Buspirone hydrochloride (Buspar) is an anti-anxiety medication that may also have antidepressant effects.
When you feel you no longer need an anti-anxiety medication, are experiencing troublesome side effects, or are no longer able to afford your medication or mental health care, you may want to stop taking buspirone.
However, when it comes to medications like buspirone that affect neurotransmitters, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms even though the medication itself is not addictive.
In this article, we’ll explore what you need to know about stopping buspirone, potential symptoms, how long these may last, and how to safely stop taking buspirone.
Potential Withdrawal Symptoms
Buspirone has a lower chance of causing withdrawal symptoms than other anxiolytic drugs.
In many cases, it can be stopped quite quickly with minimal symptoms.
Still, any medication that affects the brain can cause some symptoms as you lower your dose or stop taking it.
There is a greater chance for withdrawal symptoms if:
- You were on a higher dosage
- You were taking buspirone for a long period of time
- You have liver or kidney problems
- You are an older adult
- You take other medications that may slow the metabolism of buspirone
If you decide to stop taking buspirone, your healthcare provider will recommend a plan of action.
In many cases, you may be able to simply stop the medication without tapering your dose.
But if you are on a higher dose, have been taking buspirone for a long time, or if you experienced severe anxiety before taking buspirone, you may choose to wean off the medication over weeks or months.
Some withdrawal symptoms that may occur after discontinuing buspirone include:
- Nightmares or strange dreams
- Agitation or irritability
- Burning or tingling in the extremities
- Stiff muscles or cramping
- Feelings of nervousness
- Fatigue and tiredness
Who Is More Likely to Experience Symptoms?
Individuals who are more likely to experience symptoms of buspirone withdrawal include those who took higher doses of buspirone or who took it for an extended period of time.
People who use alcohol regularly, have liver or kidney problems, or take medications that impact the metabolism of buspirone may also be more likely to have withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Withdrawal Symptoms May Last
Buspirone clears the body relatively quickly compared to other antidepressants or anxiety medications. Its half-life is 2-3 hours, which means that it will be almost entirely gone from the body within 24-48 hours after your last dose.
It could take longer for people with impaired or slowed kidney or liver function, older adults, or those who take other medications that slow the metabolism of buspirone.
If you and your mental health provider decide together that it’s time to stop taking buspirone, you will likely be able to simply stop the medication.
In some cases, you and your provider may decide to taper your dose slowly over a few days or weeks.
How long any withdrawal symptoms last depends on many factors, and can also be influenced by whether or not you experience more anxiety as you stop taking it.
In this case, it may not be withdrawal, but may be a sign that you require a different medication or treatment to help address your anxiety symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will identify the best way to support you during this time.
How to Safely Stop Buspar
Because buspirone has a very short half-life and can be cleared from the body within a day or two, many doctors may suggest stopping it “cold turkey”, especially if you were on a lower dose or taking it short-term.
However, if you took it for an extended period of time or were on a higher dose, your healthcare provider will likely suggest reducing your dosage every few days or weeks until you eventually are able to stop.
This can help to minimize withdrawal symptoms and potential adverse effects.
Withdrawal Management Tips
If you are stopping buspirone and are concerned about managing withdrawal symptoms, there are many ways that you can ease your anxiety symptoms and withdrawal side effects.
Consider the following:
- Get regular daily physical activity or exercise. Moving your body can help to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and support neurotransmitter balance.
- Decrease caffeine intake. While caffeine can increase alertness and combat drowsy feelings, it can also increase anxiety and tension, especially in people who are sensitive to it or have anxiety.
- Consider supplements. Talk to your provider about over-the-counter (OTC) vitamins and supplements that can help reduce stress and anxiety. (But remember that no supplements are FDA-approved or monitored for safety and effectiveness.)
- Avoid tobacco or alcohol. These can worsen anxiety and neurotransmitter balance.
- Use aromatherapy with calming essential oils like lavender, chamomile, lemon, and clary sage. Never ingest essential oils; instead, inhale them or dilute them and apply directly to your skin. (Note that some essential oils can be toxic to children and pets.)
- Practice meditation or deep breathing, which can support a healthy central nervous system and may be able to reduce anxious feelings.
- Get enough rest. Anxiety can make sleep harder, but if you stay awake because you are anxious you won’t be able to sleep, this could contribute to worsening mental health from poor sleep habits. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
When to See a Medical Professional
If you take buspirone and want to stop or if you are worried about how to manage an anxiety disorder while coming off medication, check in with your healthcare provider.
Do not attempt to stop taking buspirone on your own, as this can cause withdrawal symptoms and worsened anxiety.
Your healthcare provider can create a plan to adjust your dosage, taper off your medication, or transition you to a different prescription medication while minimizing negative side effects as much as possible.
Keep your healthcare provider informed about how you are feeling during this time so that they can make the best decisions to support your health.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity. (2014).
Sleep in the Anxiety-Related Disorders: A Meta-Analysis of Subjective and Objective Research. (2020).