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What to know about Buspirone (BuSpar)

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about Buspirone (BuSpar).

Having anxiety can feel frustrating or even overwhelming if one is unable to access personalized care. For many people with anxiety, taking medication is a significant step in allowing them to improve their mental health.

One common medication often used to treat anxiety is buspirone, often known by the trade name BuSpar. This page outlines some important information about buspirone.

What is buspirone?

What is buspirone? How does it work?

Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication approved to treat conditions such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and other anxiety disorders. Buspirone may sometimes be used off-label to treat depression (often in combination with other agents), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, tardive dyskinesia, or bruxism. Buspirone may also be used as a treatment for substance abuse.

Buspirone belongs to a class of medications called anxiolytics. Buspirone is a serotonin receptor agonist, which means that it increases activity at serotonin receptors in the brain, which can thereby help to alleviate anxiety. Serotonin is often called the happy chemical because of the role it plays in regulation and stabilization of one’s mood and emotions.

How should buspirone be used?

Buspirone should be taken on a regular basis as several weeks may be required to obtain full therapeutic benefit. Your doctor may start you on a lower dose and increase your intake every few days, 5 mg at a time, to help prevent negative reactions. Typically, the recommended initial dose is 15mg daily. 

Buspirone is taken orally, and it usually can be taken with or without food. Buspirone is often taken twice or thrice a day, or as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the regimen that is recommended by your doctor for optimal results. 

If your doctor sees that there is a major improvement in your anxiety, the doctor may decide that you don’t need to take the medication anymore. A process known as “tapering” involves gradually reducing your dose over a period of several weeks or months. Tapering allows your brain chemistry to adjust gradually to the reduced amount of medication and help avoid negative effects associated with a sudden decrease or discontinuation of buspirone. 

What are some possible side effects?

Some common side effects (also known as adverse effects) of buspirone may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feelings of anger or hostility

Some serious, but uncommon, side effects may include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, mouth, throat, tongue, or lips
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you notice any severe side effects. You can find a full list of buspirone side effects (common and uncommon) here

Why do these side effects occur? 

Any medication can potentially lead to side effects. A person’s likelihood of having side effects depends on many factors including genetics, age, lifestyle and the type of medication itself. Side effects may occur because drugs often have broad or poorly targeted effects, or the drug target itself may have downstream effects on the body.

Many non-serious side effects of mental health medications like buspirone go away after a few weeks as your body gets used to the medication. However, if a side effect persists, is intolerable, or severely hinders your ability to go about your daily life, talk to your doctor because this might be a sign of a deeper problem. Your doctor then may recommend a dose adjustment or a change of medication.

How do your genes relate to buspirone? 

Genetics can affect your body’s response to medication. Buspirone has been shown to be metabolized by CYP3A4. Some people with a certain variation of CYP3A4 might be slow metabolizers for buspirone. Being a slow metabolizer means your body will break down the medication more slowly than others, which means the drug sticks around for longer than intended and may lead to side effects. For slow metabolizers, a doctor might opt to prescribe a different medication or prescribe a lower dosage. 

One way to predict whether you’ll have a positive outcome while taking buspirone is by taking a DNA test to determine what genetic variations you have and how they affect medication metabolism. Your genetic (DNA) test results can help your doctor avoid less suitable medications and make more informed decisions so that you can get better, faster.

Take this free quiz to see if you can benefit from a genetic test

Special Precautions

  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking buspirone. Grapefruit juice may increase the risk of side effects from buspirone.
  • Buspirone should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions, such as kidney or liver problems. Consult your doctor first should you have these mentioned conditions or other significant medical issues.
  • Do not take buspirone if you are also taking medications with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor activity such as phenelzine (Nardil), isocarboxazid (Marplan) or selegiline (Eldepryl). Taking buspirone together with a MAO inhibitor can increase your blood pressure to unsafe levels. 
  • Buspirone may make you feel dizzy or drowsy. Avoid alcohol or marijuana while taking buspirone as these may make you even more dizzy or drowsy.

It is unlikely to have serious allergic reactions to buspirone, but if you show signs of an allergic reaction to buspirone (hives, difficulty breathing, rash, swelling), call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

Some medications, vitamins, and herbs may interfere with how buspirone works. Make sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking before starting buspirone to avoid negative drug interactions. For full details, see the FDA’s full list of precautions.

Looking to find the right medication for your mental health? Join Prairie today to connect to expert providers and affordable medication options. 

Tue Nov 02 2021

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