Buspirone vs Xanax

Buspirone and Xanax are both prescription medications to treat anxiety. Here’s how they compare.
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What is Buspirone?

Buspirone is an FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat the symptoms of various anxiety disorders and short-term anxiety symptoms. It belongs to a class of drugs known as antianxiety agents, anxiolytics, and nonbenzodiazepines. And it functions by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain.

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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 patients’ needs. You should never take more or less Buspirone or take it more often than prescribed.

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

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. It belongs to a class of anti-anxiety medication called antianxiety agents and anxiolytics like Buspirone but, unlike Buspirone, it is a benzodiazepine.

xanax

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

Buspirone vs. Xanax: Side Effects & Uses

Both Buspirone and Xanax are effective in treating anxiety symptoms and disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by the experience of excessive anxiety or worry for at least six months. Some people may experience symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder for much longer than six months, which can severely impact both their mental and physical health. 

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

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

While both anti-anxiety drugs work, they treat anxiety differently. Buspirone changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. 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.

However, Buspirone and Xanax’s main difference is that Xanax is a benzodiazepine, while Buspirone is not. Nonbenzodiazepines like Buspirone tend to be more selective than benzodiazepines, which means that they may offer more effective relief with little to no sedation, anticonvulsant, or anterograde amnesia effects.

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

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

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

  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy
  • Agitation
  • Hostility
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremor
  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Pounding heartbeats
  • Heart fluttering
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts

Is Buspirone or Xanax More Effective?

Both Buspirone and Xanax are considered effective medications for treating the symptoms of anxiety. Buspirone may also be used along with antidepressants to treat depression, while Xanax may also be used to treat panic attacks.

Depending on the patient and their anxiety disorder, a doctor might choose one of these two 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.

Likewise, 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 addicting and cause unhealthy habit-forming uses of the drug. Studies show that Buspirone doesn’t have the same withdrawal symptoms as Xanax.

Xanax may also 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, heart or blood pressure medications, and more. If you’re taking other medications that may interact with Xanax, your doctor might prescribe you Buspirone instead.

Benzodiazepines are still widely prescribed. Four types of benzodiazepines — Xanax (Alprazolam), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), and Lorazepam (Ativan) — are among the top 100 most commonly prescribed medications.

Consult your doctor about the most effective treatment options for you.

Can You Take Buspirone & Xanax Together?

Taking Buspirone and Xanax together can exacerbate the side effects of each of them. It’s important to consult your doctor about specific drug interactions with your Buspirone or Xanax prescription. Seek medical advice from your healthcare provider immediately if your side effects worsen.

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Resources

“Buspar (Buspirone): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” RxList, RxList, 8 June 2020, www.rxlist.com/buspar-drug.htm

“BuSpar vs. Xanax: Differences & Side Effects.” RxList, RxList, 15 Oct. 2018, www.rxlist.com/buspar_vs_xanax/drugs-condition.htm

“Buspirone (BuSpar).” NAMI, www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Buspirone-(BuSpar)

“Buspirone: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a688005.html.

Carskadon, MA., et al. “Effects of Alprazolam, Buspirone and Diazepam on Daytime Sedation and Performance.” Clinical Drug Investigation, Springer International Publishing, 1 Jan. 1982, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03259556.

Cohn, J., et al. “Buspirone vs Alprazolam: A Double-Blind Comparative Study of Their Efficacy, Adverse Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms.” Clinical Drug Investigation, Springer International Publishing, 1 Jan. 1987, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03259411.

“Effects of Xanax Abuse And Addiction On The Brain.” Vertava Health, 4 May 2020, vertavahealth.com/alprazolam/effects-on-brain/.

Griffin, Charles E, et al. “Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System-Mediated Effects.” The Ochsner Journal, The Academic Division of Ochsner Clinic Foundation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/

Longo, Lance P., and Brian Johnson. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives.” American Family Physician, 1 Apr. 2000, www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html

“Xanax (Alprazolam): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” RxList, RxList, 8 July 2020, www.rxlist.com/xanax-drug.htm.

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Updated on: November 9, 2020
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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