Buspar vs Effexor

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For patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or other types of anxiety disorders and depression, there are certain medications that can help manage symptoms by influencing the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Buspar and Effexor are two such drugs commonly used to treat these conditions. They each affect different neurotransmitters but both aim at stabilizing mood fluctuations in patients. Buspar, also known as buspirone, is an anti-anxiety medication that works mainly by affecting levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain - it's thought to enhance their effects rather than inhibiting reuptake. On the other hand, Effexor or venlafaxine is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which means it acts primarily on serotonin and norepinephrine levels. It’s often used for treating depression as well as panic attacks and social anxiety disorder.

What is Buspar?

Buspirone (the generic name for Buspar) is an anxiolytic that marked a considerable shift in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder from its predecessors, benzodiazepines. It was first approved by the FDA in 1986. Unlike most drugs used to treat anxiety, Buspar doesn't have sedative or muscle relaxant properties and isn't associated with dependency risks. It works by binding to serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain, effectively balancing their activity without overstimulation.

On the other hand, Venlafaxine (the generic name for Effexor), which falls under SNRI class antidepressants, has both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. Approved by FDA in 1993; it works on two neurotransmitters - serotonin and norepinephrine – enhancing their function to reduce symptoms of depression as well as anxiety disorders more broadly than Buspar can do.

While both drugs are effective treatments for specific types of mental health conditions, they differ significantly based on their side effect profiles; Effexor may lead to increased blood pressure while one unique side effect of Buspar could be dizziness upon standing.

What conditions is Buspar approved to treat?

Buspar is approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders and symptoms:

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

Effexor, on the other hand, has a broader range of approvals:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic disorder

How does Buspar help with these illnesses?

Buspar, or buspirone, helps to manage anxiety by affecting the amount and actions of serotonin in certain parts of the brain. It does this by binding to serotonin receptors, thereby changing the way they respond to serotonin signals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood regulation -- it's often referred to as a 'feel good' hormone because it contributes towards wellbeing and happiness. People with anxiety disorders may have imbalances in their serotonin levels which can cause symptoms like persistent worry and fear. Therefore, by modifying the response of serotonin receptors, Buspar can help reduce these symptoms and help patients better manage their condition.

What is Effexor?

Effexor is a brand name for venlafaxine, an antidepressant that falls under the category of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). This means it increases levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by inhibiting their reabsorption. Introduced to the market by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 1994, Effexor also has some effect on dopamine levels, but significantly less than its impact on serotonin and norepinephrine.

Unlike Buspar, which primarily impacts serotonergic systems and is often used as an adjunct treatment for anxiety disorders, Effexor's dual-action mechanism can be beneficial in treating both depressive disorders and generalized anxiety disorder. Its side-effect profile differs from SSRIs such as Buspar; while it may cause nausea or sexual dysfunction at similar rates to SSRIs, it does not have the same association with weight gain. For patients unresponsive to more typical SSRI treatments like Buspar or those dealing with concurrent symptoms of depression and anxiety, Effexor might offer a desirable alternative.

What conditions is Effexor approved to treat?

Effexor, or Venlafaxine, is a medication that has been approved by the FDA for several uses. These include:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD), to help alleviate the symptoms and improve quality of life
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), providing relief from continuous excessive worrying and fear
  • Panic disorders, reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks
  • Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia), easing intense fear of social situations

How does Effexor help with these illnesses?

Effexor, or venlafaxine, is an antidepressant that works by modulating the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Serotonin plays a key role in mood regulation while norepinephrine affects attention and response actions. In situations where there's a deficiency or imbalance of these neurotransmitters, symptoms of depression may surface. Effexor increases the concentrations of these two chemicals in your nervous system to help mitigate depressive symptoms. It differs from Buspar, which mainly influences serotonin receptors but doesn't significantly affect norepinephrine levels. For patients who have not responded satisfactorily to drugs like Buspar that primarily target serotonin, or those with depression characterized by low energy or poor concentration — symptoms associated with low norepinephrine — Effexor can be an effective option either alone or in combination therapy.

