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Xanax Vs Ativan: What’s the Difference?
Xanax and Ativan are two anti-anxiety medications of the same class, benzodiazepines. Doctors prescribe them to treat various conditions, including different types of anxiety disorders, panic disorder, symptoms of anxiety, mania, and insomnia.
Ativan generic name: Lorazepam
Xanax generic name: Alprazolam
Although Xanax and Ativan have many things in common, doctors recognize the difference between them and suggest which one is most suitable for the patient based upon their unique properties.
What are Ativan and Xanax?
Xanax and Ativan share many similarities as they both belong to the same class of medications. They work similarly in the central nervous system, thus having a similar action mechanism, the possibility of misuse and dependence, and adverse effects.
Ativan and Xanax both work in the central nervous system by binding to the GABA receptors to cause a calming effect. They two also have disadvantages or associated adverse effects such as impaired motor skills, dizziness, drowsiness, and abrupt discontinuation of withdrawal symptoms.
The ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) recommends Xanax and Ativan as second-line treatment options for treating anxiety disorders. It signifies that doctors may prescribe these medications when first-line treatment options are not effective or appropriate.
As both medicines have a potential for abuse and misuse, people with a past of alcohol or substance use disorder should exercise proper caution while taking Xanax and alcohol or Ativan and alcohol together.
In the United States, women and older people more commonly use benzodiazepines. However, older adults are sensitive to the side effects of benzodiazepine medications, which signifies they have a higher risk of accidents, fractures, and falls, and other such adverse effects.
What do they do?
Ativan has a much more vast effectiveness domain than Xanax as it treats more conditions. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the following uses of these medicines:
Xanax and Xanax XR pills are useful in the management of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Short-term relief of anxiety symptoms
- Insomnia due to anxiety
- Depression associated with anxiety
Ativan is available in two different formulations that separately treat different conditions. Ativan oral administration tablets are useful in the treatment of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
Ativan injection or Ativan IV solution is helpful in the treatment of:
- Seizure disorders
- Premedication for anesthesia
- Status epilepticus
- Sedative before major surgical procedures
- Acute delirium (adjunct with haloperidol)
How fast do they work?
Xanax acts faster than Ativan. The latter works slower and gets removed from the body at a much slower rate than Xanax. It signifies that Ativan pills take a longer time to start acting, but their effects last longer than Xanax. Consequently, people take Ativan dosage less frequently than Xanax.
Xanax oral tablet reaches its peak concentration in about 1-2 hours, while the Ativan oral tablet takes about 2 hours to get its highest attention in the body.
The average Xanax half-life is 11.2 hours. The body eliminates Ativan slowly, with an average Ativan half-life of about 12 hours and 18 hours for its byproducts.
What are the side effects?
Being benzodiazepines, Ativan, and Xanax share many side effects. The most common side effects of Xanax and Ativan include:
- Memory problems
- Increased appetite
- Impaired driving skills
- Impaired coordination and balance
While both of the medication causes sleepiness or drowsiness, it is more common with Xanax. It may cause drowsiness in more than 41% of the people taking the medication for anxiety and 75% of people taking it for panic disorders. Ativan causes drowsiness in just 15% of the people taking medicine. On the other hand, Ativan can cause impaired coordination and learning and can cause amnesia for more extended periods than Xanax.
What is the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms?
Generally, Ativan has a lower potential for misuse and causes fewer withdrawal symptoms than Xanax. It may be because the medication has a longer effect of action and a decreased elimination rate than Xanax.
The common symptoms of withdrawal caused by benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anxiety or panic
- Drug cravings
- Cognitive deficits
- Mood swings
The frequency and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend upon the type of medication, length of treatment, dosage frequency, underlying medical and health conditions, and use of other medicines, drugs, or alcohol.