Healthy Living

Imperative Information on Benzodiazepines: Lorazepam vs. Xanax

Imperative Information on Benzodiazepines: Lorazepam vs. Xanax

Key Takeaways

  • Both Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs.
  • Benzodiazepine drugs are used as sedatives, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, and sleep aids.
  • Xanax and lorazepam are miracle medications for anxiety disorders and panic attacks. 

What is lorazepam?

Lorazepam is an anti-anxiety medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine class. It is prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and acts on the central nervous system by providing a calming effect. Lorazepam is sold under different brand names, which include Ativan, Almazine, Temesta, and O-Chloroxazepam. It is an inexpensive drug that is available in generic and branded forms.

Lorazepam is almost similar to a white powder that is insoluble in water. The tablet can be taken orally and it is available in compositions of 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg. The main inactive ingredients present in lorazepam are magnesium stearate, polacrilin potassium, lactose monohydrate, and microcrystalline cellulose. Lorazepam also has serious side effects, which include hallucinations, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts, and fainting.

The capsule-shaped lorazepam tablets are for short-term use within 2-4 weeks only and provide relief from anxiety. The medication is used for children above 5 years of age for operative dentistry and general surgery. However, it is not recommended for children with moderate anxiety or insomnia.

Moreover, this medication should not be immediately stopped. The dosage must be gradually decreased, as there is a possibility of rebound occurrences. For adults, the dosage must be 1 mg to 4 mg daily to treat anxiety and insomnia, and must be taken before going to bed. This medication is not ideal as a primary treatment for depressive disorders and should not be used to treat patients who are depressed.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand name of alprazolam, which also belongs to the benzodiazepine class like lorazepam. It also affects the chemicals in the brain that may be unstable in people suffering from nervousness. It is also used to treat anxiety caused by depression, anxiety disorders, and panic disorders. 

The abnormal excitement in the brain is reduced by the intake of Xanax. The medication slows down the activity of unbalanced brain chemicals, which results in a decrease in anxiety and nervous tension. Xanax works effectively by boosting the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural chemical made in the brain. The drug is 10-20 times potent in comparison to Valium. The commonly used brand names of Xanax include Xanax XR extended-release tablets, Niravam orally disintegrating tablets, and Alprazolam Intensol solution.

Xanax is an oval and biconvex tablet indicated for short-term use. It should not be taken to treat tension that is associated with life's day-to-day stress. The overall duration of the treatment should not exceed more than 8-12 weeks. Taking Xanax can only be extended in certain cases and according to the doctor's advice.

There are only a few patients who require a higher dosage. To avoid any adverse side effects, it is very important to slowly increase its dosage. Patients who have previously received psychotropic medications must be treated with lower dosages of Xanax. The recommended daily reduction of Xanax dosage should not be more than 0.5 mg every three days. 

Similarities between Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax

Both Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs. Benzodiazepine drugs are used as sedatives, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, and sleep aids. They are basically used to relieve nervousness, anxiety, and tension, as well as stop seizures and other psychological symptoms.

The potency of both medications is similar. When they are administered as sedatives, their effect can be witnessed in just 30 minutes, as they are rapid onset medications.

The benzodiazepine class is very broad, which comprises 15 medications that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, and alcohol dependence. The medications that belong to the benzodiazepine class work in the similar manner but differ in its attributes such as the duration of action, onset of action, and for how long the drug stays in the body.

Differences between Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax

Lorazepam and Xanax both are particularly used for treating anxiety. The main difference between the two is that lorazepam is used for treating general anxiety disorders while Xanax is used to treat panic attacks and severe anxiety. A milligram of lorazepam is equivalent to 0.5 mg of Xanax. Both these medications are prescribed for short-term use only. The intake of lorazepam is approved for individuals above 12 years old while Xanax can only be taken by individuals who are 18 years old and above.

Ativan, which is a brand name of lorazepam, is a preoperative sedative. Its actions are different in comparison to Xanax. The amount of time when Ativan and Xanax are active is quite different. Overall, Xanax takes lesser time to peak but can only be active for a time. Xanax can take effect within 1-2 hours and its average half-life is about 11-12 hours. On the other hand, the time it takes for Ativan to take effect is 1-6 hours and its average half-life is 14-15 hours.

The other difference between Ativan and Xanax is their addictive qualities. Long-lasting use of any benzodiazepine can lead to addiction and on discontinuing the intake of the medicine, it causes withdrawal symptoms. The abuse potential of Xanax is higher than other benzodiazepines, including Ativan.

