How is BuSpar Used in the Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Treatment and BuSpar

Buspar is a medication used to treat SAD.
Buspar is an anxiety medication. Wikimedia Commons / Editor182

BuSpar (buspirone hydrochloride) is used to treat anxiety disorders and for short-term relief from anxiety. BuSpar is not related chemically or pharmacologically to other anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines or other sedatives. The effectiveness of BuSpar for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been established.

Bristol-Meyers Squibb obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1986 for use of buspirone (trade name BuSpar) to be used in the treatment of GAD.

However, the patent expired in 2001 and buspirone is now sold as a generic drug.

Method of Action

Buspirone is from the azaspirone class of medications and has effects on serotonin transmission as well as noradrenergic and dopaminergic activity. 

How to Take BuSpar

BuSpar tablets should be taken consistently either with food or without. It is usually taken two or three times daily.

Dosage Guidelines

The recommended starting dose of BuSpar is 5 mg twice daily. The dose may be increased by 5 mg every 2 to 3 days, with a maximum dose that generally does not exceed 60 mg.

Who Shouldn’t Take BuSpar

Buspar (buspirone hydrochloride) should not be taken by those with a sensitivity to the drug, and should be used with caution in the face of compromised liver function or pre-existing medical conditions.

Medication Interactions

BuSpar can potentially interact with numerous medications including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

It is important that your doctor is aware of all other medications that you are currently taking. In addition, it is best to avoid using alcohol while taking BuSpar.

Adverse Effects

A range of adverse effects is possible when taking Buspar, the most common being dizziness, nausea, headache, nervousness or excitement, and lightheadedness.

Other potential adverse effects include the following:

  • drowsiness, fatigue
  • vomiting, upset stomach, stomach pain
  • constipation, diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty sleeping
  • weakness, numbness

Associated Risks

Although BuSpar is less sedating than many other anxiety medications, use caution if driving, operating machinery or participating in hazardous activities. There is little risk of physical or psychological dependence on BuSpar, and the risk of overdose is low.

BuSpar and Social Anxiety Disorder

One small study from 1993 showed improvement after use of buspirone in a 12-week open trial with 17 patients with generalized social phobia based on DSM-III-R criteria (12 patients showed improvement). However, a double-blind placebo-controlled study of 30 patients with SAD in 1997 showed no improvement compared to placebo.

These results suggest that buspirone as a single treatment option may not be helpful for social anxiety disorder that does not accompany other diagnoses. However, if you do not respond to other medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), buspirone may be an option to augment your current treatment plan. 


Halaby A, Haddad RS, Naja WJ. Non-Antidepressant Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder: A Review. Curr Clin Pharmacol. February 2013.

Schneier FR, Saoud JB, Campeas R, et al. Buspirone in social phobia. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1993;13(4):251-256.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Buspirone. Accessed May 24, 2016.

van Vliet IM, den Boer JA, Westenberg HG, Pian KL. Clinical effects of buspirone in social phobia: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Clin Psychiatry. 1997;58(4):164-168.