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More than 23 percent of all US adult women experience an anxiety disorder on an annual basis, making anxiety one of the most common mental health issues.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your healthcare provider may suggest taking the medication BuSpar® to control your symptoms.
Many medications for anxiety and depression are associated with changes in your body weight, including weight gain and weight loss.
Does BuSpar cause weight gain? The good news is that there isn’t much of a link between the use of BuSpar and changes in body composition. In fact, in clinical trials of BuSpar, weight gain and weight loss were both extremely infrequent side effects.
Below, we’ve explained what BuSpar is, as well as how it’s used as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and other forms of anxiety.
We’ve also talked about why you shouldn’t feel overly concerned about weight gain while you’re using BuSpar to treat anxiety, as well as what you can do to maintain a healthy weight while you take part in treatment.
BuSpar is an anti-anxiety medication. It’s used to manage anxiety disorders and as a short-term treatment for anxiety symptoms that develop from time to time. BuSpar is also sometimes used as an augmentation agent (meaning a second medication) for treating depression.
The active ingredient in BuSpar is buspirone, which belongs to a class of medications known as azapirones. Experts believe that buspirone reduces feelings of anxiety by targeting receptors in your brain and body, including serotonin 5HT1a and 5HT2 and dopamine D2 autoreceptors.
The first of these advantages is that BuSpar isn’t associated with physical dependence, allowing it to be used with a lower risk of forming habits.
The second is that BuSpar doesn’t cause the withdrawal symptoms that are typically associated with benzodiazepines and SSRIs.
Because of these advantages, BuSpar is often used as a second-line treatment when SSRIs and other medications aren’t effective at controlling the symptoms of anxiety.
BuSpar is currently available as a generic medication and comes as an oral tablet. It’s generally used at a dosage of 15 to 60mg per day to treat generalized anxiety disorder, divided into two to three doses.
Many medications for anxiety and depression are associated with some level of weight gain. For example, changes in appetite and body weight are common side effects of some SSRIs, as well as many tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
Unlike other medications for anxiety and depression, BuSpar generally isn’t associated with any significant degree of drug-induced weight gain.
In clinical trials of BuSpar, researchers found that changes in body weight, including weight gain and weight loss, were infrequent side effects, meaning they occurred in less than one percent of study participants.
Because of this, BuSpar is often referred to as a “weight neutral” medication for managing the symptoms of anxiety.
Although BuSpar isn’t associated with an increased risk of weight gain, it can cause other side effects. Many of these are mild side effects that improve over time, although some side effects of BuSpar may be persistent or bothersome.
The most common side effect associated with BuSpar is dizziness, which affects more than 10 percent of people prescribed this medication.
Other common adverse effects of BuSpar include:
Ataxia (lack of coordination)
Burning or prickling sensations
Outbursts of anger
Muscle pain and/or joint pain
Elevated liver enzymes
Unlike many other medications used to treat anxiety and depression, BuSpar usually isn’t linked to sexual dysfunction or other sexual side effects.
Many side effects of BuSpar may improve over time. Inform your healthcare provider if you have any persistent or severe side effects while using BuSpar.
Although BuSpar is typically a safe and effective medication when it’s used as prescribed, it can interact with other medications and potentially cause safety issues.
Medications and substances that can interact with BuSpar and generic buspirone include:
Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine, phenobarbital and phenytoin
Other medications for treating anxiety, such as benzodiazepines
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants (TCAs and TeCAs)
Other medications for treating depression
Antibiotics such as erythromycin
Pain medications and narcotics
Sleeping pills and tranquilizers
Muscle relaxant medications
Other over-the-counter and prescription medications may also interact with BuSpar. To limit your risk of drug interactions, make sure to inform your healthcare provider about all medications you currently use or have recently used before starting treatment with BuSpar.
It’s especially important to inform your healthcare provider if you’ve used an MAOI within the last 14 days, as medications of this type may remain in your system for several weeks after the most recent dose, creating a risk of drug interactions.
BuSpar can interact with medications and substances that affect the enzyme CYP3A4, including grapefruit juice. Make sure to avoid consuming grapefruit juice or grapefruit while taking BuSpar or generic buspirone.
If you’re concerned about gaining weight while using BuSpar, making a few simple changes to your habits can help you to maintain your normal body weight and lower your risk of putting on weight during treatment.
Use the following tips to maintain a healthy, stable weight while you use BuSpar:
Check your initial body weight before you start taking medication. If you’re worried about gaining weight while using BuSpar, make a note of your original weight before you start using medication.
This way, you’ll be able to accurately track any changes in your body weight that happen during treatment.
Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body burns as paper of basic functions. Understanding your BMR can help you to avoid overeating and gaining weight (or undereating and losing weight).
To avoid any unwanted changes in your body weight, try to eat roughly the same amount of calories that your body needs on a daily basis.
Eat a healthy diet. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The CDC recommends designing your diet around ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
To minimize the impact on comfort foods and junk foods, stick to small portions and try to enjoy these foods in moderation.
Keep yourself physically active. Physical activity not only helps to burn fat — it’s also a great way to prevent feelings of anxiety. Exercise can help to distract you from the things that make you feel anxious while changing your brain chemistry to improve your mood.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week, even if it’s just going for a walk around your neighborhood or doing a quick daily workout.
Don’t worry about small weight changes. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate by a few pounds over the course of each day, often due to changes in your fluid levels or the amount of food in your digestive system.
Try to avoid worrying about small increases or decreases in your weight. Instead, weigh yourself infrequently and focus on the long-term trend before changing your habits and diet to increase or decrease your body weight.
Does BuSpar cause weight gain? Unlike many antidepressant medications, BuSpar and generic buspirone aren’t associated with an increased risk of weight gain.
If you’re prescribed BuSpar and have concerns about your weight, try using the habits above to maintain a healthy weight while you use your medication. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you notice any sudden changes in your appetite, eating habits or body weight.
If you think that you might have an anxiety disorder, you can get help by talking to your primary care provider or contacting a mental health professional in your area.
You can also get help from home with our range of online mental health services, including our online psychiatry service. If appropriate, you’ll receive ongoing care and medication to help you gain control over your anxiety symptoms.
Finally, you can find out more about dealing with anxiety, depression and other common mental health issues using our free online mental health resources and content.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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