Buspirone

Buspirone is an anti-anxiety prescription medication used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is a well-established treatment for GAD, and it was first FDA-approved¹ in 1986.

The name brand BuSpar was discontinued, which the FDA confirmed was not due to its safety or effectiveness. The medication is still accessible in its generic form, buspirone. Many people still say BuSpar when referring to buspirone.

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What does buspirone treat?

Buspirone is a prescription drug for generalized anxiety disorder. Buspirone is in the azapirone medication class, which includes other anxiolytics (anti-anxiety) and antipsychotic medications.

If you have a generalized anxiety disorder, you display excessive worry for at least six months. Many things can trigger fear and anxiety, including personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday life circumstances.

GAD symptoms include:

  • Feeling restless

  • Being easily fatigued

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Muscle tension

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

How do you take buspirone?

Follow the directions on the label or your doctor's instructions. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Only use the medicine as directed.

Buspirone is available as a tablet (5mg, 10mg, 15mg, and 30mg) that you can easily split into doses. You can ask your pharmacist for help splitting the pill.

If you're already taking other medications for anxiety (such as an antidepressant), don't abruptly stop them without talking to your doctor first. Buspirone will probably not prevent withdrawal symptoms from taking other medications, and your doctor may need to lower your dosage gradually when you start taking buspirone. Discuss your treatment plan and any medications you're taking with your doctor. If you experience any withdrawal symptoms, let your doctor know immediately.

Warnings

Do not consume any grapefruit products while taking buspirone. Grapefruit greatly increases the concentration of buspirone in your bloodstream, which can increase your chances of experiencing side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacy for more details.

Seeing results 

As with many anti-anxiety medications, buspirone won't work right away. Most people find that it takes about 2-4 weeks to see any improvement.²

As you are waiting for buspirone to kick in, tell your healthcare provider if you need help with your anxiety in the meantime. Depending on your circumstances, they may recommend a benzodiazepine (like Xanax or Ativan) or hydroxyzine (Atarax). These medications are for more immediate relief from anxiety symptoms.

Your doctor may need to adjust your dosage if you’re not feeling the effects of buspirone.

Potential side effects of buspirone

Your doctor prescribes this medication to you if they determine that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. 

Along with the benefits, buspirone may cause some unwanted effects. Talk to your health provider if you experience any side effects. They may pass with time, or they may require changes in the medicine.

Common side effects 

These may include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling light-headed

  • Nausea

  • Feeling nervous or excited

Rare side effects

Rarely, patients who take buspirone may develop a movement disorder including symptoms such as:

  • Shakiness (tremors)

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Mask-like facial expression

  • Jerky walking movements (tardive dyskinesia)³

Sometimes, these conditions may be irreversible. Tell your doctor straight away if you develop any strange or uncontrollable movements (especially of your eyes, mouth, tongue, or hands).

If you encounter any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Easy bleeding/bruising

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain fast/irregular heartbeat

Long-term use of buspirone

The usual recommendation is to remain on the therapeutic dose of anti-anxiety medication for 6-12 months after your symptoms have responded to treatment.

Buspirone is safe for long-term use. Some people with severe or chronic anxiety or depression may stay on it for extended periods.

Missed doses

If you forget a dose of buspirone, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, don't take two doses at once. Instead, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at your regular time.

Overdoses

Using prescription drugs like buspirone in ways that aren't recommended increases the risk of overdosing. 

How a drug enters your body can affect how fast it affects it and when it leaves it. So, if you take too much buspirone by crushing and swallowing it, it can overwhelm your system. It also doesn't give your body enough time to process what you've ingested, which can lead to overdose symptoms.

Depending on the dosage you take, and whether you've ingested other drugs or alcohol before taking buspirone, an overdose can cause various adverse effects.

Common overdose symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Excessive sweating

  • Extreme sedation

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Unconsciousness

  • Blurred vision

  • Stomach pain

  • Slowed or difficulty breathing

  • Miosis (pinpoint pupils)

If you have symptoms of an overdose, seek emergency medical attention.

What to discuss with your doctor before you start taking buspirone

  • The symptoms bothering you the most.

