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Buspirone and Alcohol

What Is Buspirone?

Buspirone, known by its brand name Buspar, is a medication primarily used to treat anxiety disorders. In particular, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Unlike some other medications used for anxiety, such as benzodiazepines, buspirone does not leave the user drowsy. It also has a lower risk of dependency.

The way buspirone works is by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Specifically, this means serotonin and dopamine. It prevents the reuptake of these chemicals, helping to create a feeling of calm and well-being.

Because people with anxiety tend to self-medicate with alcohol, it’s important to know if it’s safe to take buspirone and alcohol. While it’s not specifically contraindicated, taking buspirone and alcohol is not a good idea. We’ll explain why below.

How Does BuSpar Treat Anxiety?

The way BuSpar works is by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and dopamine. It is classified as an anxiolytic. This means it helps to reduce anxiety. Buspirone acts as a partial agonist at serotonin 5-HT1A receptors and also has some action at dopamine D2 receptors.

This action helps to modify the chemical messages in the brain that can become unbalanced in people with anxiety. This leads to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Unlike benzodiazepines, another common class of anti-anxiety drugs, BuSpar is not considered addictive. It doesn’t cause the sedative effects that are often associated with benzodiazepines and has a much lower potential for dependency and abuse. This makes it a safer long-term option for managing anxiety.

BuSpar is typically prescribed by healthcare providers, including psychiatrists and general practitioners. It’s often used when patients need long-term medication for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and for those who may be at risk of substance abuse or have concerns about the side effects of other anti-anxiety medications.

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What Happens When You Take Buspirone and Alcohol?

Buspirone and alcohol both depress the central nervous system. When taken together, the sedative effects of each can be enhanced, leading to increased drowsiness, dizziness, and impairment of motor skills.

Dangers of combining buspirone with alcohol include:

  • Increased CNS impairment — The combination can lead to enhanced impairment, particularly affecting coordination and reaction time. This is a significant concern when it comes to activities that require alertness, such as driving or operating machinery.
  • Worsened mental health — Alcohol is a CNS depressant and can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thus, mixing buspirone and alcohol can counteract the benefits of buspirone.
  • Risk of Over-sedation — There’s a risk of over-sedation, which could lead to extreme drowsiness, difficulty waking up, or even loss of consciousness in severe cases.


For these reasons, combining buspirone and alcohol is not recommended. If you mix buspirone and alcohol, you should consider professional treatment.

Are There Other Options for Anxiety Treatment?

Yes, there are several other options for anxiety treatment.

Some commonly prescribed medications for anxiety include:


  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — These medications, such as sertraline (Zoloft) or escitalopram (Lexapro), work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) — Medications like venlafaxine (Effexor) or duloxetine (Cymbalta) increase both serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, providing relief from anxiety symptoms.
  • Benzodiazepines — Drugs like alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) are effective for short-term relief of acute anxiety symptoms but can be habit-forming and are not typically recommended for long-term use due to the risk of dependency.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) CBT is a highly effective form of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.
  • Exposure Therapy — Often used for phobias and panic disorder, this involves gradual exposure to the source of anxiety in a controlled way to help reduce fear and anxiety responses.
  • Mindfulness-Based Therapy — Incorporates mindfulness practices to help individuals stay present and reduce anxiety.

Lifestyle Changes and Self-Help Strategies:

  • Regular Exercise — Physical activity can reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood.
  • Stress Management Techniques — Practices like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and reduce anxiety.
  • Healthy Diet — A balanced diet can support overall mental health.
  • Adequate Sleep — Poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety, so good sleep hygiene is important.


Remember, if you or a loved one are resorting to buspirone and alcohol, it may be a good idea to seek professional anxiety treatment.

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Anxiety Treatment at South Coast Behavioral Health

For those struggling with anxiety, South Coast Behavioral Health is your ally. We offer compassionate and affordable counseling for anxiety and addiction issues.

If you are abusing buspirone and alcohol, you may need a medical detox before starting treatment. Our medical detox program in California is staffed by caring and compassionate professionals who can provide you with medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care that is closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA.

After detoxing, proper treatment can begin.

Treatment for substance abuse takes place along an entire spectrum of care. Along that entire spectrum are various behavioral therapies, support groups, and the use of medically-assisted treatment (MAT).

These levels of treatment are, in order, as follows:

Residential Treatment in California

After completing medical detox, you’ll receive inpatient treatment in Orange County California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling.

We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, patients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the institution full-time.

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services.

Partial Hospitalization in California

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach.

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life. Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for several hours each day, returning to their homes in the evening.

This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skill development, and medication management as necessary.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery.

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and education, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can meet three to five days a week. Each session lasts three hours.

This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility.

Start Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction but wonder how long addiction treatment takes or have other questions, call us at 866-881-1184 or contact us here. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea of what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, help verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions you may have.

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT