Buspirone vs Bupropion: Which is Best?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 3, 2022

While their names may sound similar, buspirone and bupropion treat different types of mental health conditions. They are not in the same class of drugs and have different effects on the brain. 

In this article, I’ll talk about each of these medications and how they work. I’ll also lay out the differences between each medicine, including side effects, interactions, and costs. 

Finally, we’ll wrap up by going over when it’s time to seek professional medical treatment. 

What Is Buspirone?

Buspirone is a medication used to treat anxiety. It is an anxiolytic. 

It was first developed as an antipsychotic drug but was found to not have any effect on psychosis. However, researchers found it  works well for treating anxiety

Buspirone became a primary treatment for Generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD). Many people favor buspirone over other medications because of its mild side effects. 

Other positive qualities include no risk of physical dependence and no withdrawal when stopping the medication.

One drawback is that it can take two to four weeks to feel the medication’s full effect. It does not work well for treating acute anxiety. 

Buspirone decreases anxiety by stimulating some serotonin receptors in the brain and antagonizing some dopamine receptors in the brain.

Serotonin is a substance in the brain that helps regulate mood, wakefulness, and personality. 

Feeling down? Chat with a mental health provider through K Health.
Get started

What Is Bupropion?

Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that’s been on the market since 1985. It was also approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 as a medication that can help people stop smoking.

Several forms, such as sustained-release and extended-release bupropion, have been approved for use. 

People generally feel the medication’s full effect after taking it for one week, though for others it may take longer.

Bupropion’s mechanism of action is not completely understood, but is known to inhibit the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. 

Differences Between Buspirone vs Bupropion

Buspirone and bupropion are similar in requiring a prescription from a medical professional. Neither are available as over-the-counter (OTC) medications. 

The main difference between buspirone and bupropion is their drug classes and their indications.

Buspirone is an anxiolytic that treats anxiety whereas bupropion is an antidepressant that treats depression. 

The following chart goes over the main differences between buspirone versus bupropion. 

Main differences between Buspirone vs Bupropion

BuspironeBupropion
Drug classAnxiolyticAntidepressant 
Brand/generic statusBrand and genericBrand and generic 
What is the generic name?BuspironeBupropion
What is the brand name?BuSpar, BuSpar Dividose, VansparAplenzin, Forfivo XL, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Zyban, Budeprion XL
What form(s) does the drug come in?Oral tabletOral tablet
Oral tablet, extended release
What is the standard dosage?Initial dose: 7.5 mg orally two times a day or 5 mg 3 times a day.

Maintenance dose: The daily dose may be increased in 5 mg increments every 2 to 3 days up to 20 to 60 mg/day in divided doses.

Maximum dose: 60 mg per day
Dose depends on what form of the medication is being taken and what the diagnosis is.

A weaker strength is started and gradually the strength is increased until the maintenance dose is reached. 
How long is the typical treatment?Short term or long term.
Consult with your medical provider.
Short term or long term.
Consult with your medical provider.
Who typically uses the medication?AdultsAdults
Children (off-label)

Conditions Treated

Buspirone is known for treating anxiety, while bupropion is known for treating depression. However, there are some other uses for the medications. 

The following charts go over FDA-approved conditions and off-label conditions these medications are used for. 

FDA-approved conditions

BuspironeBupropion
-Anxiety
-Panic disorder
-Major depressive disorder
-Depression
Smoking cessation
Seasonal affective disorder

Off-Label uses

“Off label” means the FDA has not approved the medication to be used for this condition. However, it has been found to have some benefits in treating these conditions. 

Your mental health provider should be clear with you on why they are ordering this medication for off-label use. 

They should also let you know the limits of the research and let you know if there are other treatment options. 

Buspirone

Bupropion

Effectiveness

Bupropion has an average rating of 7.0 out of 10. There are 2,578 ratings and 61% of them report a positive effect while 20% report a negative effect.

Buspirone has an average rating of 5.8 out of 10. There are 1,210 ratings and 47% of them report a positive effect while 37% report a negative effect. 

Costs and Coverage

The following prices are without insurance. This information was taken from drugs.com.

BuspironeBupropion
Quantity100 each30 each
Dosage10 mg150mg/24 hrs
Per Unit$0.46$1.51
Cost$45.78$45.27

Side Effects

Buspirone is a favored medication over other anxiolytics because of its smaller list of side effects. However, they both have side effects that are important to watch for. 

