BuSpar Alternatives: What Drugs Are Similar to Buspirone?

Last Updated: June 18, 2024

David Levin Reviewed by David Levin
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Although not considered a first-line treatment, buspirone (BuSpar) is widely prescribed due to its efficacy in treating anxiety disorders.

So far, clinical studies have proven buspirone’s favorable tolerance profile, showing minimal risk of abuse and significantly improving symptoms in 54% of patients treated for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

However, with a 13-point increase in anxiety disorders in the U.S. over the past four years, exploring Buspirone alternatives is an important step that broadens the range of treatment options for anxiety and related conditions. Continue reading to learn about BuSpar alternatives, gain insights into their mechanisms of action, and learn about their clinical uses.

BuSpar Overview

While we refer to “BuSpar” in some sections of this article, it’s important to know that this specific brand is no longer on the market.

Buspirone is a prescription-only non-benzodiazepine anxiolytic approved by the FDA for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and certain short-term symptoms of anxiety. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone offers a unique approach to managing anxiety without the high risk of dependence.

Although the buspirone mechanism of action is still poorly understood, it is believed to exert its effects through interactions with dopamine and serotonin receptors. It is available as a tablet and typically prescribed in doses between 15mg and 60mg daily.

Buspirone Uses

While Buspirone is mainly prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder, there is evidence suggesting its potential usefulness in a range of other neurological and psychiatric conditions. These include:

  • Reducing side effects associated with Parkinson’s disease treatment
  • Managing ataxia
  • Abstinence from cigarette smoking
  • Treatment of substance dependence (marijuana/cocaine) and managing withdrawal symptoms
  • Easing social phobia
  • Mitigating behavioral issues post-brain injury
  • Addressing symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and attention deficit disorders

Buspirone Alternatives: BuSpar Similar Drugs

While buspirone is an effective treatment for anxiety, it’s not the only option available in the market.

Sometimes, due to drug intolerance, patients and doctors seek alternatives to buspirone that can provide similar anxiolytic effects. While not precisely BuSpar equivalents, many medications with similar anti-anxiety therapeutic benefits may be effective for you.

Below, we explore some common alternatives to BuSpar:

Buspirone vs Bupropion

Buspirone (BuSpar) and bupropion (Wellbutrin) are both medications for the treatment of mental health conditions, but they have different indications, mechanisms of action, and side effect profiles.

Check the following chart for BuSpar vs Wellbutrin comparison:

Feature Buspirone (BuSpar) Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
FDA-Approved Uses Anxiety disorders Depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), smoking cessation
Off-Label Uses Anxiety, adjunctive for depression Bipolar depression, ADHD, sexual dysfunction
Mechanism of Action Interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors Inhibits reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine
Time to Effect 2-4 weeks 2 weeks for initial effects, up to 6-8 weeks for full effects
Cost Around $12 for thirty Buspirone 15 mg tablets Around $17 for 30 extended-release tablets (150 mg, for the generic version)
Common Side Effects Dizziness, headaches, nausea Insomnia, dry mouth, seizures (at higher doses)
Risk of Dependence Low Low but higher seizure risk
Contraindications Liver or kidney impairment, concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, hypersensitivity to buspirone Seizure disorder, eating disorders, abrupt discontinuation of alcohol or sedatives

Choosing between buspirone vs Wellbutrin involves considering the patient’s specific symptoms, treatment goals and overall health profile.

Take into consideration that:

  • Buspirone is particularly suitable for short-term anxiety management (1-year max)
  • Buspirone has a gradual onset of action. It may not be ideal for acute anxiety episodes.
  • Bupropion use can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
  • Bupropion is effective for co-occurring disorders (depression/anxiety or depression/smoking).
  • Bupropion is contraindicated in individuals with a history of seizures.
  • Wellbutrin side effects may be more significant than Buspirone.

Buspirone vs Lexapro

Buspirone is particularly suited for anxiety management without the risk of dependence or sedation.

Lexapro, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is effective for anxiety and depression, making it a versatile option. Still, it comes with potential Lexapro side effects like sexual dysfunction and weight gain.

Let’s review them in depth:

Feature Buspirone (BuSpar) Lexapro (Escitalopram)
FDA-Approved Uses Anxiety disorders Major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Off-Label Uses Anxiety, adjunctive for depression Panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Mechanism of Action Interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) increases serotonin levels
Time to Effect 2-4 weeks 1-4 weeks, with full effects typically seen in 6-8 weeks
Cost Around $12 for thirty 15 mg tablets Around $16 for thirty 20 mg tablets (for the generic version)
Common Side Effects Dizziness, headaches, nausea Nausea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, weight gain
Risk of Dependence Low It can be psychologically addictive after long-term use
Contraindications Concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, liver or kidney impairment, known hypersensitivity to buspirone Concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, known hypersensitivity to escitalopram

When choosing between Lexapro vs buSpar, consider the following:

  • SSRIs, including Lexapro, are the first-line treatment for pediatric and geriatric patients with GAD.
  • Lexapro has the added benefit of treating co-occurring depression during long-term use.
  • Lexapro can cause drug-induced liver injury and hepatitis.
  • Buspirone is a good alternative for patients with liver or heart problems.
  • Lexapro is an SSRI that is effective for both anxiety and depression.
  • Lexapro and Buspirone side effects are similar.

