Benzodiazepines are the most abused drugs in the USA, according to SAMHSA. Ativan and Xanax are two drugs of the “benzos” family. There are two types of benzodiazepine medications available, with similar effectiveness in nearly the same conditions. The risks associated with them are also the same, including abuse and misuse. However, abusers often mix benzodiazepines with other substances to achieve the desired “high.” According to a TED (Treatment Episode Data Set) report, nearly 95% of people were hospitalized for benzodiazepine dependence. TED found out that people most often abuse alcohol with benzodiazepines.
Xanax is the brand name version for alprazolam, and Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam. Thus, both belong to the benzodiazepine drug class. Benzos are psychiatric drugs administered as sedatives, tranquilizers, and muscle relaxants.
Ativan and Xanax help treat:
- Nervous tension
- Psychological symptoms
- Seizures and tremors
- Insomnia due to anxiety
As a result, there are some similarities and also some differences between Ativan and Xanax.
Ativan Vs. Xanax- Similarities
Ativan and Xanax share many qualities and risks, as well. Although, they are equally potent and start working quickly in the body. When it comes to dosages, doctors prescribe both drugs at very low doses due to their high potency.
Therefore, the usual dosage of Ativan is 0.50mg to 1mg while Xanax is 0.25mg to 1mg.
Ativan Vs. Xanax- Prescriptions
Xanax and Ativan differ in uses. Although, doctors prescribe them to patients with different medical conditions. FDA approved them for patients of different ages as well; while Ativan is recommendable for patients above 12 years of age, Thus the medicine is a crucial drug, Xanax is not for the patients under 18 years of age.
Ativan is useful for treating anxiety and also as a pre-operation sedative. The drug is available in both pill and liquid formulations. Thus, it comes in 0.50mg, 1mg, and 2mg dosages.
Xanax is also useful for the patients of anxiety as well as panic disorder. Also, the drug is available in pill, controlled-release, extended-release, dissolving tablet, and liquid formulation. It comes in:
- Least strength available –Xanax 0.25mg
- Xanax 0.50mg
- Mostly blue colored Xanax 1mg
- Xanax bars – Xanax 2mg
Ativan Vs. Xanax- Off-Label Uses
Doctors may prescribe both Ativan and Xanax for the purpose they are helpful for, but not approved by the FDA. Also, Ativan has many off-label uses, including:
- Recurring seizures
- Pre-surgery sedative
- Vomiting due to chemotherapy
- Prevent delirium tremens in alcohol withdrawal
However, Xanax is also an off-label prescription for:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Ringing ears
Ativan Vs. Xanax- Action Time and Half-Life
Although both Ativan and Xanax are short-acting benzodiazepines, their action time and half-lives differ. Ativan reaches its peak concentration between 1-6 hours, while Xanax reaches its peak concentration in 1-2 hours.
The average half-life of Ativan is 14-15 hours in an adult.
The average half-life of Xanax is 11-12 hours in an adult.
Ativan and Xanax Addiction
A person taking a benzodiazepine for a long duration or at higher doses has the risk of dependency and addiction. While Xanax has a greater potential for abuse compared to Ativan, both drugs possess a high risk of physical dependence, addiction, abuse, and misuse.
Benefits of Ativan and Xanax
Ativan has short-term benefits for patients suffering from anxiety and sleep disorders. It is a CNS depressant that slows down the activity of the brain, helping in relieving anxiety, restlessness, tension, and feelings like irrational fears. Ativan works well in adjunct with other anti-depressants to manage anxiety disorders.
Ativan is mainly useful for helping manage anxiety symptoms immediately for the short term. Also, it has fewer drug interactions than Xanax. So if a person needs to take several medications at a time, Ativan is more useful than Xanax in such a situation.
Xanax is useful for relief from short-term anxiety. Therefore, Ativan and Xanax have similar efficacy in treating anxiety. Xanax is also a drug of choice for the treatment of panic disorders. Also, compressed Xanax tablets immediately help relax from a panic attack. The medication works by acting on the brain like all other benzodiazepines.
Ativan and Xanax- Side Effects
Associated side effects of Ativan include:
- Sleeping problems
- Cognitive memory problems
- Drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion
- Mental or physical exhaustion
- Depression or suicidal attempts
- Lightheadedness and fainting
- Agitation or hallucinations
- CNS depression
Side effects associated with Xanax include:
- Tolerance and dependency
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
- Severe skin rashes
- Urinary problems
- Dry mouth or increased salivation
- Rapid weight changes