Buspirone withdrawal can be serious, but this is relatively rare.
Buspirone is not considered habit-forming. As such, most people will not need substantial assistance coming off the drug
How Dangerous is Buspirone?
While the Mayo Clinic notes that one should never simply stop taking buspirone without consulting a doctor, withdrawal from it is rarely serious.
The drug is not considered habit-forming, with DailyMed (a site run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine) noting that a study showed in both human volunteers with a history of recreational drug use and in animal studies that the drug lacks potential for abuse.
Buspirone is a relatively mild drug, and it is not a controlled substance. Overdosing on it is possible. However, DailyMed emphasizes that it is difficult to predict what patterns of abuse can emerge from patients with a history of drug abuse.
Buspirone is not safe if abused. It is simply a generally safe drug when taken as intended.
Buspirone is not a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax, which carries much greater risks of withdrawal.
While notable withdrawal is not often reported, a doctor may want to wean a patient off buspirone, especially if they are taking a relatively high dose or have been taking the drug for a while.
The Mayo Clinic notes that some people who stop taking buspirone may experience the following:
- Anxiety, nervousness, and irritability
- Tingling or burning feelings
These symptoms can impact a person’s quality of life, even if they are not life-threatening.
The symptoms will rarely be serious unless coupled with other medical issues or undisclosed drug abuse. If you stop taking buspirone (regardless of any other medical issues or drug abuse) and experience serious withdrawal symptoms, especially extreme weakness or loss of consciousness, report them to your doctor immediately.
Detoxing From the Drug
Studies into buspirone abuse and withdrawal are scarce, but this is primarily because there is little evidence there is a serious risk for buspirone withdrawal.
If you are having serious trouble stopping buspirone, consult your doctor. It is likely you will be put back on the drug on increasingly milder doses until withdrawal symptoms are more manageable.
As such, detoxing from buspirone for most people will be a relatively mild process. Those in withdrawal do not have major risks, although they may be uncomfortably nauseous, jittery, or anxious.
If you experience these symptoms, but they seem extreme or overwhelming, discuss your options with your doctor. You may be prescribed some mild treatment for nausea or administered a more gradually declining dose of buspirone before quitting it completely.
Will I Need a Detox Center?
For the vast majority of buspirone users, a detox program will be unnecessary. Some detox centers will use buspirone to treat the anxiety of those with serious withdrawal symptoms from other drugs.
If you are struggling with polysubstance abuse and withdrawal from other substances, medical detox may be recommended.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a free helpline for questions about treatment for addiction and dependence problems. They can be reached at 1-800-662-4357. Mention your concerns honestly to the professional who answers but also understand it is not a counseling service. They will refer you to a program that best matches your needs.
False Equivalence: Buspirone and Alprazolam
Buspirone is what is called an anxiolytic, which is most often used to treat anxiety. Prescription drug informational site RxList mentions how these types of drugs are often paired with antidepressants to treat depression.
Buspirone is sometimes compared to Xanax or alprazolam. Again, Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine. These drugs carry relatively serious risks of abuse, dependence, and withdrawal.
Both types of drugs are used to treat anxiety, and they are often associated with each other. However, buspirone is not alprazolam.
While more studies into buspirone’s downsides might be of merit, the drug is tested and relatively well researched, showing little evidence of serious abuse risks. Alprazolam is much more prone to abuse, although is still of obvious value if properly prescribed and taken as intended.
Even ‘Safe’ Drugs Can Be Dangerous
Buspirone is still a drug, and like any drug, it has risks.
It should not be taken with any other drug (recreational or otherwise) unless this is discussed with and approved by a doctor. Additionally, some users will experience serious discomfort if they attempt to quit buspirone without a gradual reduction of dose.
One of the withdrawal symptoms of buspirone is anxiety, and it is possible a patient may cling to the drug simply to avoid that symptom. This is especially true as buspirone is intended to treat anxiety disorders in the first place, making anxiety an especially unwelcome symptom. However, it is important for someone suffering from an anxiety disorder to remember that ending one course of treatment may open up options to other courses.
