Two drugs available by prescription to treat anxiety are known as buspirone and Xanax. Although both are considered antianxiety agents, they contain different mechanisms of action and differ in their chemical makeup. Xanax is regarded as a federally-controlled, Schedule IV drug with the potential to be addictive, while buspirone is not considered habit-forming. Although both medications have similar side effects, they are incredibly different, as we will describe in the sections below.


Xanax is also known by its generic name alprazolam. It is a benzodiazepine that modifies and increases natural GABA production in the brain. The medication reaches its peak within one to two hours after oral administration, and it contains a relatively long half-life of 11 hours. It is available in oral tablets with strengths varying from 0.25 mg to 2 mg. Xanax is also available by prescription with oral disintegrating tablets, as well as extended-release tablets. Doctors recommend using it three times daily, but never exceeding 4 mg.

In case you develop liver or kidney impairment, your physician may suggest altering the dose. Xanax contains a black box warning, which means you should never use the medication in conjunction with opioids. By doing so, you increase your chances of respiratory depression, coma, or even death.


Buspirone is an antianxiety agent that is different from benzodiazepines. Despite the FDA approval to treat anxiety, there are other off-label uses for buspirone, such as depression. The way the medication interacts with the brain is not fully understood yet, but initial research has shown its effects on serotonin and dopamine are significant.

The drug contains a high bioavailability and is absorbed at nearly 90 percent. Buspirone’s half-life is much shorter than that of Xanax at two to three hours, and it comes in various strengths. Oral tablets come in 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 15mg, and 30 mg. Doctors will initially prescribe the lowest possible dose and increase that number to 20 or 30 mg per day. The maximum recommended dose is 60 mg every day.

Like Xanax, buspirone is metabolized heavily in the liver and kidneys, and should not be taken by those with liver or kidney impairment.

Buspirone Vs. Xanax

Despite their shared characteristics, the two drugs are extremely different chemically. Some of these characteristics are listed below, and include:

Why is Buspirone Prescribed?

  • Short-term relief of anxiety symptoms
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Common Side Effects of Buspirone

  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Excitement

Why is Xanax Prescribed?

Common Side Effects of Xanax

  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What are the Differences of Buspirone and Xanax?

Although both drugs are effective in treating anxiety, they work in opposite ways and will cause varying degrees of side effects.

Both drugs are metabolized in your liver, and this could cause adverse effects and drug interactions.

Buspirone is more practical for short-term anxiety that relates to depression, while Xanax is better at treating anxiety and panic disorders.

If you are considering either of these medications for treatment, speak to a physician immediately about your health.

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