People who seek treatment for anxiety disorders may find themselves having to decide which anxiolytic medication is best to take. Doctors may recommend a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax or Klonopin, or the anti-anxiety medication buspirone, which comes with a lower risk of dependence than benzodiazepines (benzos).
Buspirone was once sold under the brand name BuSpar, but that brand has been discontinued. The medication, which belongs to the azapirone class, helps treat the symptoms of anxiety by depressing the central nervous system. However, it does so without the risk of addiction or the potent effects that accompany benzos. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Buspirone is thought to work by decreasing the amount and actions of a chemical known as serotonin in certain parts of the brain.”
Can I Substitute Buspirone For A Benzodiazepine?
Buspirone differs from benzodiazepine medications in several ways, one of them being that it doesn’t cause sedation as benzodiazepines do. Several studies have compared buspirone alongside other benzos such as Xanax (alprazolam), Serax (oxazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam), and found similar results.
One study suggests buspirone was just as effective as Xanax, and another concluded similarly that “buspirone and oxazepam appear to be equally effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety encountered by general practitioners.” MedicineNet writes that while buspirone can be used to improve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, it is not as effective when treating severe cases of anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Benzodiazepines may be a better treatment for those conditions. However, do your research and ask your doctor any questions you have as you both work together to decide which medication is right for you.
Another thing to consider when comparing the two medications is how long they take to work. Because buspirone isn’t as potent as benzodiazepines, you will have to take it for a longer period, perhaps several weeks, before you see your condition improve. Benzos have faster onset action times than buspirone, but how fast they work depends on the benzo taken and what condition it is prescribed to treat. Take this into consideration if you decide to go with benzodiazepine therapy.
Consider The Side Effects Of Both Medications
Buspirone and benzodiazepines both have side effects that should also be considered before a decision about medication is made. Consider these commonly reported side effects of buspirone, which are:
There also are some less frequent side effects of the medication, which include:
- Unsteady gait
- Skin rash
You can compare these side effects to those of benzodiazepines, which, in general, include:
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia)
- Feelings of depression
- Memory impairment
If you are using a benzodiazepine and are thinking about switching over to buspirone therapy, you are strongly advised to do so gradually under the care of your doctor. Abruptly stopping benzodiazepine use can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, tremors, and rebound anxiety that is worse than the initial condition that led to benzodiazepine therapy. Rebound symptoms might require professional medical care, so seek it out as soon as possible.