If a drug is not having the intended effect, talk to your doctor about how to change that. If the recommended course is to stop using the drug, even a mild one like buspirone, that is what you should do. If you do not think you can do this for any reason — be it dependence, addiction, or fear — you should talk to a professional about your options.
“There are several serious side effects of buspirone (specifically BuSpar), including nausea, insomnia, headache, and more. A patient should call their doctor immediately if they experience chest pain, feeling faint, or have shortness of breath. These are signs of a possible allergic reaction, which can be deadly. ”
If you’ve reached a point where you’re ready to stop buspirone, you should first reach out to your doctor before making any solo decisions. As you’d expect from any drug, withdrawal symptoms can be tough on your body. In addition, if you’re someone that’s been abusing a drug for a prolonged period, you could be delicate and won’t be able to handle stress very well. For that reason, speaking with a doctor and determining how you’ll go through the process is crucial for success.
Buspirone Taper Schedule
To put yourself in a position when you feel ready to stop using a medication is a good thing. But, unfortunately, it’s not always that easy, and ceasing the use of a drug like buspirone requires more than just willpower. Despite withdrawal symptoms not being considered life-threatening, cessation of any drug, potent or not, will lead to uncomfortable symptoms for several days. For that reason, your doctor will recommend that you taper off the medication.
You may be asking yourself – what is a medication taper? What is a buspirone taper schedule? Well, a medication taper is a way to prevent or treat symptoms exacerbated or caused by withdrawal. A medication taper will be unique to the person it treats based on their history of use, size, weight, and size of their regular dose.
How to Taper Off Buspirone
A taper is when doctors gradually wean you off buspirone by lowering the dose each week and changing how often you take it. For example, if you’re using 100mg of the medication seven days a week, the doctor could reduce that to 75 mg a day for a week, followed by 50 mg, 25 mg, and then 10 mg every other day. The amount of time a taper lasts is dependent on how the person reacts to lowering the medication.
Because of the differences in people, we can’t give a definitive tapering schedule. However, the formula we used above is what your doctor will use to guide your medication taper off buspirone. For example, if you’ve used the drug for many years, they might stretch it out to make you more comfortable, whereas someone who’s used the medication for a couple of months may go through a much more rapid taper.
How to Wean Off Buspar
You should never stop taking this medication all at once. Again, you must contact your doctor immediately before considering a major medical change in your life. To avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, they’ll suggest tapering off, as mentioned above. Weaning off a drug is much safer than abrupt cessation. Although it’s not life-threatening, it can put you in an extremely uncomfortable situation that could have otherwise been avoided by calling your doctor.
As an FDA-approved anti-anxiety agent, withdrawal symptoms will be uncomfortable, even when tapering slowly. Similar to benzodiazepines, these drugs work to influence the activity of neurotransmitters in our brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Buspar specifically stimulates dopamine and serotonin receptors. However, unlike more potent medications used to treat short-term anxiety, Buspar is prescribed for long-term treatment. In addition, it’s not associated with addiction, making it a popular choice for those with a history of substance abuse, but it should never be stopped abruptly.
Since the drug isn’t considered addictive, patients are less inclined to use extreme doses, which makes the withdrawal process much less intense than other drugs like benzos. You’re more likely to develop symptoms if you’ve taken the medication for a prolonged period to manage generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
- Burning or tingling in the extremities
- Neck stiffness
- Abnormal dreams
- Trouble sleeping
No Shame in Needing Help
If you ever feel you cannot stop taking a drug, seek help. Often, people feel embarrassed about a particular obstacle in life because most other people seem to overcome it without issue.
Buspirone is a relatively safe drug. It is not a controlled substance. However, you have a unique set of issues that make up your biology and life experience, so the drug may affect you differently than others.
Buspirone is still a drug with real effects. For example, buspirone can have a mild sedative effect that may lead some to abuse it. Some argue this should be better studied. If you are struggling with your use of buspirone in any way, talk to your doctor.