline)
- Parnate (tranylcypromine)
Although beta-blockers, beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are commonly prescribed to people, who are suffering heart conditions, they are also sometimes prescribed for “off-label” conditions, like anxiety and OCD. Beta-blockers can help ease physical symptoms of anxiety, OCD, and social phobias (i.e., shakiness, rapid heart rate, facial flushing, excessive perspiration or sweating, tremors, gastrointestinal distress or upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea) for hours.
Propranolol, the generic version of the beta-blocker, Inderal, is designed to reduce or alleviate anxiety and OCD symptoms during or after stressful or overwhelming situations, such as giving an important presentation at work, taking a college exam that could dictate your career path, giving birth to a baby for the first time, getting married, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, experiencing or witnessing war atrocities, domestic violence, or child abuse, etc.
Listed below are beta-blockers that could help you get a grasp on your OCD symptoms:
- Inderal (propranolol)
- Tenormin (atenolol)
Buspirone (Generic Form of BuSpar)
Buspirone is neither an SSRI nor SNRI, rather it is an anxiolytic or anti-anxiety medication that alters the certain natural chemicals in your brain so that your anxiety and OCD symptoms subside. Buspirone, the generic version of BuSpar, is still available – even though its brand name, BuSpar, has been discontinued. Buspirone is commonly prescribed to people, who are suffering from a variety of anxiety conditions, such as short-term and long-term anxiety, OCD, GAD, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, panic attacks, phobias, etc.
As mentioned above, the jury is still out when it comes to exactly how this medication functions in the body and how it reduces anxiety and OCD symptoms. However, the consensus is that it affects the neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) that are responsible for controlling your moods. Understand that it could take several weeks before you see noticeable changes in your anxiety, mood, and OCD symptoms.
Listed below is the brand name associated with buspirone:
- BuSpar – discontinued
Is There a Recommended BuSpar Dosage for OCD?
Yes, there is.
The recommended dosage of buspirone (the generic version of BuSpar) is:
- 5mg three times a day for the 1st week (15mg total, per day)
- 10mg two or three times a week for the 2nd week (20mg or 30mg total, per day)
- 7.5mg twice a day or 5mg three times a day for the last two weeks (maintenance dose)
Note: You may experience some relief as early as the 1st week, however, the most significant
improvement may not occur until the 4th week. The maximum dose for anxiety conditions, like OCD, is usually 60mg. Improvement in your anxiety and OCD symptoms will not be swift. Rather, the improvement will likely be subtle and gradual. Your friends and loved ones are likely to notice an improvement in your anxiety and OCD symptoms before you do.
Buspirone can be taken with or without food. However, taking this medication with food can help ward-off nausea.
If you plan to take buspirone with food follow these important instructions:
- Refrain from drinking alcohol while taking buspirone. Alcohol can enhance or strengthen the effects of buspirone, causing excessive sleepiness or drowsiness.
- Also, avoid grapefruit juice while taking buspirone. Grapefruit juice can cause your body’s production of buspirone to skyrocket. So, check with your pharmacist before drinking grapefruit juice.
Was BuSpar Expensive?
No, it was affordable.
BuSpar was not expensive. It retailed at $18 for sixty 10mg tablets with almost all health insurance plans covering it.
How Long Did It Take for BuSpar to Work?
For many people, BuSpar did not work immediately. Most people did not see noticeable results for 2-4 weeks. Some doctors also prescribed a benzodiazepine medication (i.e., Xanax, Ativan, etc.) or a hydroxyzine medication (i.e., Atarax) to anxious people, while they waited for BuSpar to “jump start.” These medications provided immediate relief to people, suffering from anxiety and OCD symptoms, and waiting for BuSpar to work.
Were There Any Benefits Associated with Taking BuSpar for OCD?
Yes, there were some benefits associated with taking this medication for OCD.
BuSpar was beneficial for GAD, OCD, and panic disorder. It was also unlikely to cause extreme drowsiness or fatigue. BuSpar did not appear to be addictive or lead to withdrawal symptoms, upon stopping the medication.
Were There Any Disadvantages Associated with Taking BuSpar for OCD?
Yes, there were some disadvantages associated with taking this medication for OCD.
Unlike the benzodiazepines (“benzos”), BuSpar did not produce immediate effects. In other words, taking one BuSpar pill (as needed) would not alleviate your OCD symptoms. Researchers found that taking BuSpar during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy could lead to delivery and birth complications.
What Were the Side-Effects of Taking BuSpar for OCD?
Most people did well with BuSpar. However, most medications have side-effects.
The most common side-effects of BuSpar were:
- Mild Drowsiness
The more serious side-effects of BuSpar were:
- Stiff, achy muscles
- Elevated heart rate
- Mental confusion
- Agitation or irritability
Note: Consult your doctor, call 911, or go to your nearest ER if your OCD symptoms persist or worsen.
Could BuSpar Interact with Other Medications?
Before taking any new medication, research potential drug interactions.
Listed below are medications that could have interacted with BuSpar:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are usually prescribed for depression and Parkinson’s disease, and as such, they pose the highest risk of a drug interaction when combined for BuSpar. When MAOIs and BuSpar are taken together, serotonin levels can become elevated. Elevated serotonin levels can turn into serotonin syndrome. Thus, the best way to prevent a potential drug interaction with medications like BuSpar is to stop MAOIs at least 14 days before you start taking an anti-anxiety medication, like BuSpar.
- Another medication that could interact with BuSpar is erythromycin. Erythromycin is a common antibiotic designed to increase your body’s production of buspirone – when taken orally. High buspirone levels can increase your risk of side-effects.
- Anti-seizure medications, like phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and phenobarbital can reduce your body’s production of buspirone. As a result, the effects of BuSpar may be diluted or not as effective.
How Does BuSpar Compare to Xanax for OCD?
BuSpar probably doesn’t automatically pop into your mind when you think of anxiety or anti-anxiety medications. The most popular anti-anxiety medication on the market is Xanax. Xanax is a benzothiazine (“benzo”) commonly used to treat anxiety conditions like OCD. Studies suggest that buspirone (the generic version of BuSpar) is just as effective as present-day “benzos.”
Buspirone is not only still available, but also safer and more effective, reliable, affordable, and accessible than “benzos” like Xanax. Buspirone also has fewer side-effects than Xanax. Moreover, buspirone does not appear to be addictive, unlike Xanax. Researchers found that buspirone is a highly effective and safe medication that can be beneficial for a wide variety of people. There is also less risk of withdrawal symptoms and tiredness with buspirone than with Xanax. Xanax comes with a host of side-effects and is highly addictive with long-term use.
What Else Can I Use for My OCD Symptoms?
Well, as mentioned above, the generic version of BuSpar is still on the market, so your doctor may prescribe this or another anti-anxiety medication, like Xanax, for your OCD symptoms. Or, he or she may combine the two medications (buspirone and a benzodiazepine) for maximum OCD relief.
You can also supplement your prescribed treatment plan with self-help tools and lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, attending hypnotherapy sessions, connecting with other people on OCD forums, practicing healthy coping skills and relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, mindful meditation, yoga, etc., reading books on OCD, going to support group meetings, getting proper exercise and sleep, and/or investing in an online OCD treatment program, like Impulse Therapy.
Impulse Therapy offers an online OCD assessment and numerous resources and tools to help you get control of your OCD symptoms. Impulse Therapy can be combined with medications and/or therapy or used alone to provide added OCD support.