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Buspirone Vs Xanax and Other Alternatives to Buspirone

Last Updated: February 15, 2022

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

The prescription drug Buspirone or Buspar is one of the safest medications to treat anxiety disorders and other symptoms of anxiety. In 2019, around 9.9 million prescriptions of Buspirone were issued in the United States. These statistics significantly increased because, in 2013, there were only around 6.8 million prescriptions issued. Although this is a safe drug, it still has certain downsides that can make a patient look for alternatives to Buspar. Sometimes, because of intolerance, patients and doctors search for other drugs that work similarly to the drug. Furthermore, there are a lot of medications that are not complete analogs of Buspirone but have similar anti-anxiety action. For example, the atypical antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Although drugs from these classes treat depression, they can also be used to manage anxiety disorder. The question is, are these drugs safe for the health condition of the patients?

Buspirone Vs Xanax Comparison

In the Buspirone Vs Xanax comparison, the former is an anxiolytic while Xanax belongs to the drug class benzodiazepines. Buspirone is used to treat different anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder. Based on the American Journal of Medicine, it works by suppressing the serotonergic activity in the brain. Eventually, this leads to inhibition of anxiety symptoms due to an increase in the levels of serotonin. Xanax, on the other hand, aside from being used to treat anxiety disorders, can also be used to manage panic disorder and depression. Alprazolam works by calming the electric activity in the brain, thereby helping your body to calmly respond to stressful and anxious events.

In the table below, more detailed information about Buspirone Vs Xanax will be discussed.

DRUG GENERIC NAME BUSPIRONE ALPRAZOLAM
BRAND NAME Buspar Xanax
DRUG CLASS Anxiolytics Benzodiazepines
AVAILABILITY OF GENERIC VERSIONS Yes Yes
APPROVED AGE OF USE Buspar can be safely used in patients 6 years old and above The safety and effectiveness of Xanax is only approved in patients above 18 years old
TREATMENT LENGTH For chronic anxiety, Buspar can be used for 52 weeks. For acute anxiety, the medication can be used for at least 3-6 weeks. For anxiety associated with depression, Xanax use is limited to 4 months, and for panic disorder, the medication use is limited to 4-6 weeks
PRESCRIPTION FORMS Prescription-only Prescription-only
RISK OF WITHDRAWAL OR OVERDOSE The medication has the potential to cause withdrawal and overdose, especially when Buspar interactions with other drugs occur, such as when it is taken with other CNS depressants, as  for instance alcohol The medication has the potential to cause withdrawal and overdose, especially when Alprazolam is taken with alcohol

Meanwhile, there is a difference in Buspirone Vs Xanax onset of action. Based on the clinical review of the Food Drug Administration, it will only take less than an hour for Buspar to reach its mean peak concentration, while it will take 1-2 hours for Xanax. Also, how long Buspar stays in the system is quite different from Xanax. Buspar’s half-life is 2-3 hours while Xanax’s half-life is 11.2 hours.

In terms of Buspirone Vs Xanax side effects, the commonly observed adverse reactions for both of the drugs include nausea, headache, nervousness, and lightheadedness. In Buspar, the most prevalent one among these is dizziness (9% prevalence rate) while in Xanax, the most prevalent one is drowsiness (41% prevalence rate). However, those using Buspar may experience excitement while those using Xanax will not experience this adverse reaction.

Is Buspirone the same as Xanax?

Is Buspirone the same as Xanax? Typically, the answer is no. There is a huge difference in the Buspar vs Xanax drug classes. While Xanax is one of the benzodiazepines, Buspar has its drug class and is not related to any other anxiolytic. Another difference in the Buspar vs Xanax mechanism of action is that Buspar works not with GABA receptors but triggers serotonin receptors. In terms of effectiveness, both medicines are equally effective in treating anxiety. Although the onset of effects of Buspar vs Xanax drugs is rapid, Xanax has a bigger potential for inducing dependency and side effects. Always consult with the doctor before switching the medication. Only a medical doctor has the right to prescribe, review, or substitute the medication during treatment.

Buspirone Vs Bupropion

In Buspirone vs Bupropion drug class, the former is an anxiolytic while Bupropion is an atypical antidepressant. If comparing Bupropion vs Buspirone uses, Buspar is used to treat anxiety disorders while Bupropion, brand name Wellbutrin, is mainly used to treat depression. However, off-label uses for Wellbutrin include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social phobia, and nerve pain (neuropathic pain).

