BusPar (buspirone) for anxiety: What to know

BusPar (buspirone) for anxiety: What to know

Reviewed by:
Michael Roman, MD
Staff Psychiatrist
at Talkiatry
March 29, 2024
In this article

Anxiety can be debilitating. Constantly feeling worried everyday can hold you back from living your life, and have you searching for relief. If you have an anxiety disorder, medication can be helpful for reducing symptoms, and one that your doctor might prescribe is BusPar. While BusPar, a brand name medication has been discontinued, its generic form buspirone is still available today. In this article we will explain how this medication works, what the side effects are, and how to take it as part of your treatment plan.


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How does BuSpar work?

BusPar is the brand name for buspirone, which is also sold under Dividose and Vanspar. It’s known as an anxiolytic, a type of medication that’s used to help reduce feelings of anxiousness. The exact mechanics behind buspirone are a little complicated.

Your brain and body naturally produce neurotransmitters (little chemical messengers) called dopamine and serotonin. These help regulate your mood. When they’re depleted, it can leave you feeling anxious. Buspirone works by interacting with certain dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain, and increasing your brain’s sensitivity to them, which is believed to produce therapeutic effects.

When it comes to relieving anxiety, BusPar can help calm you down but treats anxiety in a very different way than benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, which are short-term treatments. Unlike benzodiazepines, BusPar is not a muscle relaxer or a sedative and has the advantage of not altering your thinking or making you drowsy.

What does buspirone treat?

Buspirone is FDA-approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a mental health condition that causes someone to experience intense and chronic feelings of worry. Anxiety disorders like GAD are different from normal feelings of anxiety, and an official diagnosis typically requires that a person experiences intense feelings of worrying daily for six months. Buspirone can provide relief for GAD, but may not help with symptoms of other types of anxiety disorders according to some studies.

Buspirone is also prescribed as a treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). This is an off-label use for buspirone, meaning the medication is used for a purpose other than what it was originally intended to treat, based on scientific studies. Buspirone works most effectively when paired with other SSRI antidepressants. So, if you're already taking an SSRI and need some extra help with depression, buspirone might be a good option to consider. It's always best to discuss this with your healthcare provider to see if it's the right choice for you.

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Why was BusPar discontinued?

BusPar was discontinued, but not for safety reasons. It was only discontinued after the generic version, buspirone, became more widely available. While the medication may not be sold under the BuSpar brand name, it is still available under the medication’s generic name buspirone, but through a prescription only. For the most up to date information about the availability of the buspirone, be sure to chat with a healthcare professional.

How long does it take BusPar to work?

Buspirone can take up to 3-4 weeks to start working to help your anxiety or depression. Some effects may kick in sooner, like decreased feelings of irritability or worry. This particular drug is intended to be taken two or three times a day depending on your doctor’s recommendation, so make sure to take it consistently and as directed for maximum effect.

However, the timeline may differ from person to person, which is why it’s important to work closely with a medical professional while taking this drug. Buspirone tablets can come in a variety of doses ranging from 5 mg-30 mg. A dosage of 15 mg-30 mg is common but can be increased if your doctor feels it is needed and you can benefit. The maximum amount of buspirone you should take in a day is 60 mg.

If you miss taking a dose, it’s important to take it as soon as possible. However, it is not recommended to double your next dose, so if you went a day without taking one, simply take your medication when it’s time to do so next. If you ever have questions about missed doses, reach out to your doctor.

Can you use buspirone long-term?

Buspirone is safe for long-term use, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to take it forever. How long you stay on it will depend on your body’s response to treatment and the recommendations of your doctor.  

Doctors typically recommend that your symptoms are in remission for 6-12 months to be considered stable At this point, you can start discussing a plan with your doctor to taper off, or gradually decrease the dosage of, the medication.

If you stop taking buspirone too soon, it can result in serotonin discontinuation syndrome, or withdrawal symptoms such as increased anxiety, burning or tingling feelings, dizziness, confusion, irritability, nausea, muscle cramps, sweating, tiredness, weakness, or trouble sleeping. Stopping the medication can also increase the risk of your anxiety symptoms returning, or even getting worse. In some cases, that same medication may not have the same effect the second time around. That’s why you should always talk to your doctor about going off medication first.