How effective are both Buspar and Effexor?

Both buspirone (Buspar) and venlafaxine (Effexor) are effective in managing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, although they act on different neurotransmitters and were approved by the FDA several years apart. Buspirone is an azapirone that acts as a serotonin receptor agonist, while venlafaxine is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. The effectiveness of both drugs in treating anxiety was explored within numerous clinical trials: A 1996 study revealed similar efficacy between buspirone and venlafaxine in managing symptoms of anxiety, with promising safety profiles for both medications.

A 2001 review demonstrated that buspirone effectively reduced symptoms starting from the first week of treatment, exhibiting favorable side effects compared to benzodiazepines, making it well-tolerated even among elderly populations. Furthermore, buspirone has become one of the most widely prescribed anxiolytic drugs worldwide due to its non-addictive properties.

On the other hand, a 2015 meta-analysis indicated that venlafaxine seems more potent than placebo at treating anxiety disorders and appears comparable in efficacy to other common anxiolytics. Venlafaxine also stands out as having antidepressant properties; thus it may be particularly beneficial for those suffering from comorbid depressive disorders alongside their anxiety. However, Effexor is often considered only after SSRIs or benzodiazepines have proven ineffective due to its potential withdrawal syndrome upon discontinuation.

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 indicated that 30 mg/day is often sufficient for treating generalized anxiety disorder in most people. Adolescents may be started on a lower dose (5–10mg per day). In either population, the dosage can be increased after several weeks if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in any case is 60 mg/day.

At what dose is Effexor typically prescribed?

Effexor treatment typically begins with a dosage of 75 mg per day, administered in two or three divided doses. If required and tolerated by the patient, the dose can then be gradually increased to a maximum daily dose of 225 mg, split into two or three separate doses taken at intervals throughout the day. This increase is usually tested if there's no significant response to initial treatment after several weeks. It's important that each dose is spaced evenly apart during waking hours and patients should strictly adhere to their doctor's instructions regarding dosage changes.

What are the most common side effects for Buspar?

Common side effects that you may experience while taking Buspar as compared to Effexor include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when getting up from a sitting or lying position
  • Headache
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Excitement or nervousness
  • Restlessness, irritability, anger, or aggressive behavior
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness -Dry mouth
    -Trouble in sleeping (insomnia) -Muscle pain and stiffness. -Sweating more than usual. -Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

Always remember to consult with your health care provider if any of these symptoms persist longer than expected or cause significant discomfort.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Buspar?

While Buspar and Effexor are both used to treat anxiety and depression, they can have different side effects. Some serious but rare potential side effects of Buspar include:

  • Noticeable mood changes including thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • A severe skin reaction: fever, sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) leading to blistering and peeling.
  • Unusual movements of your body that you cannot control.
  • Shortness of breath

On the other hand with Effexor:

  • The risk for suicidal thoughts may increase especially during initial treatment.
  • Symptoms related to serotonin syndrome such as agitation; hallucinations; fast heart rate; sweating; shivering/muscle stiffness/twitching/loss of coordination/vomiting/diarrhea should be watched out for particularly when combined with other serotonergic drugs.

In either case if these symptoms occur medical attention is required immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Effexor?

When taking Effexor, patients might experience:

  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
  • Sweating and feeling nervous or anxious
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual changes like blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Experiencing confusion and feelings of hostility or agitation
  • Skin rash
  • Unintentional weight loss
    -Increased frequency of urination -Potential for experiencing headache, dizziness
    -Muscle or joint pain.

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider if any side effects persist or become bothersome.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Effexor?

