Most people experience some degree of anxiety throughout their lives.
Some people, however, experience more profound and prolonged periods of anxiety, in which case it can be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.
Roughly 19.1% of U.S. adults each year experience an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is more prevalent in females (23.4 percent) than males (14.3 percent).
If you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you may experience anxiety and stress from various everyday activities, which can lower your ability to complete everyday tasks and affect your sleep and, ultimately, your health.
Anxiety disorders may present with any of the following symptoms:
- Rapid breathing
- A feeling of impending doom or danger
- Weakness or tiredness
- Difficulty with concentration and sleeping
- Stomach and headaches
- An urge to avoid activities that trigger anxiety
This article will cover how Buspar works, its side effects, and what to avoid when taking this drug.
What is Buspar?
Buspar is a brand name for the generic drug called buspirone hydrochloride (HCL). It’s a commonly prescribed anxiolytic medication used to treat anxiety disorders such as GAD.
Buspar isn’t typically the first option for GAD treatment.
It’s prescribed in addition to other drugs you may already be taking, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly prescribed to treat depression.
Buspar treats anxiety differently than benzodiazepines such as Xanax because it doesn’t have the same sedative and muscle-relaxing effects.
There’s also no risk of addiction to Buspar and no associated withdrawal symptoms.
However, it’s not recommended that you suddenly stop taking Buspar because you should still allow your body proper time to adjust.
If you decide to stop taking it, your doctor will tell you how to slowly reduce your dosing before you finally stop taking the Buspar.
How Buspar Works
Buspar is used by more than 10 million Americans every year to treat their anxiety.
It helps treat anxiety disorders as well as physical symptoms of anxiety such as:
- A pounding heartbeat
Does Buspar Work for Anxiety?
Buspar can help you relax, worry less, and experience clearer thinking, yet the exact mechanism for how Buspar works is not fully understood.
It’s known that buspirone affects how chemical messengers in the brain function, including serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters, which influence your mood.
Studies have shown that buspirone increases the action of serotonin receptors in your brain that influence levels of anxiety and depression, allowing Buspar to alleviate the effects of anxiety.
Always take Buspar exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Follow the information provided with your medication. Your pharmacist can also help explain this better to you.
10mg daily (taken as 5mg twice a day) is the recommended dose (measured quantity) when you first start taking Buspar, but a doctor will inform you on how much to take.
They may also adjust your dose by 5mg every few weeks in order to ensure that you are on the most effective dose for you.
Most people take 15-30mg of Buspar daily for the best results, but dosing can vary for the elderly, children, adolescents, and those who have kidney or liver problems.
You may also be prescribed a lower dose if you are on another medication for depression or anxiety.
You can take Buspar with or without food but be sure to be consistent one way or the other.
You also should take the drug at the same time each day, as it will only work well if taken regularly.
What if You Miss a Dose?
If you miss a dosage (frequency of dose) of Buspar, take it as soon as possible.
If it’s almost time for your next dosage, skip the one you missed and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Never double your dose to make up for the one you missed.
Mild Side Effects
Mild side effects of taking Buspar include:
Serious Side Effects
More serious side effects of taking Buspar include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Seek immediate medical attention if you overdose or call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.
There have been no reported deaths from Buspar overdoses, but overdose symptoms may include:
Side effects that occur in 1-10% of people who take Buspar include:
- Central nervous system effects (such as headache, nervousness, excitement, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, and disturbed sleep)
- Gastrointestinal effects (such as nausea, diarrhea, or upset stomach)
- Chest pain
- Skin rashes
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
If you have diabetes, your doctor may choose not to prescribe Buspar since the drug can affect blood glucose levels.
If you have a condition that affects the functioning of your liver, your liver may not be able to break down Buspar effectively. This can lead to unwanted side effects.
If you have kidney problems, your body may be unable to excrete the drug properly.
Buspar can potentially interact with many different medications, which can affect the concentration of the drug in your blood, as well as how effectively it works to treat anxiety.
If you’ve taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in the last 14 days, don’t take Buspar.
It could result in increased blood pressure and serotonin syndrome.
MAOIs that may result in a dangerous interaction include:
- Methylene blue injection
Other medications that can have a potentially dangerous interaction with Buspar include:
- Triazolam or flurazepam
- Diltiazem or verapamil
- Antibiotics, including erythromycin and rifampin
- Antifungals, including itraconazole
- Some sleeping pills
- Some narcotics (pain medications)
- Some muscle relaxers
What to Avoid
If you’re pregnant or nursing a baby, avoid Buspar because there’s no evidence if it’s safe to use during pregnancy or if the drug may be secreted into breast milk.
Don’t consume alcohol while taking Buspar, as you could become drowsy, lightheaded, or experience problems with muscle control, memory, and breathing problems.
Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while on Buspar medication. Doing so could increase the levels of Buspar in your body, resulting in increased side effects like drowsiness.
If you can’t avoid eating or drinking grapefruit juice, take Buspar at least two hours before or eight hours after.
Don’t take Buspar if you’re allergic to buspirone or any of its ingredients.
When to See a Medical Professional
Before you take Buspar, a doctor will need to review your medical history to ensure that you don’t have any conditions such as an allergy or hypersensitivity to buspirone HCL.
See a doctor to ensure that any medications you’re currently taking won’t interact with Buspar to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Your doctor should also know when you start or stop taking over-the-counter medications or supplements while you’re taking Buspar.
Speak with your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or feeling faint.
Similarly, talk with a doctor if you’ve experienced an anxiety attack with any of these symptoms:
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Rapid heart rate
- Trembling or severe chills
- Nervousness or restlessness
- Fatigue or weakness
- Difficulty with focusing and concentration
Your doctor may also refer you to a mental health specialist to find other effective ways to treat your anxiety and any other mental health symptoms.
If Buspar isn’t helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, talk with your doctor. They may be able to suggest other medications such as benzodiazepines or Selective Reuptake Serotonin Inhibitors to treat anxiety.
Therapy may also be an option, which include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Other forms of talk therapy
If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Any Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.).
BUSPAR- buspirone hydrochloride tablet. (n.d.).
Buspirone Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings. (n.d.).
Generalized anxiety disorder in adults: Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other psychotherapies. (2022).
Serotonin syndrome. (2022).
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? (2017).
Which anti-anxiety medication is right for me? (2019).