Clinical Effects of Buspirone on Intractable Self-Injury in Adults with Mental Retardation

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The efficacy of buspirone in controlling self-injurious behavior was examined in five individuals with mental retardation. Buspirone was used alone in two individuals and as an adjunct to thioridazine in the other three.


Standard behavioral observation methods were used to collect data on the number of self-injurious responses of the individuals during baseline and several doses of buspirone in an open trial.


When compared with baseline levels, all five individuals showed some response to buspirone, with reductions in self-injury ranging from 13% to 72%, depending on the dose. The most effective dose of buspirone was 30 mg/day for three individuals and 52.5 mg/day for the other two. These individuals were maintained for 6 to 33 weeks on their most effective dose. Coexistent symptoms of anxiety did not predict a favorable response to buspirone therapy.


Buspirone showed a mixed but generally favorable response in controlling intractable self-injury in this and four previous studies reporting similar cases. However, the drug should not be endorsed as a proved treatment for self-injury until similar results have been obtained from well-controlled studies of its efficacy.

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