Ativan (lorazepam) vs. Valium (diazepam)

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Ativan vs. Valium comparison

  • Ativan (lorazepam) and Valium (diazepam) are both members of the benzodiazepine family of drugs used mainly to treat anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.
  • Researchers believe both Ativan and Valium – like other members of the benzodiazepine group – work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter that helps inhibit excess brain activity. Excessive activity of nerves in the brain may affect mental health to cause anxiety and other psychological disorders, according to the current understanding of neuroscience.
  • The central difference between lorazepam and diazepam is lorazepam leaves a person's system more quickly, reducing the chance of toxicity or side effects, a few of which are:
  • Ativan also has fewer unfavorable interactions with other medications when compared to Valium. Both drugs, however, can cause dangerous increased sedation when consumed with alcohol.
  • Both drugs also have the potential for addiction. Stopping either Ativan or Valium abruptly can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, depending on how long a person has been using the drug.

What are Ativan and Valium?

Lorazepam and diazepam are both benzodiazepines. They affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another that reduce the activity of nerves in the brain. It is thought that lorazepam, diazepam, and other benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam) or Klonopin (Clonazepam)  may act by enhancing the effects of GABA in the brain to reduce activity, and thus reduce anxiety.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/14/2017
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