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Xanax and Ativan: Differences and Similarities

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Xanax and Ativan are benzodiazepines included as a sedative treatment for anxiety, panic disorders, muscle spasms, and seizure disorders. The difference between the 2 medications is how long they are sustained in the body.

Medical professionals understand what conditions require a quick-onset medication to relieve severe symptoms and what conditions need a long-term treatment effect to control symptoms. Unfortunately, misuse or abuse of these medications can result in dangerous consequences. 

Xanax and Ativan Basics

Doctors prescribe Xanax for panic disorder because it takes effect very quickly to address the severe symptoms of panic disorder. Ativan is widely used for effective control of symptoms such as anxiety, procedural anxiety, or seizure disorders.

Both medications are effective treatments but have a high risk for misuse and abuse because of their highly addictive components. When taking benzos, alcohol use can be hazardous, as both are central nervous system depressants. 

Some Xanax and Ativan basics include the following:

  • Ativan: The generic name is Lorazepam
  • Xanax: The generic name is Alprazolam
  • Both drugs are class IV and are benzodiazepines
  • Both drugs are for short-term treatment

Ativan Uses and Characteristics

Ativan is a primary treatment for anxiety. This drug works with a natural chemical in the body, GABA, to produce a calming effect. It is essential to repeat that this drug is meant for short-term use and may decrease in effectiveness with long-term use.

When this occurs, misuse can begin with an individual taking more than the standard dosage to reach the desirable effect. 

Side effects of Ativan can include:

  • Drowsiness and loss of coordination
  • Headache and nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation and heartburn
  • Changes in appetite
  • Change in sexual interest

Serious side effects can include extreme changes in mood, hallucinations, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Other significant severe symptoms include trouble speaking, memory problems, and infections.

Patients experiencing severe symptoms must notify their doctor immediately, especially breathing difficulties. It is never wise to just stop taking Ativan; a tapering method to reduce withdrawal difficulties works best for detox from prescription benzos

Xanax Uses and Characteristics

Xanax or Alprazolam is a common drug for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Directly affecting the central nervous system (CNS), this benzodiazepine can be dangerous when misuse or abuse occurs.

Breathing difficulties can result if the dosage is above the typical dose. Xanax enhances the effects of GABA, a natural chemical in the body. There were 13.58 million prescriptions for Xanax written in 2021.

The side effects of Xanax can include:

  • Drowsiness or light-headedness
  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Increased energy and racing thoughts

Severe symptoms can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Depressed respirations

Differences between Xanax and Ativan

The main difference between Xanax and Ativan is the half-life of each drug. Half-life refers to the way the body processes the drug. Ativan’s effectiveness lasts for a slightly more extended period, providing a longer treatment time.

Ativan peaks effectiveness within 2 to 4 hours., whereas Xanax peaks at 1 to 3 hours, acting quicker for a shorter period. 

Similarities between Xanax and Ativan

Both drugs affect the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps regulate relaxation. These 2 drugs can treat similar conditions, such as anxiety, panic disorders, and seizures.

They are both meant explicitly for short-term use. Both benzodiazepines are highly addictive if misuse or abuse occurs. Tolerance and dependence can happen quickly, either intentionally or unintentionally. 

Associated Risks of Taking Both

It is perilous to take Xanax and Ativan together. The results could be severe drowsiness, overdose, and death. These 2 drugs have a direct effect on the central nervous system and can cause respiratory distress when taken in any way but what the doctor prescribes.

Xanax is more toxic than any other benzodiazepine tranquilizer. Taking these drugs with different types of benzos, sedatives, tranquilizers, or other prescription medications can result in an overdose. 

Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax withdrawal must be under the supervision of a medical professional. A tapering method, reducing the dosage slowly, to wean the user from the drug is the safest method of withdrawal.

Severe consequences can occur if the patient suddenly stops taking Xanax cold turkey. There are both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms to consider. For those taking Xanax for an anxiety disorder, dual-diagnosis treatment options are an essential consideration. 

Physical withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can include:

  • Heart palpitations or tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Muscle spasms or twitching
  • Headaches
  • Sore, stiff muscles
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or excessive shaking
  • Weight loss or gain

Psychological withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety, panic and depression
  • Confusion
  • Heightened senses
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Paranoia or fear

Ativan Withdrawal

Like its counterpart, Xanax, withdrawal from Ativan should not be cold turkey. Detox from Ativan using the cold turkey method is often unsuccessful. Medically managed detox programs in a professional center are the safest method of detox. There are also uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms to monitor. 

Typical withdrawal symptoms of Ativan include:

  • Anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of focus
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Drug cravings

Take Advantage of the Ideal Settings for Prescription Drug Treatment in California

Committing to stop abusing prescription drugs and enrolling in a detox program is the first step in recovery. Sierra Health + Wellness offers comfortable and peaceful settings conducive to healing and focus. Their evidence-based therapies combined with holistic learning opportunities are the complete treatment plan.

Contact their offices today to see your future and take the next step toward sobriety.