Xanax Vs. Ativan: Which Is Stronger?

While Ativan and Xanax have a lot in common, they also have some differences that can affect treatment. Ativan has a slightly lower risk of abuse because of its slower onset and longer-lasting effects.

Both alprazolam, known by its brand name Xanax, and lorazepam, brand name Ativan, belong to a class of prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines.

People who experience mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or insomnia may be prescribed Xanax or Ativan as treatment options.

Xanax can be beneficial for short-term use, but its habit-forming qualities may be a problem in the long term and lead to symptoms of Xanax abuse.

Because of this, many people seek alternatives to Xanax, including other prescription or over-the-counter medications and natural remedies.

Ativan and Xanax have a lot in common as FDA-approved medications for treating anxiety, but they also have some key differences.

Is Ativan Stronger Than Xanax?

Benzodiazepines (benzos) influence the central nervous system (CNS) by attaching to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter receptors, increasing the amount of GABA in the brain.

Because Xanax and Ativan work in the same way, the doses are similar. A daily dose of Ativan may range from 0.5 to 2 milligrams (mg), while a dose of Xanax could be 0.25 to 4 mg.

Neither medication is particularly stronger than the other. The main difference is how long it takes the body to metabolize them.

Treatment And Uses For Lorazepam And Alprazolam

The primary use of Ativan or Xanax is to treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, although they are prescribed off-label for other purposes. Occasionally, Xanax is used to treat insomnia.

Unlike Xanax, Ativan is used in its injectable form as a treatment for seizures. It is also sometimes used as a pre-sedative before surgery.

Similarities Between Xanax And Ativan

Xanax and Ativan have similar calming effects. They both produce a relaxed feeling and help ease muscle tension.

Benzodiazepine Medications

While researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly how benzos work, the consensus is that they act on GABA receptors to increase GABA in the brain, which provides a calming effect.

Ativan and Xanax can both be taken up to four times a day or “as needed,” which varies from person to person depending on their symptoms of anxiety.

Risks Of Dependence And Abuse

Ativan and Xanax are two of the strongest benzodiazepine drugs available. Benzos are habit-forming, and the body can become dependent on them after just one or two weeks of use.

That’s why healthcare providers focus on prescribing these medications as a temporary solution. However, they are sometimes prescribed for long-term use for months or even years.

When alprazolam and lorazepam are taken at higher doses than prescribed, they can create a mild euphoric effect. Many people use them recreationally for this reason.

It is easy to develop an addiction to benzos when using them improperly or illegally. This is compounded by these drugs’ often difficult withdrawal symptoms.

What Is The Difference Between Xanax And Ativan?

The most significant differences between Xanax and Ativan are how long their effects take to peak and their half-lives. A half-life refers to how long it takes a substance to leave the body.

While the exact amount of time it takes a medication to metabolize in the body will depend on factors like weight, age, and diet, there are some standard time ranges to expect.

Short-Acting Vs. Long-Acting

The effects of Xanax can usually be felt within an hour, and they peak within one to two hours. Ativan’s effects may take anywhere from two to six hours to fully reach their peak.

The half-life of Xanax is around 11 to 15 hours, and the half-life of Ativan ranges anywhere from 10 to 20 hours. Typically, Ativan’s effects are longer lasting than Xanax’s.

On average, Xanax’s effects last around four to six hours, while Ativan’s last for about eight hours.

The effects of extended-release Xanax can last up to 11 hours. There is no extended-release equivalent currently available for Ativan.

Side Effects And Risks Of Alprazolam Vs. Lorazepam

As with the use of any medication, the use of alprazolam or lorazepam comes with potential risks and side effects. Many of the side effects are the same for these two drugs.

If someone overdoses on Xanax or Ativan, they could be at serious risk of respiratory depression, coma, or even death.

Both medications are dangerous to quit cold turkey. To stop taking them safely, it’s important to taper off and detox under medical supervision.

Side Effects Of Xanax

Xanax can cause a wide range of potential side effects, with some more likely to occur than others. The most common side effects are slurred speech and unsteadiness.

Some other side effects of Xanax may be:

  • drowsiness
  • disruptions in sleep patterns
  • memory problems
  • low blood pressure
  • difficulty concentrating
  • constipation
  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • appetite changes
  • lowered libido

Side Effects Of Ativan

Ativan shares quite a few side effects with Xanax, since they are so similar in their chemical makeup. However, Ativan does cause a few unique effects.

People who take Ativan may experience muscle weakness, heavy sedation, headaches, or skin rashes. Since Ativan lasts longer, the side effects could persist longer as well.

Which Drug Is More Effective For The Treatment Of Anxiety?

Both Ativan and Xanax have their place in psychiatry as anti-anxiety medications, and which one is better depends on the person and their mental health.

However, there are some situations where a doctor will typically prescribe one over the other. Since Xanax is faster-acting, it is often a better choice for people who have panic attacks.

Likewise, someone with generalized anxiety disorder may do better on Ativan so that they don’t have to take as many doses during the day.

Possible Drug Interactions

As benzodiazepines, both Ativan and Xanax have the potential to interact negatively with other drugs such as opioids, alcohol, prescription barbiturates, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.

Substance use while taking a benzodiazepine drug is not advised. Mixing any of the above CNS depressants with Xanax or Ativan can cause severe respiratory depression that can be fatal.

They can also produce other side effects like excessive salivation, hypotension (low blood pressure), and psychosis.

If you are prescribed Xanax or Ativan, be sure to seek medical advice from your doctor before taking other medications or using substances.

Seeking Help For A Benzodiazepine Addiction

If you or a loved one may be experiencing an addiction to Ativan or Xanax, don’t hesitate to get help.

Spring Hill Recovery Center offers a variety of addiction treatment options that range from inpatient rehab to guided outpatient addiction care.

Call us today to speak to a recovery specialist and learn more about our services.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: November 10, 2022

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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