Furthermore, there are also similarities and differences when comparing Buspirone vs Bupropion side effects. For Buspirone vs Wellbutrin similarities, both could cause agitation, dry mouth, insomnia, headache/migraine, nausea/vomiting, constipation, and tremor. The only difference in Bupropion vs Buspirone side effects lies in sexual health. Buspar can increase libido while Wellbutrin can cause sexual dysfunction including reduced libido. However, based on a clinical trial of psychiatrists from Sweden, 47 out of 117 of those taking Buspar would initially feel sexual dysfunction but this could improve after 4 weeks.

So, with all this information, which of Buspirone vs Bupropion is more effective in treating anxiety? As cited in the report of medical doctors from Michigan, with regards to Buspirone vs Wellbutrin efficacy, Buspar is more effective to treat anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder. However, if the anxiety condition of the patient is associated with depression, Wellbutrin can be used as a therapy. Nonetheless, only a medical doctor can decide on what specific drug between Buspirone vs Wellbutrin will be used in treating the health condition of a patient.

A doctor gives Buspar alternative drugs to a patient.

Buspirone Vs Lexapro

In Buspirone vs Lexapro comparison, both drugs belong to different drug classes. Lexapro is an SSRI antidepressant that can be used for both anxiety disorders and depression, while Buspirone belongs to azapirone drugs that are mainly used to treat anxiety. In terms of Buspirone vs Lexapro adverse reactions, both medicines have a similar set of side effects, but the difference is that Lexapro can also induce agitation, restlessness, drowsiness, and suppressed libido.

Talking about Buspirone vs Lexapro efficacy, Lexapro has a good bonus compared to Buspar during long-term usage – as it also deals with possibly associated depression. Based on a study of medical doctors from Cincinnati, SSRIs are the first-line and more effective treatment for pediatric and geriatric patients with generalized anxiety disorder. However, Buspar can be considered as a Lexapro substitute for patients with liver or heart problems. This is consistent with the study published in the World Journal of Hepatology as the drug Lexapro can cause drug-induced liver injury and hepatitis.

Buspar Vs Zoloft

Vanspar, another brand for Buspirone, can also be compared to Zoloft. In the Buspar vs Zoloft comparison, a major difference is that Zoloft belongs to SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants while Buspirone classification is an azapirone medicine whose effects are realized when it combines with neurotransmitters. With regards to Buspar vs Zoloft uses, the most notable similarity is that both are used during anxiety treatment. Both medicines are effective and well-tolerated during the treatment of GAD among the elderly.

But, aside from anxiety, Zoloft is also used to treat the following health conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in adults

Medics recommend Vanspar for short-term relief, usually within 4 weeks. While the effects of Zoloft may begin to show within 2 weeks, its full benefits are realizable within 3 months. When comparing Buspar vs Zoloft, the latter poses more serious side effects than the former, while the last one usually induces Buspar dizziness. A point of caution is that patients with kidney or liver problems should not take these medicines.

Another notable difference is the safety during pregnancy. While the Buspar pregnancy category (category B) allowed the use of the drug under supervision, Zoloft is under the C category which means it potentially carries more risks to a fetus.

Other Alternatives To Buspar

There are many reasons why doctors choose drug alternatives. Besides intolerance, the risk of Buspar addiction, abuse, and dependency are also considered. Aside from the drugs mentioned above, there are many more medications that can be used as an alternative to Vanspar in treating anxiety disorders.

Some of These Include:

Antihistamines like Hydroxyzine can also be used as an alternative to Vanspar for anxiety treatment. Based on a study of medical doctors from Colorado, Hydroxyzine can reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in both children and adults. In fact, according to a medical review, the anxiolytic effect of this drug is comparable to benzodiazepines after continuous 3 months of treatment. Apart from this, SNRI drugs or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Effexor are also considered alternatives.

Staying Safe: When to Look for Buspar Alternatives

Since the main reason why patients go for drug alternatives is because of the side effects of the medications, patients should only seek alternative options when their doctors prescribed them so. Moreover, although there are many alternative drugs for Vanspar, patients under Vanspar treatment are highly advised not to switch medications without the advice of a medical doctor. Doing this could prevent Buspirone withdrawal symptoms such as respiratory depression and coma.

While Vanspar has low addiction potential, overuse may evolve into abuse. Moreover, since there is an association between Buspar and weight loss, it can also contribute to misuse. Patients, who find themselves stuck in an addiction loop, are advised to seek immediate help from addiction counseling and treatment centers. Undergoing specialized rehabilitation treatment for addicts will help to set oneself free from drug abuse and step on the path of recovery.

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Page Sources

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Published on: July 10th, 2020

Updated on: February 15th, 2022

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.