High on BuSpar? The Addiction and Abuse Potential of Buspirone

BuSpar, also known as buspirone, is often prescribed as an alternative anti-anxiety medication to benzodiazepines. It was introduced in tablet form in 1968 and was FDA approved in the United States in 1986. Thus BuSpar has a long history of use for treating anxiety disorders, often touted for its low risk of abuse and addiction.

What is BuSpar?  

Buspirone HCL is classified as an anxiolytic, which means it is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. While its exact mechanisms aren’t well-known, the drug is thought to work by affecting the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

BuSpar has several off-label uses. It can be prescribed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, PMS syndrome, bruxism, and tardive dyskinesia. Some have found it helpful in reducing hyperactivity and aggression in individuals with autism. More recently, buspirone has been used to reduce withdrawal symptoms in those undergoing treatment for heroin or opioid addiction.

BuSpar is prescribed in tablet form at 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 30 mg doses. Most people take buspirone two to three times a day. In most cases, people are prescribed the lowest dose to start with and gradually increase their dose over several months.

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Is Buspirone a Benzo?

No, BuSpar is not a benzodiazepine, nor is it a barbiturate. Buspirone is considered an azapirone, meaning it has both anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.

Are Buspirone and Xanax the Same Thing?

While BuSpar and Xanax are both prescribed to treat anxiety, they are not the same thing. Xanax is considered a benzodiazepine, a class of drugs which are highly addictive. Anxiolytics, such as buspirone, on the other hand, have a significantly lower risk of addiction.

Because of the lower risk of abuse and addiction, buspirone is often prescribed for people with a history of substance abuse who need to be treated for an anxiety disorder. Buspirone is also thought to be safer for long-term use because of the lower potential for abuse.

Finally, Xanax is usually prescribed to be taken as-needed whereas BuSpar is taken every day, often several times a day. Xanax is often used to treat acute panic or anxiety attacks, while buspirone is prescribed for general anxiety or chronic anxiety disorders.

How does Buspirone Make You Feel?

Buspirone has a sedative effect, meaning that it can make use user feel relaxed, or even tired. There are also additional side effects that are possible, including:


  • Constipation

  • Headache

  • Gastrointestinal pain

  • Depression

  • Weakness

  • Numbness

  • Dry mouth

Buspirone and Alcohol: A Dangerous Combination 

While many doctors consider buspirone to be relatively safe with a low potential for abuse, using alcohol with BuSpar can be a dangerous, or even deadly, combination. Both alcohol and buspirone can have sedating effects. Using the two together can result in becoming over-sedated, even to the point of respiratory depression, coma, or death.

Is BuSpar Addictive?

When taken as prescribed, BuSpar does not show the same dependence or addiction tendency that benzodiazepines do. BuSpar does not have a high street value and is not typically the drug of choice for those looking to get high.

However, even though BuSpar is not considered addictive, that doesn’t mean it can’t be abused. All medications have the possibility of abuse. One of the most common ways of abusing buspirone is by taking it with alcohol to increase the sedative properties. This is often the result of a person’s attempt at self-medicating during severe anxiety or stress. However, this is certainly risky because over-sedation is a very real possibility.

BuSpar abuse can also happen when people stop feeling the desired effects at the prescribed dose and attempt to take increasingly larger doses without medical guidance. Buspirone overdose is possible, which has been known to cause seizures and other significant issues.

There have been reports of people crushing and snorting buspirone to experience rapid sedation. Snorting BuSpar results in an intense and rapid high, with some reporting feeling like their brain was being “zapped” or “shocked”. Some have even described experiencing hallucinations, impaired decision-making, sweating, feeling lightheaded, or memory loss while abusing buspirone.

Can You Stop Taking BuSpar Suddenly?

Stopping BuSpar, whether used illicitly or as prescribed, should not be done suddenly. Stopping buspirone can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including severe drowsiness, burning or tingling, confusion, rebound anxiety, insomnia, muscle cramps, and sweating.

For this reason, it is generally recommended that BuSpar be withdrawn gradually. For those taking buspirone as prescribed, this titration down will likely be managed by your physician. However, in cases of buspirone abuse, a rehab facility might be the best choice. Addictions specialists at rehab facilities have the knowledge and skills necessary to help you safely withdraw from BuSpar. Going through the detox process with trained rehab professionals can ensure that getting clean is as comfortable and easy as possible, reducing the risk of a relapse.

If you or someone you know is abusing buspirone, it is important to get help right away. Taking the first step toward recovery can be difficult, but it is the first step to living a clean life free from dependence on drugs like BuSpar.

Questions or concerns?  If so, reach out to Sunshine Behavioral Health today.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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