Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/8/2022
According to data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication, more than 23 percent of all adult women in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders on an annual basis.
If you’re one of the tens of millions of women affected by anxiety, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help you reduce the severity of your symptoms, gain more control over your feelings and enjoy a higher quality of life.
One popular medication for managing anxiety is BuSpar®, which contains the active ingredient buspirone.
Unlike other anxiety medications, BuSpar is not habit-forming and generally doesn’t cause any significant withdrawal symptoms. As such, there’s usually no need to feel concerned about the risk of BuSpar withdrawal if you’re prescribed this medication.
Below, we’ve explained what BuSpar is, as well as how it compares to other medications used to treat anxiety disorders.
We’ve also discussed why withdrawal from BuSpar isn’t a major issue, as well as how you can stop using BuSpar safely.
BuSpar is an anti-anxiety medication that contains the active ingredient buspirone. It’s currently approved by the FDA to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and as a medication for some short-term symptoms of anxiety.
Like other anxiety medications, BuSpar is a prescription medication. It comes in tablet form and is generally taken at a dose of 15mg to 60mg daily.
Most medications for anxiety belong to two drug classes: benzodiazepines, which are primarily used to treat anxiety in the short term, and antidepressants, which are often prescribed as long-term treatments for anxiety.
Benzodiazepines work quickly and can reduce the severity of panic attacks, irrational fears and persistent worry. Although they’re effective as anxiety treatments, many people gradually form a tolerance to benzodiazepines, meaning the current dose may become less effective over time.
Many benzodiazepines are also habit-forming, and some can cause withdrawal symptoms when treatment is stopped abruptly.
Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can often take several weeks to start working. They can also cause withdrawal symptoms when treatment is suddenly stopped.
BuSpar is neither a benzodiazepine nor an antidepressant. Experts believe that it treats anxiety by targeting specific receptors in your brain, which may play a role in regulating your moods and certain aspects of your behavior.
It usually takes two to four weeks for BuSpar to start working as a treatment for anxiety. During this time, your healthcare provider may gradually adjust your dosage to ensure BuSpar provides proper relief from your anxiety symptoms.
One of the biggest advantages of BuSpar is that it doesn’t have the same risk of dependence or withdrawal symptoms as other medications for anxiety.
BuSpar and generic buspirone work by binding to receptors for the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These naturally-occurring chemicals are involved in regulating certain aspects of your moods and behavior, including feelings of anxiety.
Other medications for anxiety, such as benzodiazepines, primarily work by binding to receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s involved in slowing down activity in your nervous system. Many of the effects of benzodiazepines such as Xanax® and other common anxiety medications are linked to their effects on GABA receptors.
Experts think that this lack of effects on GABA receptors is what prevents BuSpar from causing the withdrawal symptoms that often occur when treatment with benzodiazepines is stopped.
In fact, research has found that even after long-term use, stopping BuSpar abruptly still doesn’t cause any withdrawal effects or other unusual events.
Although BuSpar isn’t associated with physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms, it can still cause side effects. Many side effects of BuSpar are mild and temporary, although some may be bothersome or concerning if they become severe or persistent.
The most common side effect of BuSpar is dizziness, which occurs in approximately 10 percent of people prescribed this medication.
Other adverse effects of BuSpar include:
Paresthesia (burning or tingling sensation)
Ataxia (reduced coordination and/or balance)
Elevated liver enzyme levels
Outbursts of anger
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Muscle pain and/or joint pain
BuSpar and generic buspirone can also interact with other medications, supplements and some foods. When used with medications that increase serotonin levels, BuSpar may cause serotonin syndrome — a potentially serious condition that occurs when serotonin levels are too high.
Medications and substances that may interact with BuSpar or generic buspirone include:
Other anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines
Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine, phenobarbital and phenytoin
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Other antidepressant medications
Antibiotics, such as erythromycin
Pain medications and narcotics
Medications for insomnia
To reduce your risk of experiencing drug interactions while using BuSpar, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you currently use or have used at any period in the last 14 days.
Make sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and avoid using the medications and substances listed above while using BuSpar to treat anxiety.
If you’re prescribed BuSpar for the treatment of anxiety and think it’s not the right medication for you, it’s important to stop treatment safely.
Use the tips below to reduce your risk of issues when stopping treatment with BuSpar:
Allow two to four weeks for BuSpar to start working. BuSpar is generally effective, but it doesn’t work immediately. It normally takes two to four weeks for Buspar to cause noticeable improvements in the common symptoms of anxiety.
If you’ve recently started using BuSpar and don’t think it’s working, try to wait for at least four weeks before you consider switching medications.
Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping BuSpar. Results from anti-anxiety medications can vary from person to person, meaning a medication that works well for others may not be the best choice for your needs.
Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping BuSpar. If BuSpar doesn’t work for you, your healthcare provider may recommend switching to a different class of medications to treat your anxiety.
Consider adjusting your dosage. Instead of stopping BuSpar, your healthcare provider may suggest increasing or reducing your dosage. Even modest changes to your BuSpar dosage can often have a significant impact on your anxiety symptoms or side effects.
Inform your healthcare provider if your anxiety comes back. Stopping BuSpar could cause your anxiety symptoms to return. Make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you notice any increases in your anxiety symptoms after you discontinue BuSpar.
Thanks to its limited side effect profile and low potential for abuse, BuSpar is widely regarded as one of the safest anti-anxiety medications.
BuSpar and generic buspirone don’t cause physical dependence, and it’s uncommon for people who use these medications to experience withdrawal symptoms. Still, it’s important to stop using BuSpar carefully and safely.
If you’re concerned that you may have anxiety, you can get help from a licensed provider via our online mental health services, including our psychiatry service.
You can also access valuable support from mental health professionals and your peers with our online therapy service and anonymous online support groups.
Finally, you can learn more about successfully dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and other common mental health issues using our free mental health resources and content.