Buspar vs Ativan

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For patients dealing with anxiety disorders or short-term symptoms of anxiety, certain drugs that impact the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain can help manage these symptoms. Buspar and Ativan are two such medications commonly prescribed for managing anxiety. They influence different neurotransmitters but both have calming effects on patients suffering from anxiety. Buspar, known as a 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist, primarily affects serotonin levels without causing dependency issues often linked to other anti-anxiety medicines. On the other hand, Ativan belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which enhance the effect of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter associated with inhibiting central nervous system activity resulting in reduced anxiety and tension.

What is Buspar?

Buspirone (the generic form of Buspar) is a member of the class of drugs known as anxiolytics, specifically used to treat chronic anxiety disorders. Unlike benzodiazepines, another type of anxiolytic represented by Ativan (lorazepam), buspirone does not have sedative or muscle-relaxant properties. Instead it operates by affecting certain natural substances in the brain like serotonin and dopamine. Buspirone was first approved by the FDA in 1986. It works slowly over time to help balance out chemicals in the brain that contribute to anxiety, making it highly effective for long-term management but less so for immediate relief from acute symptoms.

On the other hand, Ativan has a more immediate effect on reducing panic attacks and acute episodes of anxiety because it increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), effectively slowing down activity in your central nervous system rather than selectively influencing neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine. However, due to its strong effects and potential for dependency, Ativan is generally prescribed for short term use only.

What conditions is Buspar approved to treat?

Buspar is approved for the treatment of different types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by chronic and excessive worry about various aspects of life

  • Short-term relief of symptoms associated with anxiety, particularly when these are severe or disabling Ativan, on the other hand, has broader indications including:

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Insomnia due to anxiety or stress

  • Status epilepticus (a type of severe seizure)

  • Sedation in hospitalized patients.

How does Buspar help with these illnesses?

Buspar (buspirone) helps to manage anxiety by affecting the amount of serotonin and dopamine available in the synapses of the brain. It does this by binding to serotonin receptors, which can alter the signal transmission between neurons in these neural pathways. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that play crucial roles in mood regulation, cognition, memory, sleep patterns, among other things. It is thought that individuals with anxiety disorders may have imbalances in their levels of these neurotransmitters. Therefore, by regulating their amounts through receptor interaction, Buspar can limit negative effects of anxiety and help patients manage their condition.

On the other hand, Ativan (lorazepam) works differently as it enhances the effect of another neurotransmitter called GABA to reduce excessive nerve activity. This results in a calming effect which relieves symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a brand name for lorazepam, which belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs. This class of medications increases the activity of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, leading to sedative and anti-anxiety effects. Lorazepam was first approved by the FDA in 1977.

Unlike Buspar (buspirone), Ativan does not affect serotonin levels but instead works primarily on GABA receptors. Its effect on GABA means its side-effect profile differs from that of buspirone: it can cause drowsiness and may lead to dependency if used long-term or at high doses (common risks associated with benzodiazepines). However, its potent action on anxiety symptoms can make it a powerful tool for managing acute episodes of severe anxiety or panic attacks - conditions where buspirone might be less effective due to its slower onset of action.

What conditions is Ativan approved to treat?

Ativan is a benzodiazepine that has been approved for the treatment of:

  • Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Short-term relief of symptoms related to anxiety
  • Insomnia due to stress or anxiety
  • Preoperative sedation and treatment of status epilepticus.

How does Ativan help with these illnesses?

Ativan, also known as lorazepam, is a benzodiazepine that primarily acts on the GABA neurotransmitter system in the brain. This system plays a crucial role in calming neuronal activity and inducing sleep, reducing anxiety, relaxing muscles, and quieting racing thoughts or panic attacks. Ativan enhances the effects of GABA by binding to its receptors more firmly than Buspar (buspirone), making it particularly effective for acute episodes of intense anxiety or panic attacks. It's action on these neurotransmitter systems may also contribute to its efficacy as an anti-anxiety medication. However, due to its potential for dependency and withdrawal symptoms with long-term use, it might be prescribed when patients do not respond well to other less potent anxiolytics such as Buspar or could be combined with them under careful monitoring.