BuspironeBupropion
Common side effects:
-Restlessness
-Nervousness
-Unusual excitement
Common side effects:
-Anxiety
Dry mouth
-Hyperventilation
-Irregular heart beats
-Irritability
-Restlessness
-Trouble sleeping
-Shaking
Constipation
Weight loss
Less common side effects:
-Blurred vision
-Sweating or being clammy
-Trouble concentrating
-Diarrhea
-Drowsy
-Dry mouth
-Muscle pain or cramps
-Ringing in the ears
-Trouble sleeping, nightmares
Less common side effects:
-Buzzing or ringing in the ears
Severe headache
-Skin rash, hives, or itching
Rare side effects:
Chest pain
-Confusion
-Fast or pounding heart beat
Fever
-Incoordination
-Mental depression
-Weakness
-Numbness or tingling in hands
Skin rash or hives
Sore throat
-Stiffness in arms or legs
-Uncontrolled body movements
Rare side effects:
-Confusion
-Fainting
-False beliefs that cannot be changed by facts
-Having extreme distrust of people
-Hallucinating
-Seizures
-Trouble concentrating
Symptoms of overdose:
-Dizziness or lightheadedness
-Severe drowsiness
-Fainting
Nausea or vomiting
-Dilated pupils
Symptoms of overdose:
Lightheaded or dizzy 
-Fainting
-Slow or irregular heartbeat
Severe fatigue

Interactions

Drug interactions may make your medication less effective, increase its effectiveness (dangerously), or cause unwanted side effects. 

Interactions can occur with other medications you take, something you eat your drink, or with another health condition you have.  

The following chart goes over what other drugs buspirone and bupropion interact with. For a full listing, and to search specific drugs, click here for buspirone and here for bupropion

DrugDrug ClassBuspironeBupropion
Phenelzine
Rasagiline
Selegiline
Tranylcypromine

MAO Inhibitors

Yes

Yes
Diltiazem
ErythromycinItraconazole
Ketoconazole
Nefazodone
Ritonavir
Verapamil
Grapefruit juice



CYP3A4 Inhibitors



Yes



Yes
Carbamazepine
Phenobarbital
Phenytoin
Rifampin

CYP4A4 Inducers

Yes

Yes
Codeine
Fentanyl
Oxycodone
Morphine
Tramadol


Opioids


Yes


Yes
AlcoholAlcoholYesYes
Amitriptyline
Citalopram
Desipramine
Desvenlafaxine
Duloxetine
Escitalopram
Fluoxetine
FluvoxamineImipramine



Antidepressants



Yes



Yes
Baclofen
Carisoprodol
Cyclobenzaprine
Metaxalone

Muscle relaxants

Yes

No
Divalproex sodium
Gabapentin
Lamotrigine
Levetiracetam
Pregabalin
Topiramate


Anticonvulsants


Yes


No
DiphenhydramineSedating antihistaminesYesYes

Warnings

You should not take bupropion if you have an eating disorder or have a seizure history.

You should also avoid it if you suddenly stop drinking alcohol, or taking sedatives or seizure medications. 

Avoid taking bupropion within 14 days before and 14 days after you have used an MAO inhibitor, such as isocarboxazid, methylene blue injection, linezolid, rasagiline, phenelzine, selegiline, or tranylcypromine. 

Some young people, when starting these medications, have thoughts about suicide. Stay alert to changes in your symptoms or thoughts and report worsening symptoms to your medical providers such as:

  • Changes in behavior or mood
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactive
  • Thoughts of suicide 

Both of these medications can impair your thinking or reactions. Use caution when driving or doing anything that requires you to be alert.  

Feeling down? Chat with a mental health provider through K Health.
Get started

When to See a Medical Professional 

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression that is interfering with your everyday life, it’s time to seek medical attention. Let a mental health medical provider know how you feel. 

If they think it will benefit you, they will write you a prescription for a medication to help you feel better.

If you have questions about taking buspirone versus bupropion, talk to your mental health provider about your specific situation, they can help guide you to which medication would be best. 

Seek immediate medical attention if you believe you are experiencing side effects from either or both of these medications such as:

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Increased anxiety, impulsiveness or agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dilated pupils

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: buspirone or bupropion?
These medications are in different drug classes and treat different conditions. Buspirone is better for anxiety, while bupropion is better for treating depression or smoking cessation.
Can I take buspirone or bupropion together?
These medications have no known drug interactions, however, there is no research on whether they are good to take together. Speak with your mental health medical provider if you are wondering if taking both would help you.
What medication is better than buspirone?
Buspirone is favored over many other anti-anxiety medications because of its minimal side effects. However, if you would like another option, speak with your mental health medical provider about your specific situation.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

K Health logo (used on certain page templates)