What Is BuSpar?
BuSpar is the brand name drug used to treat anxiety. It has a generic form called buspirone. The main active ingredient in BuSpar is buspirone hydrochloride. It’s classified as an anxiolytic.
Although the name brand BuSpar is not available in the US anymore, generic buspirone is still widely used around the country.
How Does BuSpar Work?
Studies on Buspirone have shown that it works by affecting serotonin receptors, with an additional slight effect on dopamine receptors. The exact mechanism used on these receptors isn’t known, but the result is reduced absorption of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, both of which can help you feel more relaxed and give you a sense of contentedness.
BuSpar does not work in a similar way to other anti-anxiety medications.
Regular Uses for BuSpar
The main use of BuSpar is in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder or for short-term symptom management for those experiencing symptoms of anxiety. In some studies, buspirone was shown to also help with depression symptoms faced by those with anxiety disorders.
Buspirone may be useful to help treat some symptoms of autism in children. Small doses have shown some positive results in calming certain negative behaviors like repetitive behaviors. This is not the primary purpose of the medication and is not a full treatment for autism symptoms, though it could be useful in addition to ongoing treatment.
Another proposed use for BuSpar is for treatment of drug addiction. Because of its unique targeting of specific receptors, it may be well-suited for helping people overcome certain types of addictions. However, this use has not been heavily tested and is not common at the moment.
BuSpar is prescribed to both adults of all ages and children above age 2 when needed.
Normal BuSpar Dosages
For most people taking BuSpar or generic buspirone, doses start at around 10 – 30mg per day spread out over the course of the day. This is the normal range for a starting dose, but many patients will take up to or slightly above 60mg per day. Your total dosage should be decided by your doctor.
Bioavailability, which is how much of the medication is present and active in your system at any one time, is higher when buspirone is taken with food. It’s recommended that you consistently take it with or without food. If you switch between taking it with food or without, you may throw off your dosage and change the effectiveness of your prescribed dose.
Dosages for buspirone are increased slowly after you begin treatment. You’ll be started off on a lower dosage, which will increase slowly until you get optimal results from the medication. The goal is to find the right dose that provides the benefits you need without being higher than necessary.
Dosages and generally only increased by small amounts over a set period of time. You’ll be prescribed 2.5 – 5 mg daily increases every 1 week until the optimal treatment dose is found.
Taking a dose that’s larger than your prescribed amount, or taking a dose without a prescription, is considered to be drug abuse. Abuse can make any side effects, overdose, or physical dependency worse.
Side Effects of BuSpar
It’s possible to experience side effects when you’re taking BuSpar. These can range from mild side effects to serious side effects. The higher the dose you’re taking, the more likely you are to experience stronger side effects from the medication.
If you take buspirone for an extended period of time, you might experience mild side effects when you begin taking it, but they may reduce as you continue your regular treatment.
Common side effects of buspirone include:
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Stuffy nose
- Vivid or strange dreams
- Excessive sweating
Other less common symptoms include:
- Swelling around the face
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle stiffness
If any of these less common symptoms appear while you’re taking buspirone, you should talk to a doctor about it.
People taking buspirone do experience uncomfortable minor side effects more often than those taking other types of anti-anxiety medications. These side effects can often cause the person to stop taking buspirone and switch to another medication instead.
Mixing Buspirone & Other Substances
There are many types of drugs with the potential for negative interactions with buspirone. You should not take any other prescription or non-prescription drug at the same time as buspirone unless you’ve talked to a doctor or pharmacist about it beforehand.
Taking alcohol and buspirone is not recommended. Buspirone often makes you feel drowsy, which can exacerbate the effects of drinking alcohol. You may become impaired more quickly and may not be able to react as you normally would to dangerous situations. Your central nervous system may also experience stronger effects, like dizziness, drowsiness, and trouble concentrating.
Is BuSpar Addictive?
Many anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are addicting. You can form a physical and psychological dependence on many of these medications, with stronger dependence forming at larger doses and with a longer treatment period. However, buspirone is favored for anxiety treatment in addiction-prone patients because it does not have any known addictiveness.
Buspirone tends to be favored for patients with a history of drug abuse or addiction, because of the lower risk of addiction. It’s considered a very low risk for addiction, in contrast to benzodiazepines, barbiturates, sedative, and other common anxiolytics.
Although it’s generally not addictive, abrupt discontinuation of treatment can lead to signs of withdrawal. The larger the dose of buspirone you’re taking regularly, the higher the likelihood that you’ll experience stronger withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are not generally accompanied by a craving for the drug or other signs of addiction.
Buspirone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you discontinue buspirone suddenly, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. These may vary for each person, but common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle cramps
- Unusual tiredness
- Tingling sensations
You can avoid withdrawal symptoms by slowly tapering off the medication rather than discontinuing it immediately. By slowly reducing your dose over an extended time, you’ll avoid the negative side effects of withdrawal while still eventually stopping your dose.
It may take a few weeks or months to fully discontinue your buspirone dose, especially if you’re currently taking a large dose daily. Even if it takes a long time, it’s still worth it to take the slow and steady method. Withdrawal symptoms may be very uncomfortable and may not go away if you resume your normal dose after they’ve begun.
Treating Addiction Symptoms with Buspirone
In some cases, buspirone is used to help addicts to combat some of the symptoms of their withdrawal from other drug or substance addictions. Withdrawal from an addictive substance can produce many uncomfortable and traumatic symptoms, including symptoms that mirror those of anxiety disorders.
When addiction withdrawal symptoms coincide with anxiety symptoms, buspirone may be used to negate some of these side effects. This is considered a short-term treatment with the medication, as it will only be taken as the person is undergoing withdrawal and addiction treatment therapies.
Because buspirone has a low risk of creating addiction, it’s useful in treating withdrawal from other addictive substances. However, its use should still be monitored as it can still be abused. When taken with other drugs, it may have different effects than it would on its own.
If you have an underlying anxiety disorder, treating addiction can be difficult without some sort of additional support. Buspirone can be used to treat anxiety during your recovery and potentially after the recovery period.
It’s possible to overdose on buspirone. If you accidentally miss a dose, you shouldn’t take an extra pill when you take your next planned dose. Instead, you should take your missed dose only if it’s far enough away from our next dose.
Buspirone abuse can lead to overdose. An overdose on buspirone can be deadly for anyone, especially if the overdose far exceeds the normal dosage taken.
Symptoms of BuSpar Overdose
You may be able to tell if you or others are experiencing a buspirone overdose by looking for these symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Blurred vision
Some of these symptoms may be similar to common side effects of taking the drug. However, they can be a sign of a serious overdose as well. If you experience these or other serious side effects, especially shortly after your last buspirone dose, you should call a doctor.
Switching to BuSpar
Because BuSpar is not closely related to other anti-anxiety medications, it can be difficult to switch to this medication without first discontinuing the current medication. You need to completely discontinue your existing medication via tapering off before starting BuSpar, as buspirone is not shown to have positive benefits to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms and dependence symptoms from anti-anxiety medications, especially benzodiazepines, can be severe. Other medications may be able to help with these withdrawal symptoms, but not all medications are compatible with BuSpar. Before stopping one medication to begin taking BuSpar, consult with your doctor to come up with a strategy together.