Buspar (Buspirone): Anti-Anxiety Medication

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 27, 2023

Table of Contents

Buspar is the branded version of buspirone, a medication used to treat GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).

First approved by the FDA in 1986, Buspar is now discontinued, although Buspar medication is still available in generic form as buspirone, although many people still use Buspar and buspirone interchangeably. The medication was discontinued for reasons of safety and effectiveness.

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What is Buspar?

Although Buspar is no longer available, buspirone is a chemically identical generic version of the medication.

You should only take buspirone as directed by your doctor since it can trigger an array of adverse side effects.

If you have generalized anxiety disorder, taking buspirone can help you to think more clearly, relax more, and worry less. Buspar can also help mitigate some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, like sweating, insomnia, and accelerated heartbeat.

Research shows that buspirone is ineffective for treating other types of anxiety disorder. When used to treat substance use disorders, outcomes are often disappointing, according to the same study.

Buspar Drug Class

Buspirone is an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety medication) from the azapirone class. The medication is unlike other common anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines and barbiturates.

Buspar is prescribed almost exclusively for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. While there has been some limited research into the utility of buspirone for the treatment of social anxiety disorder, results have been disappointing.

Most anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium take effect almost immediately. Buspar, on the other hand, takes up to a month before you notice the effects. Your prescribing doctor will give you an accurate idea of when to expect to feel the benefits of Buspar. You should also consult your doctor if you have any concerns about the following buspirone side effects.

Is Buspirone Addictive?

Buspirone does have potential for abuse and can lead to addiction in certain cases. It is best to be weary and only use the exact prescribed amount when taking any medication, especially anti-anxiety medications like buspirone or other options like Zoloft or Lexapro. Taking too much buspirone can lead to overdose which can cause a number of dangerous symptoms that may require medical attention.

Along with addiction potential, there are withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug that can cause confusion, increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, headaches, and more.

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Buspar Side Effects

There are two categories of Buspar side effects:

  • Common Buspirone Side Effects
  • Serious Buspirone Side Effects

Common Buspirone Side Effects

It is commonplace to experience any of the following buspirone side effects during the first few weeks of taking the medication:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Excitement
  • Insomnia
  • Increased perspiration

Of all the above side effects, dizziness is the most common, affecting 10% of those taking buspirone.

Serious Buspirone Side Effects

The following buspirone side effects are less common and potentially dangerous:

  • Thyroid abnormalities
  • Hallucinations
  • Eye pain
  • Heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure
  • PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
  • Suicidal ideation

You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the above symptoms after taking Buspar. You should also consult your prescribing doctor.

Fortunately, there is minimal risk of either psychological or physical dependence on Buspar. There is a very low risk of overdose.

Does Buspar Cause Weight Gain?

While taking buspirone can trigger any of the adverse outcomes above, the medication is not frequently associated with weight gain, unlike most anxiety and depression medications.

There are almost no reports of clinically significant weight gain among those taking buspirone.

Buspar Dosage

You can take Buspar with or without food, but you must take the medication consistently, typically two or three times a day.

Buspirone doses vary from 5mg to 30mg. The 5mg and 10mg tablets are scored to promote easy splitting and reducing the lowest dosage to 2.5mg.

Most people with generalized anxiety disorder respond favorably to dosages of 15mg to 30mg.

If you start taking this anti-anxiety medication and you need the dosage increased, it can be stepped up by 5mg every two or three days.

The slow-acting nature of buspirone means it can take several weeks before you feel the effects.

Buspirone is normally prescribed for a few months to a year. When your prescribing doctor feels you no longer need Buspar, they will gradually taper your dosage, mitigating some of the adverse effects of Buspar withdrawal.

If you miss a single dose of buspirone, you should take the medication as soon as possible. If it is nearly time to take the next dose, skip the missed tablet and continue with your normal schedule.

When you are taking Buspar, you should avoid drinking too much grapefruit juice. This can impact the way buspirone travels through the body, possibly leading to more of the medication being absorbed.

Additionally, it is advisable to avoid consuming alcohol while taking buspirone. Combining alcohol and Buspar can heighten drowsiness and lightheadedness. You could also trigger more serious outcomes associated with breathing, muscle control, and memory.

How Does Buspar Work?

Buspirone impacts neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin.

The medication is classified as a serotonin receptor agonist. As such, it will increase activity in the brain’s serotonin receptors, leading to a decrease in anxiety.

Buspar is seldom used as a first-line treatment and is often prescribed in combination with other medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Buspirone can also be effective if other medications prove ineffective or cause too many side effects.

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Anxiety Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you have been grappling with a generalized anxiety disorder or any other form of anxiety disorder, we can help you here at Renaissance Recovery Center’s California rehab.

In addition to providing outpatient programs for anxiety disorders, we also offer treatment for the following:

  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Substance use disorders

Many people with undiagnosed mental health conditions self-medicate the symptoms of anxiety or depression, sometimes leading to a co-occurring disorder requiring integrated dual diagnosis treatment.

We have outpatient programs at all levels of intensity, including IOPs and PHPs, ideal if you have a more severe anxiety disorder or co-occurring disorder.

You may find MAT (medication-assisted treatment) with drugs like Buspar beneficial. MAT at Renaissance is always delivered in combination with counseling and psychotherapy.

With access to mental health specialists and a variety of evidence-based and holistic therapies, you can start living unshackled from anxiety. Take the first vital step by calling our addiction hotline at 866.330.9449 today.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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