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Updated on September 15, 2022

Buspirone vs Xanax

What is Buspirone?

Buspirone is an FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat various anxiety disorders and short-term anxiety symptoms.

It belongs to a class of drugs known as antianxiety agents, anxiolytics, and nonbenzodiazepines. It functions by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain.

Buspirone comes as an oral tablet usually taken twice daily, either always with or always without food each time. Your doctor and pharmacist should explain your prescription, as each buspirone prescription will vary depending on your needs.

You should never take more or less buspirone than prescribed.

While the brand name of buspirone, BuSpar, has been discontinued in the United States, buspirone is still available as a generic drug.

Buspirone Tablet
buspirone hydrochloride
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What is Xanax?

Xanax (Alprazolam) is an FDA-approved prescription medicine that is also used to treat the symptoms of anxiety, panic disorder, and anxiety associated with depression.

Xanax belongs to a class of anti-anxiety medications called antianxiety agents and anxiolytics. However, unlike buspirone, Xanax is considered a benzodiazepine (benzo).

Xanax also comes as an oral tablet. Like buspirone, you should consult your doctor and pharmacist about the best prescription.

Xanax Pill

Similarities Between Buspirone and Xanax

Both buspirone and Xanax are effective in the treatment of anxiety symptoms and disorders. They are often prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder.

GAD is characterized by the experience of excessive anxiety or worry for at least 6 months. Some may experience symptoms of GAD for longer than 6 months, which can severely impact their mental and physical health. 

Fortunately, both buspirone and Xanax may help treat the symptoms that include but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest tightness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Insomnia

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Differences Between Buspirone and Xanax

While both anti-anxiety drugs work, they treat anxiety differently.

Buspirone changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. Serotonin is a chemical that plays a large role in our body functions, like mood, sleep, digestion, sexual desire, and more. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in body functions like memory, movement, pleasure, and motivation.  

Meanwhile, Xanax boosts the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. This neurotransmitter inhibits excessive brain activity, which is often associated with anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.

The main difference between buspirone and Xanax is that Xanax is a benzodiazepine, while buspirone is not. Benzodiazepines act as sedatives.

On the other hand, nonbenzodiazepines, like buspirone, tend to be more selective than benzodiazepines and barbiturates. This means they may offer more relief with little to no sedation, anticonvulsant, or anterograde amnesia effects.

Side Effects of Buspirone

Buspirone may have some adverse effects. Some side effects of buspirone include but are not limited to:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itchiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired concentration
  • Confusion
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of nervousness or excitement
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

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Side Effects of Xanax

Some common side effects of Xanax include, but are not limited to:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy
  • Agitation
  • Hostility
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Pounding heartbeats
  • Heart fluttering
  • Memory problems
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • dizziness
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts

Is Buspirone or Xanax More Effective?

Buspirone and Xanax are considered effective medications for treating anxiety symptoms.

Buspirone may also be used alongside antidepressants to treat depression. Xanax is often used to treat panic attacks.

Depending on the person and their anxiety disorder, a doctor might choose one of these medications over the other. 

For example, if you struggle with insomnia due to your anxiety, your doctor may prescribe you buspirone instead of Xanax because it doesn’t have the same sedative effect. Studies show that buspirone doesn’t make patients as tired as Xanax.

On the other hand, if you struggle with addiction, your doctor might choose to prescribe you buspirone instead of Xanax. This is because long-term use of benzodiazepines, like Xanax, can be addictive and habit-forming.

Studies show that buspirone doesn’t have the same withdrawal symptoms as Xanax.

Xanax Drug Interactions

Xanax may also negatively interact with other drugs that can make you tired, such as:

  • Other sedatives
  • Narcotic pain medicine
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Medicine for seizures or depression
  • Sleeping pills
  • Blood pressure and other heart medications

If you’re taking medications that may interact with Xanax, your doctor might prescribe you buspirone instead.

Buspirone Drug Interactions

Taking buspirone alongside monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can be potentially fatal. 

