Lexapro vs. Buspar

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(Image: "Bug on a Drug" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: methTICALman (Evan Cooper) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Lexapro (escitalopram) and Buspar (buspirone) are medications approved by the FDA to treat anxiety. Lexapro is also used to treat depression in adults and children over 12 years of age. While Lexapro is in a class of antidepressants called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors), Buspar is not related to that class of antidepressants.

Mechanisms of Action

Lexapro works by balancing the brain chemical serotonin and thereby allowing the messages regarding mood and emotions to reach the nerves that need them.

How Buspar affects the brain is not completely understood. It is believed that, like Lexapro, it alerts the serotonin in the brain, but also dopamine as well.

Dosing

Lexapro is available is 5mg, 10mg and 20mg tablets and Buspar in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, or 30 mg tablets.

The starting dose of Lexapro is typically 10mg and can be increased to up to 20mg per day. The recommended starting dose for Buspar is 15mg and can be increased up to 60mg.

Common Side Effects

Both drugs have been known to cause dizziness, headaches and nausea.

Buspar Side Effects

The most frequently reported side effects in addition to the ones listed above, include nervousness, excitability, and light-headedness. Other side effects include chest pain, abnormal dreams, ringing of the ears, sore throat and congestion.

Lexapro Side Effects

Additional common side effects include drowsiness, insomnia, gas, heartburn, gastrointestinal upset, constipation, weight gain or loss, decreased libido, dry mouth, yawning and ringing of the ears.

Warnings

Buspar and Lexapro are both known to cause a condition known as discontinuation syndrome. This occurs when a dose is missed or when the patient stops treatment altogether. The symptoms of this syndrome include an increase in side effects because the central nervous system is affected. Symptoms include severe dizziness, insomnia, loss of balance, sensory disturbances such as shock-like sensations in the brain, nervousness, drowsiness, and lightheaded feeling, increased nausea; increased headache and substantial fatigue. According to the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians), this syndrome is likely to effect upwards of 20 percent of patients who take one of these drugs for at least six weeks. Because of this syndrome, patients that seek to stop Buspar or Lexapro treatment should first consult their prescribing physicians before attempting to do so. A gradual taper regimen is recommended to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

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