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Buspar and Alcohol: Facts and Side Effects

Buspar is a type of anti-anxiety medication. The manufacturer of the branded version of Buspar discontinued its production in 2010, but the generic version of the drug can still be prescribed. Though in short supply, doctors have found buspirone (Buspar’s generic name) to be an effective medication for the treatment of anxiety symptoms. Like the mixture of many substances, taking buspar and alcohol together can yield unpleasant and sometimes even harmful side effects.

Buspirone – Just An Anxiety Medication?

Though it is commonly compared to Xanax, buspirone does not trult belong in the same substance classification. Rather than qualifying as a benzodiazepine, buspirone belongs to the family of substances known as azapirones. This class of substances, like benzodiazepines, can treat the symptoms of anxiety. However, doctors often choose to prescribe buspirone over benzodiazepines (benzos) because it is less likely to be abused. While individuals may experience tolerance and eventual dependence to a benzodiazepine, buspirone has not been shown to be addictive.

While buspirone may be a solid alternative to some anti-anxiety medications, there are a few things that are unknown about the substance. Particularly, the method with which this drug takes effect is unclear. Researchers have speculated that the substance affects the part of the brain that is responsible for governing fear response, but clear evidence has not been observed yet. While the reason for the effect may be unknown, the side effects have been studied and are mostly well-understood.

While individuals may experience tolerance and eventual dependence to a benzodiazepine, buspirone has not been shown to be addictive.

Buspirone’s Side Effects

Buspirone’s most common side effect is dizziness. There are also several varied effects that patients may experience. Though it’s uncommon, anything from blurry vision to nausea can occur. The complete list of typical side effects includes:

  • Odd Dreams
  • Poor Coordination
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Excitability
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Tingling Skin
  • Blurred Vision
  • Ringing Ears
  • Chest pain
  • Congestion
  • Sore Throat
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Tremors

Though the list of potential side effects is long, these effects are rare, and only manifest in a small number of patients. Additionally, side effects tend to subside as treatment progresses.

How Long Does Buspirone Stay in Your System?

Buspirone is eliminated quickly from the body; individuals who took one dose typically were free of the substance after 24 hours had passed. The half life of buspirone is similarly short: only around 2 to 3 hours. Effectively, this means that the body removes half of the current amount of the substance within 3 hours. If an individual were to take a dose of 30 mg, then in 3 hours, that individual would have only 15 mg of buspirone in their system. This process would keep repeating every 3 hours or so until the entirety of the drug is eliminated. Due to this short timespan of effect, individuals who have a prescription to buspirone may need to take a dose daily, or more often.

Since Buspirone can treat the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder with very little risk of dependence developing, researchers have investigated its effectiveness at treating withdrawal symptoms of other substances. Oftentimes anxiety and cravings appear in patients who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. This means a substance that mitigates those symptoms and also has little risk of being abused itself may be the perfect substance to help recovering individuals. In a pair of studies, patients recovering from alcohol abuse and patients recovering from opioid abuse showed improvement while taking buspirone. While this kind of treatment has not been proven to be effective by the Federal Drug Administration, the results of these studies are promising, and may provide an additional help for patients suffering from or recovering from substance abuse.

Buspirone is eliminated quickly from the body; individuals who took one dose typically were free of the substance after 24 hours had passed.

Buspar Interactions With Alcohol

Fortunately, buspirone has a low chance of being abused. However, the side effects of the substance can worsen to dangerous levels if combined with other drugs. One of the most commonly abused drugs, alcohol, has one such interaction. Buspirone/Buspar and alcohol should never be consumed at the same time. 

The effects of alcohol use are somewhat similar to a few of buspirone’s side effects. Notably, dizziness, impaired coordination, and confusion all can result from both buspirone use as well as alcohol use. If an individual takes buspirone and then consumes alcohol, they may experience more potent versions of these side effects. Extreme dizziness and intense confusion can be dangerous, especially when driving. While the interaction may cause some intense feelings of disorientation, the combination is unlikely to be anything worse than that. Some substances can interact fatally with alcohol, so it is important to always be careful when on a prescription and consuming alcohol.

If an individual takes buspirone and then consumes alcohol, they may experience more potent versions of common side effects.

Understanding the Risks of Mixing Buspar and Alcohol

Though buspirone has effectively no risk for abuse, alcohol’s risk for abuse is nearly the opposite. Substance abuse of any kind can be extremely damaging over time, alcohol especially. If you think a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, contact us today. Alcohol may be the most common, but that does not mean it is the least threatening. An individual suffering from an addiction may not realize there is a problem, so reaching out to them may be life-changing. If you would like to read more about potential drug interactions or substance abuse disorders, read our blog.