How effective are both Buspar and Ativan?

Both buspirone (Buspar) and lorazepam (Ativan) are commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of anxiety disorders, with different applications based on their unique pharmacological profiles. Buspirone was approved by the FDA in 1986, while lorazepam received its approval a decade earlier in 1977. Both drugs act on neurotransmitters involved in anxiety regulation but via different mechanisms.

Specifically, buspirone is considered an azapirone that works primarily through serotonin receptors whereas lorazepam belongs to the benzodiazepine class and exerts its effects mainly through enhancing GABA activity. A double-blind clinical trial conducted in 1990 comparing these two drugs demonstrated comparable efficacy between them for generalized anxiety disorder symptoms; however there were some differences noted such as less sedation seen with buspirone compared to lorazepam.

A meta-analysis review published in 2004 revealed that buspirone is effective right from the first week of treatment without causing dependence or withdrawal effects seen typically with benzodiazepines like Ativan. Moreover, it has been shown to be well-tolerated across various populations including elderly patients.

On other hand, a comprehensive review carried out in 2016 indicated that while lorazepam can offer rapid relief from acute episodes of severe anxiety or panic attacks due to its quick onset of action; chronic use could lead to tolerance and dependence issues along with potential withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Therefore, it's often used as second-line therapy when immediate symptom control is necessary or as an addition for short-term management during initiation phase of first-line treatments like SSRIs or buspirone.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Buspar typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Buspar range from 15-60 mg/day, but studies have suggested that 30 mg/day is typically enough to treat generalized anxiety disorder in most adults. Dosage can be increased after a few weeks if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in any case is 60 mg/day. On the other hand, Ativan's oral dosage varies between 1-10mg/day depending on the severity of symptoms and individual patient response. In general practice, it begins at a low dose of around 2-3mg per day which can be increased gradually every two to three days until an effective dose for relieving anxiety symptoms is reached.

At what dose is Ativan typically prescribed?

Ativan treatment is typically initiated with a dosage of 1–2 mg/day, taken in two to three divided doses. The dose can then be increased up to 6-10 mg/day, depending on the individual's response and tolerance. Doses are usually distributed throughout the day with larger doses being given before bedtime. The maximum dosage should not exceed 10 mg per day, which may be tested if there is no adequate response to lower dosages after a few weeks. Do remember that all changes in dosage should be made under the guidance of your healthcare provider as Ativan has potential for abuse and physical dependency.

What are the most common side effects for Buspar?

Common side effects of Buspar (buspirone) may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Nervousness or excitement
  • Lightheadedness

On the other hand, commonly reported side effects for Ativan (lorazepam) can include:

  • Sedation (sleepiness/drowsiness)
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Weakness -Nausea -Changing in appetite.

It's crucial to note that both medications can lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly after prolonged use. Always consult with a healthcare provider when starting or stopping these medications.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Buspar?

Buspar, also known as buspirone, is generally considered safe for use. However, it may lead to certain side effects in rare cases:

  • Mood changes that include thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat; hives.
  • Changes in vision such as blurriness or tunnel vision.
  • Heart rhythm problems like fast or pounding heartbeats and chest palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath and feelings of faintness.
  • Low sodium levels leading to a headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination and unsteadiness.

Physical manifestations such as very rigid muscles high fever sweating confusion rapid heartbeat tremors can point towards a serious nervous system reaction.

In the event you experience symptoms related to serotonin syndrome including agitation hallucinations fever excessive sweating shivering accelerated heart rate muscle stiffness twitching loss of coordination nausea vomiting diarrhea seek medical attention immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Ativan?

Ativan, a commonly prescribed medication for anxiety and panic disorders, has its own set of potential side effects that users should be aware of. These may include:

  • Dry mouth or excessive salivation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or excessive sleepiness
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness
  • Muscle weakness or lack of coordination
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort
  • Constipation or diarrhea -Increased sweating -Slowed heart rate -Rashes or other changes in skin appearance
    -Memory problems and confusion, -Frequent urination
    -Unusual weight changes. As with any medication decision, it's crucial to weigh these potential downsides against the benefits in managing your symptoms. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting a new medication regimen.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Ativan?

