Buspirone, which was previously sold under the brand name BuSpar®, is a medication that’s used to treat certain anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Buspirone comes in tablet form in several doses. If you’re prescribed this medication to treat anxiety, your healthcare provider will likely choose a BuSpar dosage based on the severity of your anxiety symptoms and other factors.
Below, we’ve explained what buspirone is, as well as why it’s prescribed to treat some anxiety disorders.
We’ve also listed common dosages of buspirone for anxiety and other common mental health issues. Finally, we’ve discussed what you need to know before using buspirone, from how it’s taken to side effects, interactions and more.
BuSpar is a discontinued brand name for buspirone. Previously, buspirone was sold under the brand name BuSpar by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Although BuSpar is no longer sold in the United States, buspirone is still widely available as a generic medication under other brand names.
Buspirone is an anxiolytic medication, meaning a medication that reduces anxiety. It’s currently approved by the FDA to treat anxiety disorders and provide short-term relief from the symptoms of anxiety. It’s also used off-label with other medications to treat depression.
Most of the time, buspirone is prescribed as a second-line treatment for anxiety when common medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines either aren’t effective or produce too many unwanted side effects.
Buspirone is also sometimes prescribed to treat the sexual side effects caused by medications for depression.
As a treatment for anxiety, buspirone offers several advantages over other medications. One is that it’s less likely to cause common side effects than other treatments for anxiety disorders and depression.
A second advantage of buspirone is that, unlike benzodiazepines and barbiturates, it isn’t linked to any addictive effects or abrupt withdrawal symptoms when treatment is stopped.
Our full guide to anxiety medication provides more information about buspirone and other drugs used to treat anxiety disorders. You can also read more about how this medication works in our guide on Buspar for anxiety.
Buspirone is available as a 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 15mg or 30mg tablet for oral consumption. Your healthcare provider will explain how to use buspirone effectively, including what time of day you should take your medication.
The recommended starting dosage of buspirone for generalized anxiety disorder is 15mg per day, split into two doses of 7.5mg each. Your healthcare provider may gradually adjust your buspirone dosage based on your response to the medication, the severity of your anxiety symptoms and other factors.
For anxiety disorders, therapeutic dosing is usually 20mg to 30 mg a day with the maximum dosage of buspirone being 60mg per day. Make sure to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider. Do not adjust your dosage of buspirone or exceed the prescribed daily dose.
Although buspirone is only approved by the FDA for treating anxiety, it’s also used as an adjunct or augmentation treatment for depression. For example, your healthcare provider may prescribe buspirone if you have side effects from a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
There’s no standardized dosage of buspirone as an augmentation agent for treating side effects from antidepressants. However, research suggests that a dosage of 20 to 60mg per day seems to help with SSRI-related sexual side effects.
Use buspirone exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Most of the time, buspirone is prescribed for use twice a day, either always with food or always without food.
It can take several weeks for buspirone to start working. Your healthcare provider may gradually increase your dose of buspirone until it provides effective relief from your symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider if you don’t notice any improvements after two to four weeks of use.
If you forget to take a dose of buspirone, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the dose you missed and continue to take buspirone as you normally would. Do not take two doses of buspirone at the same time.
To use buspirone safely, make sure to:
Avoid drinking grapefruit juice while using buspirone. Grapefruit juice can affect the actions of CYP3A4, an enzyme that’s involved in metabolizing buspirone. Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while using buspirone.
Tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you use. Some common prescription medications, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), can result in serotonin syndrome (a potentially dangerous interaction) when used with buspirone.
Before using buspirone, tell your healthcare provider about all medications you currently take or have recently taken, including any medications you have used within the last 14 days.
Inform your healthcare provider about herbal products and supplements. Some herbal products and dietary supplements may cause or contribute to drug interactions when used with buspirone.
Wait to see how you feel before driving a car. Buspirone can cause drowsiness and may affect your ability to drive a car safely. Avoid driving a car or operating machinery until you’re familiar with how buspirone affects your level of alertness.
Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can increase some side effects of buspirone, such as drowsiness. Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages while using buspirone.
Take buspirone on a consistent schedule. It’s important to take buspirone at the same time of day, each day. Follow the buspirone dosing schedule provided by your healthcare provider, including any information on using buspirone with or without food.
Store buspirone safely. Like other prescription drugs, buspirone should be stored in a safe, secure location in its original container. Store buspirone away from excess heat or direct light. Avoid storing buspirone in damp locations, such as the bathroom.
If you’re prescribed buspirone, do not adjust your dosage, stop taking your medication or make any other changes without first talking to your healthcare provider.
Buspirone is often prescribed because it’s less likely to cause severe or persistent side effects that interfere with your everyday life than other medications for anxiety.
While it has a more favorable side effect profile than other anti-anxiety medications, buspirone can still cause side effects. Some of these side effects may improve on their own as your body adjusts to the effects of the medication.
Potential side effects of buspirone include:
Confusion, irritability and/or feelings of anger
Paresthesia (a burning or prickling sensation)
Sedative effects, such as drowsiness
Fatigue and physical weakness
Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
Tinnitus (ringing or other sensations in one or both of your ears)
Most of the time, buspirone causes milder side effects than other anxiety medications. Although uncommon, it may potentially cause more severe or persistent side effects, including some that can affect your daily life and may require attention from your healthcare provider.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following adverse effects:
Hives, itching, skin rash or other signs of an allergic reaction
Swelling that affects your face, mouth, lips, throat, tongue or eyes
A racing heartbeat or irregular heartbeat
Uncontrollable shaking or jerky walking movements
Severe agitation, sweating, dizziness, flushing or confusion
Twitching, seizures or loss of coordination
Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
Although brand-name BuSpar is no longer marketed in the United States, generic buspirone is available as a treatment for anxiety.
If you’re prescribed buspirone, your healthcare provider may recommend a starting dosage of 15mg per day, then adjust your dosage based on your response to the medication, side effects and personal needs.
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you develop any serious or persistent side effects while using buspirone, or if you feel like your current dosage isn’t effective.
You can also learn more about successfully dealing with anxiety using our guide to anxiety treatment and other free mental health resources and content.
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Dr. Jill Johnson is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner and board-certified in Aesthetic Medicine. She has clinical and leadership experience in emergency services, Family Practice, and Aesthetics.
Jill graduated with honors from Frontier Nursing University School of Midwifery and Family Practice, where she received a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialty in Family Nursing. She completed her doctoral degree at Case Western Reserve University.
Jill is a national speaker on various topics involving critical care, emergency and air medical topics. She has authored and reviewed for numerous publications. You can find Jill on Linkedin for more information.