Though they share similar medical applications, in a side-by-side comparison of buspirone vs Xanax, each has a clear advantage over the other for particular patients.
Ease of access makes some medications dangerous for patients who struggle with substance abuse. Additionally, the “desirable” side effects of benzos often lead people to abuse prescription drugs like Xanax.
Doctors sometimes turn to alternatives like buspirone to address the symptoms Xanax does in people who have struggled with substance abuse in the past.
What Is Xanax Mostly Prescribed For?
Xanax – also known by its generic chemical name, alprazolam – is primarily prescribed to address anxiety.
The class of drugs that Xanax belongs to – benzodiazepines or “benzos” – produce calming effects by binding with the brain receptors responsible for relaxation and magnifying their effect. This bind produces a sedative effect that makes Xanax a useful medication for treating anxiety as well as other conditions.
While doctors most often prescribe Xanax as an anti-anxiety medication, it can also assist patients with panic attack disorders. Additionally, Xanax has shown some promise in helping with both alcohol withdrawal symptoms and trouble falling asleep. Prescribing it for this purpose, however, is not officially recognized across the medical community.
Is Xanax Addictive?
The relaxing effects of Xanax can be habit-forming. People who abuse the drug put themselves at significant risk for developing a dependence. Several factors contribute to its potential for abuse, but the most significant is the fact that it releases dopamine.
Dopamine is a naturally-occurring chemical that activates the “reward centers” in the brain. When Xanax triggers an artificial release of dopamine, this causes the brain to associate the drug with the resulting pleasurable effects. The brain may begin to crave this “Xanax high.” Continued use can lead to a chemical dependence on Xanax just to function normally, leading to addiction.
Individuals who take prescription drugs for extended periods of time, their body will build a tolerance for it, meaning they need more of the drug to feel the same level of effect. This tolerance builds especially quickly in individuals who have a history with substance abuse, meaning those who have already dealt with dependence or addictions are at significant risk.
What Does Buspirone Do To The Body?
Buspiron (BuSpar), on the other hand, has a similar effect on anxious individuals as Xanax, but with a significantly lower potential for abuse.
How Does Buspirone Work?
While Xanax is a benzodiazepine, buspirone belongs to a classification known as azapirones. Azapirones have both antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, but affect the brain differently than benzos.
Whereas Xanax interacts with receptors responsible for relaxation and sedation and associates strongly with dopamine, buspirone interacts with one of dopamine’s counterparts: serotonin.
The drawback to buspirone is that the sedative effects are milder than Xanax and take longer to work. Buspirone “kicks in” about a week after initial dose, and may not reach full clinical effect until about the six week mark.
Is Buspirone (BuSpar) addictive?
There is a sharp difference in the degree of understanding about how buspirone vs Xanax act upon the brain. The exact way that buspirone works has yet to be understood, but some suggest that it affects the way the brain processes fear and anxiety. Nonetheless, buspirone demonstrates an extremely low potential for addiction and is considered a valuable alternative to benzodiazepine anxiety treatments.
What Else Can Buspirone Be Prescribed For?
Though treating anxiety is buspirone’s only official medical use, studies have suggested that it may be a valuable medication for individuals dealing with withdrawal from opioids or alcohol.
In those studies, administration of buspirone appeared to reduce cravings for a dependent substance. Though these studies will not be enough evidence to make this a verified application of buspirone, further investigation may find that buspirone can effectively reduce cravings for opioids and alcohol during withdrawal.
Buspirone vs Xanax: How Do I Know Which Is Right For Me?
While Xanax dominates the prescription field when it comes to anti-anxiety medications, buspirone’s lack of abuse potential may make it the perfect alternative in patients at-risk for substance abuse.
If you struggle with anxiety, talk to your doctor about your prescription medication history to see whether buspirone could be a helpful alternative to Xanax. If you find the need to switch, this will also need medical supervision to avoid benzo withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, if you suspect that you or someone you love already suffers from prescription drug dependence or addiction, contact us today to see our range of options to help you get your life back drug-free.