What to Expect with Buspirone Withdrawal

By Terez Malka, MD
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June 21, 2022

Buspirone hydrochloride (Buspar) is an anti-anxiety medication that may also have antidepressant effects.

When you feel you no longer need an anti-anxiety medication, are experiencing troublesome side effects, or are no longer able to afford your medication or mental health care, you may want to stop taking buspirone.

However, when it comes to medications like buspirone that affect neurotransmitters, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms even though the medication itself is not addictive.

In this article, we’ll explore what you need to know about stopping buspirone, potential symptoms, how long these may last, and how to safely stop taking buspirone.

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Potential Withdrawal Symptoms

Buspirone has a lower chance of causing withdrawal symptoms than other anxiolytic drugs.

In many cases, it can be stopped quite quickly with minimal symptoms.

Still, any medication that affects the brain can cause some symptoms as you lower your dose or stop taking it.

There is a greater chance for withdrawal symptoms if:

  • You were on a higher dosage
  • You were taking buspirone for a long period of time
  • You have liver or kidney problems
  • You are an older adult
  • You take other medications that may slow the metabolism of buspirone

If you decide to stop taking buspirone, your healthcare provider will recommend a plan of action.

In many cases, you may be able to simply stop the medication without tapering your dose.

But if you are on a higher dose, have been taking buspirone for a long time, or if you experienced severe anxiety before taking buspirone, you may choose to wean off the medication over weeks or months.

Some withdrawal symptoms that may occur after discontinuing buspirone include:

Who Is More Likely to Experience Symptoms?

Individuals who are more likely to experience symptoms of buspirone withdrawal include those who took higher doses of buspirone or who took it for an extended period of time.

People who use alcohol regularly, have liver or kidney problems, or take medications that impact the metabolism of buspirone may also be more likely to have withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Withdrawal Symptoms May Last

Buspirone clears the body relatively quickly compared to other antidepressants or anxiety medications. Its half-life is 2-3 hours, which means that it will be almost entirely gone from the body within 24-48 hours after your last dose.

It could take longer for people with impaired or slowed kidney or liver function, older adults, or those who take other medications that slow the metabolism of buspirone.

If you and your mental health provider decide together that it’s time to stop taking buspirone, you will likely be able to simply stop the medication.

In some cases, you and your provider may decide to taper your dose slowly over a few days or weeks.

How long any withdrawal symptoms last depends on many factors, and can also be influenced by whether or not you experience more anxiety as you stop taking it.

In this case, it may not be withdrawal, but may be a sign that you require a different medication or treatment to help address your anxiety symptoms.

Your healthcare provider will identify the best way to support you during this time.

How to Safely Stop Buspar

Because buspirone has a very short half-life and can be cleared from the body within a day or two, many doctors may suggest stopping it “cold turkey”, especially if you were on a lower dose or taking it short-term.

However, if you took it for an extended period of time or were on a higher dose, your healthcare provider will likely suggest reducing your dosage every few days or weeks until you eventually are able to stop.

This can help to minimize withdrawal symptoms and potential adverse effects.

Withdrawal Management Tips 

If you are stopping buspirone and are concerned about managing withdrawal symptoms, there are many ways that you can ease your anxiety symptoms and withdrawal side effects.

Consider the following:

  • Decrease caffeine intake. While caffeine can increase alertness and combat drowsy feelings, it can also increase anxiety and tension, especially in people who are sensitive to it or have anxiety.
  • Consider supplements. Talk to your provider about over-the-counter (OTC) vitamins and supplements that can help reduce stress and anxiety. (But remember that no supplements are FDA-approved or monitored for safety and effectiveness.)
  • Avoid tobacco or alcohol. These can worsen anxiety and neurotransmitter balance.
  • Use aromatherapy with calming essential oils like lavender, chamomile, lemon, and clary sage. Never ingest essential oils; instead, inhale them or dilute them and apply directly to your skin. (Note that some essential oils can be toxic to children and pets.)
  • Get enough rest. Anxiety can make sleep harder, but if you stay awake because you are anxious you won’t be able to sleep, this could contribute to worsening mental health from poor sleep habits. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

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When to See a Medical Professional 

If you take buspirone and want to stop or if you are worried about how to manage an anxiety disorder while coming off medication, check in with your healthcare provider.

Do not attempt to stop taking buspirone on your own, as this can cause withdrawal symptoms and worsened anxiety. 

Your healthcare provider can create a plan to adjust your dosage, taper off your medication, or transition you to a different prescription medication while minimizing negative side effects as much as possible.

Keep your healthcare provider informed about how you are feeling during this time so that they can make the best decisions to support your health.

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.

How K Health Can Help

Think you might need a prescription for buspar (buspirone)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if citalopram is right for you.

Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for buspirone to get out of my system?
Buspirone has a short half-life, about 2-3 hours. It may be fully out of a person’s system within 1-2 days. However, it may clear more slowly for people who have liver or kidney problems, or who are older adults.
Is it safe to quit buspirone cold turkey?
In most cases, yes. If you were taking a low dose of buspirone or were on it for a short amount of time, your healthcare provider may suggest stopping cold turkey, or without weaning off. However, only your healthcare provider can suggest the safest plan for discontinuing buspirone to reduce side effects and symptoms of withdrawal.
Is buspirone addictive?
No, buspirone is not addictive or habit-forming. However, any anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication that alters how neurotransmitters function in the brain can lead to noticeable withdrawal effects.

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.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.

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