Buspirone vs Xanax: Similarities, Differences, Side Effects, and More

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 or older every year.”[1]

While there are multiple types of anxiety conditions, each one requires professional treatment. Typically, treatment for an anxiety disorder includes a combination of therapy and medication. There are a variety of different medications that your doctor can prescribe to help lessen anxiety symptoms.

Two of the most commonly prescribed anxiety medications include BuSpar (buspirone) and Xanax (alprazolam). While there are some similarities between the two medications, there are some important differences to be aware of as well.

What is Buspirone?

Buspirone (BuSpar) is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as anxiolytics.[2] Buspirone works to relieve anxiety symptoms by balancing the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. Serotonin and dopamine are hormones that are responsible for regulating your mood.

This medication must be taken daily for you to experience relief from anxiety symptoms. There are several different dosages, including 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, and 30mg tablets. The dosage you will be prescribed depends on your specific needs and the severity of your anxiety symptoms.

While buspirone can be used off-label to treat other conditions, it is only approved for the treatment of anxiety.

Side Effects of Buspirone

Any medication you take will have side effects. Typically, these side effects only affect you during the first couple of weeks of taking the medication. Once your body adjusts to buspirone, the side effects should subside.

The common side effects of buspirone include:[2]

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Excitement or nervousness
  • Problems falling or staying asleep
  • Anger
  • Numbness
  • Excessive sweating

Unless abused in extremely high doses, buspirone is typically non-habit-forming, so you will not become addicted to the substance when taking it as prescribed. If you begin abusing buspirone, your risk of overdosing on the substance is substantially increased because of the high dosage required to experience mind-altering effects. Taking buspirone in high doses may also lead to addiction and dependence.

What is Xanax (Alprazolam)?

Xanax is the brand name for a benzodiazepine drug called alprazolam which is typically prescribed to treat anxiety conditions and panic disorder.[3] Xanax works by increasing Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which leads to a relaxed and calm feeling.

While Xanax is highly effective in preventing panic attacks and lessening the symptoms of anxiety, it is not recommended for long-term use because it is habit-forming and can be highly addictive.

Most anxiety medications require you to take the medication regularly to experience relief. However, Xanax is designed as an “as-needed” medication, so people can take it when they begin to feel anxious for quick symptom relief.

The dosage of Xanax depends on your specific needs, however, your doctor will never prescribe you more than 10mg per day. The most common dosages for this substance are either 0.25mg or 0.5mg three times per day as needed.

Side Effects of Xanax

Xanax might cause you to experience a variety of side effects, including:[3]

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Talkativeness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Dry mouth or increased salivation
  • Changes in sex drive or ability
  • Nausea
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty or pain during urination
  • Pain or soreness in the joints

Typically, alprazolam is prescribed in small doses to prevent sedation or a “high” feeling. However, some people still experience mind-altering effects at low doses. Abusing Xanax can lead to dependency or addiction – especially after taking the drug for an extended period or time.

Differences and Similarities Between Buspirone and Xanax

The main difference between buspirone and alprazolam is the class of drugs they belong to. While Xanax is a benzodiazepine, BuSpar is an anxiolytic. This also means that alprazolam is addictive, while buspirone poses little to no risk of abuse.

Even further, while it takes up to 2 weeks for you to experience the benefits of buspirone, Xanax can provide same-day symptom relief. As a result, Xanax is better for people who need immediate relief while they are working on finding a long-term solution for their anxiety condition.

When it comes to similarities, Xanax and BuSpar can treat the same conditions. While both are mainly used for anxiety disorders, they share the same off-label uses. The off-label uses Xanax and buspirone has in common include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Depression

Xanax might be used for some conditions that buspirone is not effective for, including insomnia and seizure disorders.

When it comes to which medication is more effective, it depends on who is taking it. During a study of 56 patients with anxiety, 18 people taking buspirone reported experiencing the same level of relief as 20 individuals taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax.[4]

Finding Help for Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one were prescribed Xanax for anxiety or panic and developed an addiction to it, professional Xanax rehab can help. Not only will a treatment program help you overcome addiction, but it will also help stabilize you on a medication that is effective for your anxiety without being addictive, such as BuSpar.

At New Jersey Addiction Interventions, our addiction specialists will help you and your family stage an intervention and convince your loved one to seek professional help. Our innovative and solution-based techniques will help guide your loved one to the Xanax rehab facility that will best meet their individual needs. We will be with you every step of the way.

If you or a loved one is in need of addiction resources for drugs and alcohol in Edison, New Jersey, contact us today for an assessment.


  1. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a688005.html
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684001.html
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/382878/

Medically Reviewed: April 24, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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