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  • BuSpar is the brand name for the prescription drug buspirone and is not an SSRI. Buspirone is classified as an anxiolytic or an anti-anxiety medication which means it is primarily used to treat anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). 

    It works by affecting different neurotransmitters in the brain to ease symptoms of anxiety like jitteriness, fear, tension, irritability, sweating, and pounding heartbeat.

    BuSpar has been discontinued but the generic version, buspirone, is still available and just as effective. 

    Is BuSpar An SSRI?

    While some SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can be used to treat anxiety, BuSpar is not considered an SSRI. It is solely an anxiolytic medication. 

    While buspirone does increase the action of the serotonin receptors in the brain, it also binds to the dopamine receptors as well so it doesn’t work the same way an SSRI does.

    Is BuSpar An Antidepressant? 

    While some antidepressants may work to ease the symptoms of anxiety, BuSpar is not an antidepressant either. 

    It’s not approved to use in the treatment of depression, although it can be used as an add-on to other antidepressants. But by itself, BuSpar is not an effective treatment for depression.

    Is BuSpar A Benzodiazepine?

    BuSpar is also not considered a benzodiazepine. Many benzodiazepines work to treat anxiety like diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin), but BuSpar is not one of those. 

    Anxiolytics like BuSpar slow down abnormal excitability in the brain by working on serotonin receptors while benzodiazepines work on GABA receptors to slow down activity in the brain and body.

    Additionally, unlike many benzodiazepines, BuSpar has a much lower potential for abuse, dependency, and addiction. It’s not abused very often and has almost no withdrawal symptoms when compared to benzodiazepines.

    Uses For BuSpar

    BuSpar is primarily used for the short-term treatment of anxiety symptoms and for the long-term treatment of anxiety disorders. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved it to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

    There are a few studies that use the drug to treat other mental health issues like social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but so far, it hasn’t been shown to be as effective as it is on GAD. 

    More studies still need to be done before it has a chance of being FDA-approved for the treatment of any other disorders.

    Side Effects Of BuSpar

    While BuSpar can help many people with anxiety, it does not come without side effects. The most common side effects you might experience with the use of buspirone include:

    • headache
    • dizziness
    • drowsiness
    • sleep problem (insomnia)
    • fatigue
    • nausea
    • upset stomach
    • lightheadedness
    • diarrhea
    • feeling nervous or excited

    Buspirone can also come with more serious side effects. These are often rarer, but if they do show up, call your healthcare provider immediately. They will likely change your medication.

    The serious side effects of buspirone can include:

    • chest pain
    • blurred vision
    • serotonin syndrome
    • uncontrollable shaking of the body
    • allergic reaction symptoms
    • severe muscle stiffness
    • loss of coordination

    BuSpar Drug Interactions

    While BuSpar can be taken in combination with some other medications, there are others that it does not react well to at all. Mixing any of the following substances with buspirone can lead to serious adverse effects:

    • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like isocarboxazid (Marplan), linezolid (Zyvox), methylene blue, phenelzine (Nardil), and selegiline (Eldepryl)
    • certain nutritional supplements
    • grapefruit juice
    • anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital and phenytoin
    • certain benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium)
    • erythromycin (Erythrocin)
    • medications for migraines like almotriptan (Axert), naratriptan (Amerge), and rizatriptan (Maxalt)
    • muscle relaxants
    • pain medications or opioid narcotics
    • sedatives
    • selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors like escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac) paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft)
    • serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor

    While BuSpar tends not to be abused, there are plenty of other drugs that are. If you or a loved one struggle with prescription drug abuse, contact us today to learn about our treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Mayo Clinic - Buspirone
    National Alliance on Mental Illness - Buspirone (BuSpar)
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Buspirone
    National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Buspirone
    New York Times - Shortage of Anxiety Drug Leaves Patients Scrambling

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on October 25, 2022
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