Buspirone vs Zoloft

Both buspirone and Zoloft are effective treatments for anxiety, but they belong to different drug classes and have distinct advantages. Zoloft’s broad-spectrum efficacy in treating multiple anxiety disorders and depression makes it a valuable long-term treatment option.

Check the chart for the BuSpar vs Zoloft comparison:

Feature Buspirone (BuSpar) Zoloft (Sertraline)
FDA-Approved Uses Anxiety disorders Major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder
Off-Label Uses Anxiety, adjunctive for depression Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), eating disorders, chronic pain conditions
Mechanism of Action Interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) increases serotonin levels
Time to Effect 2-4 weeks 1-4 weeks, with full effects typically seen in 6-8 weeks
Cost Around $12 for thirty 15 mg tablets Around $10 for fifteen 100 mg tablets (for the generic version)
Common Side Effects Dizziness, headaches, nausea Nausea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, dry mouth, Zoloft weight gain, increased sweating
Risk of Dependence Low Probable after long-term use
Contraindications Concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, liver or kidney impairment, known hypersensitivity to buspirone Concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, known hypersensitivity to sertraline

Choosing between Zoloft vs BuSpar depends on your individual needs and medical history. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.

Take into consideration that:

  • Both medications can be effective for anxiety treatment.
  • Zoloft falls under Pregnancy Category C, indicating it potentially carries more risks to a fetus.
  • Zoloft side effects can be more severe than Buspirone (i.e., suicidal ideation)
  • Zoloft may take 2-3 months to reach full effect.
  • SSRIs like Zoloft have a low risk of addiction, but suddenly stopping can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Buspirone vs Xanax

Both Buspirone (BuSpar) and Xanax (Alprazolam) are effective treatments for anxiety, but they belong to different drug classes and have distinct safety profiles.

Is Buspirone the same as Xanax?

No, they are considered different medications. Buspirone is a non-habit forming anxiolytic medication. Due to Buspirone’s low risk of dependence, it is a safer option for patients with a substance abuse history. Xanax is a benzodiazepine with a high potential for dependency and causing serious Xanax side effects. It’s not recommended for long-term use.

Buspirone works by interacting with brain chemicals like serotonin, while Xanax enhances the calming effects of GABA. Buspirone is primarily used for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and takes weeks to show full effect, while Xanax can be used for GAD, panic attacks and immediate anxiety relief.

Let’s review them in depth:

Feature Buspirone (BuSpar) Xanax (Alprazolam)
FDA-Approved Uses Anxiety disorders Anxiety disorders, Panic disorder
Off-Label Uses Anxiety, adjunctive for depression Insomnia, alcohol withdrawal syndrome
Mechanism of Action Interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors Enhances the effect of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
Time to Effect 2-4 weeks Within 30 minutes and last for about 6 hours
Cost Around $12 for thirty 15 mg tablets Around $11 for six 0.5 mg tablets (for the generic version)
Common Side Effects Dizziness, headaches, nausea Drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue
Risk of Dependence Low High
Contraindications Concurrent use of MAO inhibitors, liver or kidney impairment, known hypersensitivity to buspirone Severe respiratory insufficiency, acute narrow-angle glaucoma, concurrent use with ketoconazole or itraconazole

Other Alternatives to Buspirone

If you need another buspirone alternative due to side effects, lack of efficacy or personal preference, you can consult with your doctor about your options and make the best decision for you.

Some other drugs similar to Buspar are:

Other SSRIs and SNRIs

Other SSRIs like Prozac (fluoxetine) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) like Effexor (venlafaxine) can also serve as alternatives to buspirone. These medications function by altering neurotransmitter levels to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Non-Benzodiazepine Anxiolytics

Other non-benzodiazepine anxiolytics, such as hydroxyzine, can be considered. Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine with sedative properties used for short-term anxiety relief.

Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers like propranolol are sometimes used off-label to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and trembling. They are particularly useful for situational anxiety, such as performance anxiety.

Herbal Alternatives

Herbal remedies offer natural alternatives for anxiety and related conditions. Some options include kava kava for calming effects similar to benzodiazepines without the risk of dependence, though it should be used under supervision due to potential liver toxicity.

Valerian root and chamomile have sedative properties that can help with anxiety and insomnia. However, be cautious of allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to related plants like ragweed.

Buspirone Alternatives − Bottom Line

While Buspirone is a valuable treatment for anxiety, you may want to explore different alternatives. Fortunately, the market offers from SSRIs and benzodiazepines to atypical antidepressants to anxiolytics that will adjust to your health condition.

Always follow your doctor’s guidance before switching medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms or severe side effects. Keep in mind that while Buspirone has a minimal risk of addiction, it’s still possible to misuse it, mainly because it’s associated with weight loss. Patients experiencing addiction should seek immediate help from addiction treatment and rehab centers.

People Also Ask

Is BuSpar addictive?

No, BuSpar (buspirone) is not considered addictive and has a low risk of dependence compared to benzodiazepines.

Can you take BuSpar and Xanax in the same day?

Yes, you can take BuSpar (buspirone) and Xanax (alprazolam) on the same day. They can be used together safely, and buspirone can be started early during the alprazolam tapering process.

Is buspirone wellbutrin?

No, buspirone is not Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin is the brand name for bupropion, which is used primarily as an antidepressant and for smoking cessation.

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Published on: July 10th, 2020

Updated on: June 18th, 2024

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