Ativan and Xanax: What's the Difference?

Ativan and Xanax: What's the Difference?

The scientific name for Xanax is Alprazolam, and it is a short acting anxiolytic. The scientific name for Ativan is Lorazepam. Xanax and Ativan are both benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are a class of psychoactive drugs which are used as tranquilizers, sedatives or muscle relaxants to induce sleep. Benzos can also be used to relieve anxiety, nervousness, tension, and even to stop seizures

Similarities Between Ativan and Xanax

As mentioned above, Ativan and Xanax are both Benzos and are used for similar purposes. The drugs also have similar potencies, as they are rapid onset medications. This means that the medicinal effects of Ativan and Xanax can be observed under 30 minutes of taking them. Furthermore, due to their high potency, both drugs are only administered in very small doses, 1 mg or less. Ativan is usually administered in doses of 0.5 – 1 mg and Xanax in doses of 0.25 – 1 mg.

Differences Between Ativan and Xanax

Doctors prescribe Ativan and Xanax for slightly different reasons. Ativan is used to treat anxiety and as a sedative before operations. Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic disorder. Some other differences are:

Different Action Times

While both Xanax and Ativan are short acting Benzos, their action times are a bit different. In fact the major difference between the drugs is the amount of time that the drug’s effects last in the body. Generally, Xanax peaks in the body quicker, but is active for less hours, overall. Ativan peaks in 1 – 6 hours and its average half life is approximately 15 hours. Xanax peaks in 1 – 2 hours and its average half life is approximately 12 hours.

Different Addictive Qualities

Chronically using any Benzos can lead to physical dependency, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops taking the medication. This is true for both Ativan and Xanax. However, doctors recognize that Xanax has more abuse potential than Ativan and other Benzos.

Side Effects of Xanax and Ativan

While both drugs share several side effects, each drug can cause some unique side effects.

Xanax can cause memory impairment, and it can also increase the risk of mania or excitability and difficulty sleeping in people who have bipolar disorder. Ativan can cause headaches, nausea heartburn, blurred vision and confusion.

Some side effects shared by the Xanax and Ativan are:

Drowsiness and dizziness

Impaired ability to drive

Dry mouth

Low blood pressure
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