While Ativan is noted for relieving anxiety, it may sometimes cause more severe side effects. Here are some symptoms that could indicate a serious reaction:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Changes in mood or behavior: confusion, depression, thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Unusual sedation or drowsiness
  • Vision changes such as blurred vision
  • Sudden restless feeling or excitement; hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeats and chest pain
  • Seizures (convulsions)
    If you notice any of these reactions while taking Ativan, seek immediate medical attention.

Contraindications for Buspar and Ativan?

Both Buspar and Ativan, along with most other anti-anxiety medications, can potentially exacerbate symptoms of anxiety in some individuals. If you notice your anxiety worsening or experiencing an increase in panic attacks or self-destructive thoughts, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Buspar nor Ativan should be taken if you are taking or have been taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Always inform your physician about any medications you are currently on; MAOIs will require a period of about 2 weeks to clear from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with both Buspar and Ativan. Additionally, these anti-anxiety drugs may also interact adversely with certain antibiotics, antifungals, barbiturates and other benzodiazepines so it is crucial to keep your healthcare provider informed about all the medicines that you take.

How much do Buspar and Ativan cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Ativan (1 mg) averages around $220, which works out to approximately $3.70–$7.30/day depending on your dose.
  • The price for 60 tablets of Buspar (10 mg), on average, is around $100, working out to roughly $1.70/day.

Hence, if you are in the higher dosage range for Ativan (i.e., 2 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Buspar is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For generic versions - lorazepam (Ativan) and buspirone (Buspar), costs are significantly lower:

  • Lorazepam can be bought in packs from 30 tablets up to several hundred, with approximate costs ranging from about $0.15 to $0.50 per day at doses between 1mg and 2mg.
  • Buspirone comes in similar pack sizes as lorazepam and has an estimated cost starting from just below $.10 per day at its most typical dosages levels such as10mg or even reaching up towards $.20 when taking larger doses like 20mg daily amount.

Popularity of Buspar and Ativan

Buspirone, commonly known as Buspar, was prescribed to about 4 million people in the US in 2020. This drug accounts for a significant portion of anxiolytic prescriptions (drugs used to combat anxiety) due to its non-addictive nature. Despite being less well-known than some other drugs in this category, buspirone remains popular among physicians because it has fewer side effects and is not associated with tolerance or withdrawal.

Lorazepam, available under brand names such as Ativan, was prescribed to roughly 14 million people in the USA during that same period. It makes up a substantial proportion of the benzodiazepine class prescriptions - a group of medications primarily used for treating anxiety but also other conditions like insomnia and seizures. However, despite lorazepam's greater prescription numbers relative to buspirone, caution is recommended due to potential issues with dependency and withdrawal symptoms with prolonged use.


Both Buspar (buspirone) and Ativan (lorazepam) have a track record of efficacy in the treatment of anxiety disorders, as demonstrated by years of clinical use and extensive research data. Both drugs can be prescribed together under certain circumstances but it is a decision that requires careful evaluation from your physician due to potential drug interactions.

Buspirone primarily acts on serotonin receptors reducing anxiety without sedation or dependence. In contrast, lorazepam works by enhancing the effects of GABA in the brain leading to its anxiolytic, sedative effect. As such, they are used for different types of anxiety disorders or symptoms: buspirone is often chosen for generalized anxiety disorder with no immediate need for symptom relief while lorazepam is more suitable when rapid relief from acute symptoms like panic attacks is needed.

Buspar and Ativan are available as generic medications offering cost-effective options particularly beneficial to patients paying out-of-pocket. Initial response may take time especially with buspirone which typically takes several weeks until full therapeutic benefits become evident.

While both drugs share common side effects such as dizziness and nausea, differences lie in their propensity toward dependency: lorazepam carries higher risk due to its classification as a benzodiazepine. Moreover, it's important that individuals taking either medication closely monitor changes in their mood or behavior particularly at therapy onset; prompt medical attention should be sought if worsening anxiety or any suicidal thoughts arise.