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BuSpar: 7 things you should know

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on July 25, 2023.

1. How it works

  • BuSpar is a brand (trade) name for buspirone which may be used to treat anxiety.
  • Experts are not sure exactly how Buspar (buspirone) works but think its anxiety-relieving effects may be due to its effects on serotonin and other neurotransmitters such as dopamine. It is not chemically or pharmacologically related to benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or other sedative or anxiolytic drugs.
  • BuSpar belongs to the group of medicines known as anxiolytics.

2. Upsides

  • May be used to treat anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of anxiety.
  • May help to relieve symptoms such as fear, irritability, and tension.
  • May be less sedating than other medications used in the treatment of anxiety; however, there is a lot of variation in the way individuals respond to BuSpar.
  • Does not appear to cause tolerance or dependence and is not associated with abuse; however, people with a history of drug abuse should be monitored closely.
  • Not chemically related to other drugs traditionally used for anxiety such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
  • Not a controlled substance.
  • Available as a generic under the name buspirone.

3. Downsides

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Dizziness, light-headedness, headache, nausea, sleep problems, and excitement.
  • May cause drowsiness, although less likely to do so compared with other medications used for anxiety. Avoid alcohol and be cautious about operating machinery until you know how Buspar affects you.
  • May interact with grapefruit and grapefruit products. May interact with several other drugs including some antibiotics (such as erythromycin, and itraconazole), nefazodone, and other inhibitors or inducers of CYP3A4 hepatic enzymes. Should not be taken if MAOI antidepressants have been taken in the past 14 days.
  • Only available as tablets. Buspar needs to be taken two to three times daily.
  • Does not treat symptoms of psychosis.
  • May not be suitable for some people including those with liver or kidney disease,
  • May cause false-positive results on routine assay tests for pheochromocytoma. Discontinue BuSpar at least 48 hours before undergoing a urine test for catecholamines.
  • Not FDA-approved for use in children and adolescents under the age of 18 years.
  • Although animal studies have not revealed any fetal damage or fertility impairment there is a lack of studies in humans and Buspar should only be used if the benefits outweigh the risks. There is a lack of data about the risks of Buspar in women who are breastfeeding.

Note: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. View complete list of side effects

4. Bottom Line

BuSpar is used for the treatment of anxiety and is less likely than most other anti-anxiety medicines to cause sedation; however, its effects on individual patients may be unpredictable.

5. Tips

  • Take BuSpar consistently; either always with or without food.
  • Buspar tablets are scored and may be broken into a smaller dosage; however, do not take tablets that have not broken correctly and the resultant piece is too big or too small.
  • Take exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not increase or decrease the dosage without his or her advice.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of grapefruit juice because it may increase the levels of BuSpar in your body. Most people can tolerate one to two glasses of grapefruit juice per week.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery if BuSpar makes you drowsy and affects your judgment.
  • Seek urgent medical advice if you develop chest pain or shortness of breath after taking BuSpar.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol with BuSpar because it may enhance its sedative effects.
  • Tell your doctor about all the medications and supplements you take and do not take anything new without checking with a doctor or pharmacist that the supplement or medication is compatible with Buspar.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant before taking Buspar.

6. Response and effectiveness

  • Peak concentrations of BuSpar are reached within 40 to 90 minutes of a dose.

7. Interactions

Medicines that interact with Buspar may either decrease its effect, affect how long it works for, increase side effects, or have less of an effect when taken with Buspar. An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of the medications; however, sometimes it does. Speak to your doctor about how drug interactions should be managed.

Common medications that may interact with Buspar include:

  • any medicine that inhibits or induces CYP3A4 enzymes, such as clarithromycin, erythromycin, ketoconazole, ritonavir, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifampicin, or St. John's Wort
  • other anti-anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and oxazepam
  • antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, imipramine, nefazodone or nortriptyline
  • antihistamines that cause sedation, such as diphenhydramine
  • barbiturates
  • calcium channel blockers, such as diltiazem or verapamil
  • cimetidine
  • cyclobenzaprine and other muscle relaxants
  • duloxetine
  • grapefruit
  • mifepristone
  • medicines that also release serotonin, such as lithium or triptans
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors, such as selegiline, isocarboxazid, or phenelzine
  • opioid analgesics such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine
  • sleeping pills, such as zolpidem
  • some medications used to treat mental illness, such as haloperidol, clozapine, and thioridazine
  • warfarin.

Alcohol may worsen the side effects of Buspar such as drowsiness and dizziness.

Note that this list is not all-inclusive and includes only common medications that may interact with Buspar. You should refer to the prescribing information for Buspar for a complete list of interactions.


Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use BuSpar only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2023 Revision date: July 25, 2023.