Effexor, while effective for many patients, can also present serious side effects in some cases. These may include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, itching or skin rash
  • Difficulty breathing or swelling in various areas like the face, tongue or throat
  • A sudden increase in suicidal thoughts or ideation
  • Onset of seizures which were not experienced before
  • Unusual mood swings and confusion that persist over time
  • Vision problems including blurred vision and seeing halos around lights.
  • Abnormal changes in heart rate: either too fast or irregular These are severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. If you experience a significant shift towards feeling overly happy, irritable with racing thoughts and more energy than usual coupled with reckless behavior and sleeping issues then it may be indicative of a manic episode - another reason to seek emergency help.

Contraindications for Buspar and Effexor?

Both Buspar and Effexor, as with many other anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, may potentially exacerbate symptoms of depression in some individuals. If you observe a worsening of your anxiety or depression, or an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors while on these medications, it is crucial to seek medical assistance immediately.

Neither Buspar nor Effexor should be taken if you are currently taking, or have recently stopped taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (MAOIs). It's vital that you inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you're presently using; MAOIs require approximately 5 weeks to be completely eliminated from your system to prevent hazardous interactions with Buspar and Effexor.

How much do Buspar and Effexor cost?

In comparison, the price of 60 tablets of Buspar (10 mg) averages around $220, which works out to approximately $3.66–$7.33 per day, depending on your dosage. On the other hand, the average cost for a supply of 30 capsules of Effexor (75 mg) is about $250 – equating to roughly $8.33/day.

Consequently, if you are in higher dosage range for Buspar (i.e., 60 mg/day or more), then brand-name Effexor could potentially be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. However, remember that cost should not be the primary consideration when determining which drug will best suit your needs.

When it comes to generic versions - buspirone and venlafaxine respectively:

  • Buspirone is available in packs ranging from 30 tablets upwards with approximate costs varying between $0.11 and $.40 per day based on dosages from 5mg/day up to typical dosages of around 20mg/day.
  • Venlafaxine can be purchased in packs starting at quantities as low as ten pills up to larger bulk options like one thousand capsules with prices beginning at about $0.15/day but not going beyond around an average daily cost of even two dollars ($2).

Popularity of Buspar and Effexor

Buspirone, commonly known as Buspar, was prescribed to about 4 million people in the US in 2020. Buspirone accounted for just over 8% of prescriptions for anxiolytic medications in the country. Unlike many other anxiolytics, buspirone is not classified as a benzodiazepine but belongs to the azapirone class and has a different mode of action. It does not cause physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms are minimal compared to those of benzodiazepines.

Venlafaxine, including brand versions such as Effexor, was prescribed to approximately 6.5 million people in the USA during the same year. Venlafaxine accounts for nearly 15% of SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) prescriptions, and just under 7% of overall antidepressant prescriptions in America. The prevalence of venlafaxine has been generally steady over the last decade.


Both Buspar (buspirone) and Effexor (venlafaxine) have proven records of usage in managing anxiety disorders and depression, supported by a significant number of clinical studies demonstrating their effectiveness over placebo treatments. The two drugs may be used together under the careful supervision of a healthcare professional, although they act through different mechanisms. Buspar works primarily as a serotonin receptor agonist with some action on dopamine receptors, while Effexor acts mainly as an inhibitor for both the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine.

Buspar is often considered when first-line SSRI or SNRI antidepressants are not well-tolerated or lead to undesirable side effects such as sexual dysfunction. On the other hand, Effexor is typically prescribed for severe cases of depression or generalized anxiety disorder where SSRIs have been ineffective.

Both medications are available in generic form which can result in substantial cost savings especially for those paying out-of-pocket. An adjustment period might be required before noticeable improvements occur with both Buspar and Effexor.

In terms of side effects, both drugs share common ones like nausea, headaches and dizziness; however, compared to Effexor, Buspar has less potential to cause sexual dysfunction and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. It's important that patients closely monitor their mental health during treatment initiation or dosage modifications and seek immediate medical attention if they notice worsening mood patterns or develop suicidal thoughts.