MAO inhibitors include: 

  • Isocarboxazid
  • Metaxalone
  • Methylene blue
  • Moclobemide
  • Phenelzine
  • Procarbazine
  • Rasagiline
  • Safinamide 
  • Selegiline
  • Tranylcypromine

Buspirone may also negatively interact with other drugs, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Medicines that slow down the removal of buspirone from your body
  • Medicines that speed up the removal of buspirone from your body
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Medicines that cause drowsiness
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sleep medication
  • Anti-anxiety 

Can You Take Buspirone & Xanax Together?

Taking Buspirone and Xanax together can exacerbate their side effects. It’s important to consult your doctor about drug interactions with your Buspirone or Xanax prescription.

Seek medical advice from your healthcare provider immediately if side effects worsen.

Buspirone Warnings

  • Buspirone should not be used within 14 days of MAOIs, including selegiline, phenelzine, rasagiline, or tranylcypromine
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking buspirone
  • No one with kidney or liver problems should use buspirone
  • Buspirone is sometimes prescribed to pregnant women (talk to your healthcare provider to discuss whether or not Buspirone is recommended for you)

Xanax Warnings

  • Xanax has a Black Box Warning, which is the strongest warning administered by the FDA 
  • Xanax should not be taken with opioids due to severe adverse effects, including extreme sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death
  • Xanax has a high risk for physical and psychological dependence
  • When you stop using Xanax, develop a plan with your doctor to taper off, or severe withdrawal symptoms may occur
  • Patients with lung problems such as sleep apnea or COPD should use Xanax with caution
  • Pregnant women should not use Xanax

Consult your doctor before taking buspirone or Xanax. Give them your complete health history to determine if these medications are right for you.

Buspirone vs. Xanax FAQs

Is buspirone or Xanax better?

Both drugs have been shown to treat anxiety equally. However, buspirone may cause less drowsiness and sedation. 

Your doctor can help you decide whether buspirone or Xanax is right for you.

Can I take buspirone or Xanax while drinking alcohol?

No. Neither buspirone nor Xanax can be taken while drinking alcohol. These combinations can be dangerous and even deadly.

Alcohol in combination with buspirone or Xanax can lead to central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory depression. CNS and respiratory depression can lead to coma or death.

Can I take buspirone while pregnant?

Buspirone, when studied on animals, showed no harm to the fetus. Unfortunately, there are no adequate studies to show the effects on pregnancies.

Buspirone should only be taken while pregnant under the guidance of your OB/GYN and only if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Can I take Xanax while pregnant?

Taking Xanax while pregnant can seriously harm the baby. You should not take Xanax while pregnant. If you are on Xanax and become pregnant, speak with your OB/GYN immediately.

How long does it take for buspirone to kick in?

Buspirone does not work immediately and usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to kick in. Some people report not feeling relief for 4 to 6 weeks.

How long does it take for Xanax to kick in?

Once taken orally, Xanax usually kicks in between 5 to 10 minutes. However, most people will feel the full effects of Xanax within an hour.

Will buspirone make you sleep better?

Buspirone is a nonbenzodiazepine, so it should not have a sedative effect. However, if you feel less anxious because of buspirone, you may notice that you’re getting better sleep.

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Resources

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  1. RxList. “Buspar (Buspirone): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” www.RxList.com, 2020. 
  2. RxList. “BuSpar vs. Xanax: Differences & Side Effects.” www.RxList.com, 2018. 
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Buspirone (BuSpar).” www.Nami.org.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Buspirone: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” www.medlineplus.gov.
  5. Carskadon, MA., et al. “Effects of Alprazolam, Buspirone and Diazepam on Daytime Sedation and Performance.” Clinical Drug Investigation. Springer International Publishing, 1982.
  6. Vertava Health. “Effects of Xanax Abuse And Addiction On The Brain.” www.vertavahealth.com, 2020.
  7. Griffin, Charles E, et al. “Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System-Mediated Effects.” The Ochsner Journal, The Academic Division of Ochsner Clinic Foundation, 2013. 
  8. Longo, Lance P., and Brian Johnson. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives.” American Family Physician, 2000. 
  9. RxList. “Xanax (Alprazolam): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” www.RxList.com, 2020.

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