Buspar (buspirone HCl) is a commonly prescribed anxiolytic that more than ten million Americans take to help with their anxiety. It is used to treat anxiety disorders or various physical symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, tension, irritability, dizziness, and a pounding heartbeat. It may help you to have an easier time in your day-to-day life by allowing you to relax, worry less, and think more clearly. Read on to learn about how Buspar works, its normal dosage, its potential side effects, alternative medications, and more.
What Is Buspar?
Buspar is a prescribed medication used to treat anxiety disorders. This drug is chemically and pharmacologically different to other anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, like Xanax, or other sedatives. Such drugs were traditionally used to treat anxiety symptoms but they have many unpleasant side effects, can be extremely habit-forming, and can be misused.
What does Buspar do to you?
Buspar treats your anxiety but does not have the same sedative and muscle relaxant effects as benzodiazepines, like Xanax. What’s more, there is no risk of addiction and no withdrawal symptoms or rebound anxiety after you stop taking Buspar.
Buspar Generic Name
Buspar is a brand name for the generic drug called buspirone hydrochloride (HCL). The well-known international biopharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) developed Buspar and obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1986 for its use in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. Buspirone is now only available as a cheaper generic drug in the United States since the patent held by BMS expired in 2001.
Medical research has shown that buspirone is effective in treating GAD. If you have this disorder, you have excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control. This anxiety and worry can be about various activities in your life, reducing your ability to cope with everyday tasks and causing you a lot of distress. GAD occurs on more days than not for at least six months. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost 6% of American adults have experienced GAD at some point in their lifetime. What’s more, nearly one in three people with GAD have severe anxiety and mental illness.
Buspirone is mainly used to treat GAD. It is not normally used as the first choice of treatment for GAD but rather as another medication in addition to other drugs you may already be taking, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). You may also be prescribed buspirone if you have found that other medications you have been taking are not working or have too many side effects.
Buspirone may also be used to relieve symptoms of anxiety in those not diagnosed with GAD, or in elderly people with anxiety and dementia. Since it takes about two weeks of taking buspirone for you to see any effects, this medication is not used to treat acute anxiety. More recently, various studies have shown that this medication also has some antidepressant effects and may be helpful in people who have symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
Buspirone also has a few much less common uses. Some medical research has shown that it may be effective in reducing sexual risk-taking in cocaine users, and in women with a persistent clinical lack of sexual desire (hypoactive sexual desire disorder). There is also a possibility that buspirone can help people who have social anxiety and avoid social situations.
How Does Buspirone Work?
Buspirone is a member of the azapirone class of medications, which includes other anxiolytic, antidepressant, and antipsychotic medications. According to the FDA prescription information for buspirone, the exact mechanism of action, or how this drug works, is not fully understood. What is known is that buspirone has effects on chemical messengers in the brain including serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. Specifically, studies have shown that buspirone has increased action at serotonin receptors in your brain (serotonin receptor agonist). Since these receptors influence various neurological processes such as anxiety and depression, among other roles, this allows buspirone to alleviate anxiety.
Before You Take Buspirone
Buspirone is not a medication that is ideal for everyone with GAD or other anxiety symptoms. You should not take it if you are aware of an allergy or hypersensitivity to buspirone HCL. Before you take this drug, your doctor will need to go through your medical history and check that you do not have any current medical conditions which would affect how well buspirone will work.
For example, your doctor may not prescribe buspirone if you have diabetes, since this medication can affect blood glucose levels. If you have a condition where your liver is not functioning as it should, your liver will not be able to break down buspirone sufficiently. This will cause a build-up of the drug in your blood, which in turn can lead to various unwanted side-effects. This may also be the case if you have kidney problems that make you unable to excrete the drug effectively. Moreover, if you’re pregnant or nursing a baby, buspirone should be avoided since there is no evidence of its safety in pregnancy, and it may be secreted into breast milk.
Buspirone can potentially interact with numerous medications, increasing or decreasing buspirone’s concentration in the blood or how well it works. Such buspirone interactions can also cause preventable side-effects. It is therefore important that your doctor knows what other medications you are currently taking before prescribing buspirone. You also need to make sure you notify your doctor if you start or stop taking off-the-counter medications or supplements while on buspirone.
Other medications that can interact with buspirone include but are not limited to:
- Triazolam or flurazepam
- Diltiazem or verapamil
- Antibiotics, including erythromycin and rifampin
- Antifungals, including itraconazole
- Some sleeping pills
- Some narcotics (pain medications)
- Some muscle relaxers
Finally, it is not a good idea to drink alcohol while you’re taking buspirone since you may become easily drowsy and lightheaded. Buspirone and alcohol may even cause some people to have serious problems with muscle control, memory, and breathing. Eating large amounts of grapefruit or grapefruit juice may also increase the levels of buspirone in your body and lead to increased side-effects such as drowsiness. If you cannot avoid grapefruit or grapefruit juice, make sure you take buspirone at least two hours before or eight hours after.
The recommended initial buspirone dosage is 15 mg daily (7.5 mg twice a day). Your doctor may adjust your dose every two to three days by 5 mg to make sure you achieve the best effectiveness. Buspirone tablets are sometimes scored so you can break the tablet into two or three pieces if you need a smaller amount of the medicine at each dose. Most people respond well to a dose in the range of 15 to 30 mg. The maximum daily dosage should not exceed 60 mg per day (taken as divided doses of 20 to 30 mg). Dosages may vary for elderly people, children and adolescents, and for people who have liver or kidney problems.
The bioavailability of buspirone is increased when taken with food compared to when you’re fasting. This means you can take buspirone by mouth with or without food but you need to make sure it is consistently one or the other and that you’re taking your pills at the same times each day. Buspirone will only work properly if you take it regularly.
There is no need to refrigerate your medication; just store it at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Always take your medication according to your doctor’s instructions and what it says on the information sheet that comes with your tablets. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Never double your dose to compensate for your missed dose.
How long does it take for buspirone to kick in?
You will need to be patient when you first start taking buspirone since it is slow acting and it can take at least two weeks before you feel any effects. You will need to make regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to make sure you are continuing on the best dosage for you.
How long does it take for buspirone to get out of your system?
According to the half-life or how quickly the drug is broken down and exits your body in your urine and feces, buspirone will be gone from your body within 24-48 hours of you taking your dose.
Can you stop buspirone cold turkey? Does buspirone cause withdrawal symptoms?
If you and your doctor find that it is time to stop taking buspirone, it is not a good idea to cease the medication suddenly. Although there are no unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, as there are with benzodiazepines, you still want to give your body time to adjust. Your doctor will instruct you how you can slowly reduce your dosage and then stop taking the medication. Usually, people take buspirone for several months up to one year.