Ativan vs. Xanax

  • 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.

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Ativan vs. Xanax review

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

What are Ativan and Xanax?

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

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What are the uses for Ativan and Xanax?

Lorazepam and alprazolam are used for anxiety treatment. Each drug belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs, the same family that includes

Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent and unreasonable worry and apprehension. Symptoms include sweating, lightheadedness, trembling, and other symptoms that can mimic cardiovascular conditions.

Both alprazolam and lorazepam are also treatments for panic disorder, which causes people to have panic attack episodes.

A doctor will not prescribe either medication for treatment of day - to - day anxiety or stress, but only when these problems interfere with the ability of the patient to work or maintain relationships and interact with other people.

What are the side effects of Ativan and Xanax?

Both Ativan and Xanax can cause sedation, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, memory trouble and other problems. Both lorazepam and alprazolam have other side effects, including potential addiction, in common.

Ativan, has some rarer, but more dangerous side effects, such as extrapyramidal symptoms, which are drug-induced, involuntary muscle movements. Ativan also may cause suicidal thoughts, seizures, respiratory depression, and psychological depression.

This is not a full list of side effects. If you take either medication, ask your doctor for more information.

Can I get addicted to Ativan and Xanax?

Each drug is physically addictive, especially if prescribed at high doses over a period of many months.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of Ativan and Xanax?

Like all benzodiazepines, Ativan and Xanax can cause physical dependence. Your doctor should prescribe a regimen to taper off the medication dose. People who suddenly stop therapy after months of daily therapy may experience a feeling of loss of self-worth, agitation, and insomnia. If Ativan or Xanax are taken continuously for many months, stopping therapy suddenly may produce withdrawal symptoms including:

How should Ativan and Xanax be taken (dosage)?

Ativan

  • Ad doctor will prescribe dose of lorazepam is tailored to the patient's treatment needs.
  • The usual dose for treating anxiety is a 2 mg to 6 mg  per day every 8 to 12 hours as needed. The usual dose of a single pill is 0.25 mg to 2 mg.
  • Insomnia is treated with a 2 mg to 4 mg pill given at bedtime.

Xanax

  • The dose of Xanax is 0.25 mg to 2 mg per dose, orally in pill form each day. A doctor will adjust the dose and frequency to the patient's treatment needs.
  • Alprazolam may be taken with or without food.

Which drugs interact with Ativan and Xanax?

People taking either Ativan or Xanax should avoid recreational or prescription drugs that depress brain activity. Substances like alcohol, narcotics, barbiturates, and tranquilizers can combine with any benzodiazepine to magnify dangerously the sedative effect. Specifically, Ativan combined with the tranquilizer loxapine (Loxitane) has caused cases of excessive sedation, so use caution when taking these two drugs at the same time.

Several specific drugs outside the categories mentioned above can increase or reduce the effects of Xanax. The following may increase blood concentrations of alprazolam, thereby exacerbating potential side effects:

On the other hand, Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Tegretol XR, Equetro, Carbatrol) and rifampin speed up the liver's ability to metabolize and get rid of alprazolam, reducing its effectiveness.

Are Ativan and Xanax safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax, can cause fetal abnormalities and should not be used in pregnancy.

Ativan and Xanax are excreted in breast milk and can affect nursing infants. Therefore, neither should be used by women who are nursing.

REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information

Last Editorial Review: 2/14/2017

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Reviewed on 2/14/2017
References
REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information

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