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Side effects

While not everyone experiences side effects, it's important to know that they can occur when taking buspirone. Some of the more common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling drowsy
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Blurred vision
  • Restlessness and trouble sleeping

If you're considering this medication for treatment, it's completely natural to have concerns. You can always talk to your doctor about any worries or questions you may have. You should also let them know if you experience any side effects or if they get worse.  

In some cases, this medication has been linked to more severe adverse effects, which your doctor will try to help minimize. These include:

  • Chest pains
  • Muscle weakness or numbness
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Stiffness in the arms or legs
  • Uncontrolled body movement
  • Confusion
  • Depression

While rare, allergic reactions can also occur for people taking buspirone. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, wheezing, itching, rashes, hives, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue after taking buspirone, seek medical attention and contact your prescribing doctor.

Precautions

While buspirone is safe and effective, there are some cases where a doctor might not prescribe it. People with kidney or liver disease should not take buspirone, which may not be fully processed in your system, leading to toxic amounts. It’s also not advised to take it if you’re taking MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). If you do, you may develop extremely high blood pressure, so be sure to consult your doctor on the medications you are taking first.  

Lastly, there isn’t a known risk to taking buspirone pregnancy, but some doctors may still advise you against it, If you are pregnant or breastfeeding your doctor will help you weigh any potential risks and benefits. It is recommended that you also seek consultation with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant for medical advice

Is BusPar good for my anxiety?

In many cases, buspirone has proven to be an effective treatment for anxiety, and can be a good alternative to medications like Xanax that can become habit-forming. However, use of buspirone is considered a second-line treatment for anxiety and there may be better choices to help with your symptoms in the long-term, like SSRIs.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t wait to get help. If you feel a medication such as buspirone can help with your symptoms of anxiety, reach out to a mental health professional to learn more about your treatment options. At Talkiatry, we can match you with a psychiatrist who fits your needs and takes your insurance. Get started with our  free online assessment and schedule your first visit.

FAQ

Here are more answers to your questions about BusPar.

What is BusPar?

BuSpar is a branded medication of buspirone, which is used for treating anxiety. It helps balance out levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and help calm symptoms of general anxiety disorder.

Do doctors still prescribe BusPar?

Doctors still prescribe buspirone—the generic name of BusPar—for anxiety, but it may not specifically be the BuSpar brand, which was discontinued now that the generic version of the drug is widely available.

What are the downsides to using buspirone?

Buspirone has been linked to side effects like nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision, which can make it less comfortable for some people. It can interact with certain medications, so it's important to discuss your medical history and current medications with your healthcare provider before starting buspirone.

What are other types of anxiety medication?

Besides buspirone, other types of anxiety medication include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), like Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), and Cymbalta (duloxetine), SNRI (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) like Effexor (venlafaxine), as well as benzodiazepines, like Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) and antihistamines like Vistaril (hydroxyzine). MAOIs, like selegiline, are an older class of antidepressant that are infrequently used due to serious side effects.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Dr. Michael Roman is currently a Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. He completed his adult psychiatry residency training at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Roman is a board-certified Adult Psychiatrist and a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

Dr. Roman’s clinical practice centers primarily around medication management and psychopharmacological treatment approaches. He also specializes in a variety of psychotherapeutic modalities which he utilizes in conjunction with medication management in order to provide patients with the best possible treatment outcomes.

Dr. Roman’s curiosity for the studies of the human mind began with pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was intrigued by the way our mind, body, emotions, and behavior were intertwined to comprise our everyday life experiences. His interest in the intricacy of the human mind was deepened in medical school, and he received his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He completed his adult psychiatry residency training at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Roman treats a wide spectrum of patients, but his primary clinical focus is treating mood disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. Dr. Roman also specializes in treating substance use disorders and possesses clinical expertise in implementing high quality motivational interviewing and motivational enhancing therapy.

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