Josh Chandler | February 28, 2024

Ativan vs. Xanax: Top Differences & Similarities

Ativan (Lorazepam) and Xanax (Alprazolam) are two of the most common types of prescription benzodiazepine medications that are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, seizures, and muscle spasms. Your doctor can help you choose between Ativan vs. Xanax, as each has its pros and cons, including prescription drug addiction.

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Understanding Ativan vs. Xanax as Prescription Medications

Both of these medications are classified as Schedule IV drugs by the DEA, so while they are safe for short-term use under a doctor’s supervision, they also have a high potential for abuse and can cause chemical dependence over time. This dependence can lead to addiction. The following article will explore how Ativan works, how Xanax works, the side effects of prescription medications, why they are used, and the main differences between Ativan vs. Xanax. We will also examine signs of benzodiazepine addiction and what you can do if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a substance use disorder.  

How Ativan Works: Exploring Its Mechanism and Uses

Ativan is the brand name for Lorazepam, a prescription benzodiazepine medication. The most common uses of Ativan are to help with anxiety, panic disorders, and seizures, and it can be used off-label for muscle spasms or given to people before they have certain medical or dental procedures to help them relax. It works by enhancing the effects of GABA neurotransmitters. This reduction slows down the nervous activity in the brain, causing a calming, relaxing effect on the mind and the body.

Ativan has a quick onset, and the effects of this medication can last for up to eight hours. Along with helping a person to feel calmer, it can also cause them to experience dizziness or sedation.

The Uses and Effects of Xanax: How Xanax Works

Xanax is the brand name for Alprazolam. Xanax uses are similar to those of Ativan. It is usually prescribed as a treatment for an anxiety disorder or stress, and it is sometimes given short-term to treat insomnia. It enhances GABA’s effects, lowering the brain’s and nerves’ excitement, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure. For both Ativan vs. Xanax, the drugs are not meant to be taken long-term, as they have the potential to become addictive.

Ativan Side Effects: What You Need to Know

Even when you take it as prescribed, you may experience common Ativan side effects like:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness/loss of balance
  • Memory issues
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

Because Ativan is a benzodiazepine medication, one of the main issues associated with the drug is its potential for addiction. If this medication is prescribed to you, always use it per your doctor’s orders, and speak to your doctor if you experience any side effects or find it is not working as well as it once did.

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Understanding the Side Effects of Xanax

Common side effects of Xanax include:

  • Relaxation and drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Memory issues
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleep issues

Both Ativan vs. Xanax are benzodiazepines with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Along with the dangers of developing a substance use disorder, because these medications can cause respiratory depression, patients must also avoid taking a high dose or mixing their medication with other drugs or alcohol to prevent overdosing.

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Xanax Versus Ativan: Which is Stronger?

Your doctor can help you decide between taking Ativan vs. Xanax. Neither medication is stronger than the other. Both medications can come in different doses, and each is processed differently in the body.

  • Xanax effects peak within one to two hours, and it has an average half-life of twelve to fifteen hours.
  • Ativan effects peak within two to six hours and has an average half-life of ten to twenty hours.

Neither of these medications will cure anxiety, stress, or panic disorders. They are often short-term help that can reduce symptoms temporarily. They should be used with other treatments like therapy, medical care, stress reduction, and professional behavioral health therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. This will help you learn healthy ways to handle life’s ups and downs and deal with difficult situations in a healthier way.

Ativan vs. Xanax Addiction: Recognizing the Signs

Because these medications affect the production of the GABA neurotransmitter, if a person takes these medications for longer than what has been prescribed by their doctor or has been misusing the medication recreationally, their system may slow the natural production of GABA. This will increase their tolerance for benzodiazepines and cause them to become physically dependent, which can quickly lead to addiction.

It can be difficult to recognize the slippery slope toward a substance use disorder, especially if it is you or a close loved one experiencing the symptoms. Some common signs of addiction to Ativan or Xanax include:

  • Purchasing these medications on the street or stealing them from others.
  • Attempting to get multiple prescriptions or seeing different doctors and pharmacies to fill more than one prescription.
  • Needing to take more than the prescribed dose to experience the same level of sedation.
  • Feeling off, anxious, or sick when you don’t take the medication.
  • Using the medication in ways not prescribed, like crushing pills and snorting them or mixing them with other substances.
  • Having urges or cravings to use the medication or finding yourself constantly thinking about your next dose.
  • Being unable to quit after multiple attempts.

If you have been misusing your prescription or are noticing signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one, you can call Muse Treatment. Our non-judgmental team can help you figure out the first step in quitting this medication safely.

Muse Treatment’s Approach to Ativan and Xanax Addiction

Any benzodiazepine drug can be dangerous to quit cold turkey, and that includes prescription medications like Ativan or Xanax. Addiction is a serious health disorder, and at Muse Treatment, our team will ensure you are kept safe starting from day one.

We provide inpatient medical detox with a medication-assisted treatment plan that includes full-time medical supervision and care and a safe benzodiazepine taper plan. This will help you wean off the medications at a safe, slow rate to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms like shock and seizures. We may also provide additional medical care to keep you comfortable as the body adjusts.

Once you have completed your acute detox program, the next step is a customized rehabilitation program. For some, this may include spending time inside a treatment facility, and there are also outpatient options available that can last as long as you need them to, followed by aftercare programs for relapse prevention.

Because Ativan and Xanax are given for help with a mental health disorder like anxiety, a dual diagnosis program that incorporates mental health care, along with therapy, behavioral health care, and ongoing medical treatment, is often the best course of action.

Treating the underlying disorder is the best way to achieve long-term sobriety and avoid relapse. At Muse Treatment, we offer tailored programs that provide various evidence-based treatments, holistic options, individual, family, and group therapy, and more. Through intensive rehabilitation with strong community support, you will address underlying issues, regain your health, and undergo behavioral therapy as you rebuild your community and take control back over your life.

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start your recovery today!

Seeking Help for Ativan or Xanax Addiction at Muse Treatment

If you believe you may have an Ativan or Xanax addiction and are ready for help, please contact the team at Muse Treatment today at 800-426-1818. You can speak with an addiction specialist about your concerns, and together, you can work out a plan that is right for you.

Don’t let Ativan vs. Xanax addiction take over your life. With Muse Treatment, you can detox and rehabilitate in a customized, comprehensive treatment plan that will help you get back on your feet and give you the tools you need to improve your health and wellness and take control over your future as a newly sober individual. You can do it, and we can help you.

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Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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