  • If you think about harming or hurting yourself.

  • Your previous medications for your condition and whether they caused any side effects.

  • Any other health issues you have.

  • All other medications you're currently taking, including over-the-counter products and herbal and nutritional supplement products.

  • Any allergies you have.

  • Other non-medicine treatments you're receiving include talk therapy, substance abuse treatment, etc. Your doctor can explain how each treatment works with your medications.

  • If you're pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

  • If you drink alcohol, use drugs, or both.

Stopping buspirone

Check with your doctor before stopping buspirone. If you suddenly stop taking this medication, you could experience withdrawal symptoms.⁴

Your healthcare provider may want to gradually reduce the amount of medicine you're taking before stopping it completely. This is called tapering.

Tapering reduces the chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Increased anxiety or nervousness

  • Burning or tingling feeling

  • Confusion

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Irritability

  • Nausea

  • Muscle cramps

  • Sweating

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

Buspirone and pregnancy

Pregnant women should only use buspirone when necessary. Before taking this medicine, tell your doctor if you're pregnant. Talk over the dangers and advantages with your doctor.

It is unknown whether this drug passes into breastmilk. However, similar drugs can pass into breast milk and negatively affect a breastfeeding baby. Consult your doctor before nursing.

Buspirone is in pregnancy category B. Animal studies suggest that the drug may be safe for use throughout pregnancy, but there are no adequately conducted studies in pregnant women. Therefore, researchers cannot determine the benefits and risks. It also means buspirone should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh any potential risks and if you are under the close supervision of your OB/GYN.

If you're planning on becoming pregnant, let your doctor know. Pregnant women with anxiety disorders must make important decisions regarding whether or not to take buspirone.

Alternatives to buspirone

It’s possible that buspirone won’t relieve your anxiety, or you'll be unable to take it because of a medical condition or an interaction. In this case, your doctor can determine which alternative medication or treatment is best for you.

These might include SSRIs, benzodiazepines, or therapy such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).⁵

Interactions with other drugs

Buspirone interacts with other medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements. An interaction is when one substance changes the way another one works. It may cause harm or prevent the drug from functioning correctly.

Tell your doctor if you're taking any medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you want to know if this drug interacts with anything else you're taking.

Some drugs that can cause interactions with buspirone are;

Allergy information

It's unlikely you'll experience a severe allergic reaction to this medication, but seek immediate medical assistance if you do. A serious allergic reaction may cause symptoms such as:

  • Rash

  • Itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat)

  • Severe dizziness

  • Trouble breathing

Storage and disposal of buspirone

Store this medicine in its original container, tightly closed and away from pets and children. Make sure they can’t see or reach them. Young children can easily open weekly medication minders and blister packs.

Keep it in a cool place out of direct sunlight, away from excess heat and moisture.

Don’t dispose of any excess medication carelessly as you could harm children, wildlife, and the environment. Ask your pharmacist or call your local garbage/recycling department about take-back programs. If you don't have access to a take-back program, see the FDA's safe disposal of medicines⁶ for advice.

Tips and advice for taking buspirone

If your doctor prescribes buspirone for you, keep these things in mind.

  • You can take it with or without food, but it's better if you eat something first.

  • Take this medication as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Buspirone tablets can be crushed or broken into pieces.

If you're taking this medication, you don't need a new prescription to get another refill. Your doctor will write down the number of refills allowed on your prescription.

When traveling with your medication:

  • Bring your medication with you at all times. When on airplanes, never put it into a checked bag in case it gets lost. Keep it in your carry-on bag.

  • Don't worry about airport security x-ray machines. They can’t damage your medication.

  • You may need to provide airport staff with the pharmacy label for your prescription medications. Carry the original prescription-label container with you at all times.

  • Don't put this medication in your vehicle's glove compartment or leave it inside the vehicle, especially when the weather is very hot or cold.

Final words

If you've been prescribed buspirone for anxiety, please follow your prescribing doctor's directions and report any side effects.

If you find that the medication isn't working after several weeks, it may be worth asking your doctor if another drug would be more effective for you.

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Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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