Dosage

Lorazepam medications are available in the form of immediate-release tablets as well as injectable solutions. The injectable solution can be acquired when you are in a hospital and is only administered by a healthcare professional. Xanax is also available in immediate-release tablets that can be swallowed. You can also allow Xanax to dissolve in your mouth. The extended-release Xanax tablets are approved for use to treat panic attacks. Fewer doses of extended-release Xanax tablets must be taken. It is important that the medication is exactly taken according to the doctor's instruction and prescription. The medication should not be shared with any person who has a history of alcohol or substance abuse.

Xanax is also available in the form of solutions. The strength of all forms of Xanax and Ativan are similar, which ranges from 0.5 mg to 3 mg. The dosage and form may vary depending on the condition that must be treated. It is always better to start with the lowest dosage and strictly follow the doctor's instructions.

Side effects 

Lorazepam and Xanax are known to cause unique side effects. For this reason, it is very important not to self-medicate and take these drugs without consulting the doctor. In case of any severe side effects, consult the doctor immediately. The main side effect caused by Xanax includes memory impairment. The drug can also increase an individual's risk of excitability as well as difficulty in sleeping for people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Lorazepam side effects include nausea, headache, heartburn, confusion, and a blurred vision. Other common side effects of both Xanax and lorazepam include light-headedness and drowsiness. If you feel dizzy, you must never attempt to drive or operate dangerous equipment.

The effect of the drug takes a few hours to settle or may last the next day. Low blood pressure and dry mouth can also be experienced when taking these drugs. They also cause muscle weakness and loss of coordination.

Moreover, do not take these drugs with any other medications without consulting a pharmacist or doctor. It is very important to take these medications exactly the way they are prescribed. On using benzodiazepines, it is advisable not to even drink alcohol, as the combined effects of alcohol and benzodiazepines can be very severe.

Symptoms 

These drugs are not normally indicated for long-term use. Many practitioners limit the prescription of these drugs for only a maximum of several weeks. However, even after a moderately short period of time, there are chances that individuals become dependent on these drugs and show signs of addiction. There are chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you discontinue taking these medications all of a sudden. 

Some of the withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, agitation, and depression. It is very important that you talk with your doctor before stopping the medications. The doctor would help you to slowly reduce the medication and then taper it off gradually. Misuse of lorazepam is linked with a number of medical health issues, which range from impaired muscular coordination, profound memory loss, accidental injury, and mild skin irritation.

Similarly, the withdrawal symptoms of Xanax includes feeling nervous, intense sweating, depression, aggressive behavior, weight loss, and a blurred vision.

Taking benzodiazepine drugs

Xanax and lorazepam are both benzodiazepines, which are known to provide a calming effect since they reduce the activity of the central nervous system. The calming effect is very beneficial and it can help manage nervousness as well as anxiety.

However, both of these drugs must not be taken for a long period of time as they are prescribed for short-term use only. Both Xanax and lorazepam are approved for use to treat anxiety associated disorders. Xanax along with or without agoraphobia is used to treat panic attacks and panic disorder.

Lorazepam approved by the FDA is used for various off-label treatments such as mania, irritability, presurgery sedation, chemotherapy induced vomiting, alcohol withdrawal, and severe seizures. Similarly, the off-label uses of Xanax include the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, essential tremor, tinnitus (ringing in ears), and severe premenstrual syndrome. These anti-anxiety medications are fast-acting and very popular. Although these drugs are safe to use, they can only be used for a limited amount of time.

Precautions

If you are allergic to lorazepam, it is very important to tell the pharmacist or doctor about it. Other benzodiazepines such as diazepam, clonazepam, and alprazolam may contain inactive ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction.  

You should also tell your doctor about your medical history before using these drugs, especially if you suffer from liver disease, breathing problems, kidney disease, mental disorders, alcohol abuse, and glaucoma.

There are chances that these drugs can make you feel drowsy or dizzy. Thus, it is important that you avoid doing activities that require clear vision and alertness. It is best to avoid even alcoholic beverages as it can result in a blurred vision. These drugs must not be used during pregnancy as it can be life-threatening to the unborn baby and can cause birth defects.

Taking these medications should not be habit-forming as it can lead to addiction or death. It is very important that these medications are kept in a safe place and out of the reach of children. Moreover, avoid purchasing these drugs online. Medications distributed through the internet may not be from a licensed pharmacy or may contain dangerous ingredients in it.

Conclusion 

Xanax and lorazepam are miracle medications for anxiety disorders and panic attacks. With these drugs, you can expect results in 30 minutes. However, it is very important that these drugs are not overused. It is ideal to take Xanax at bedtime, as it makes a person feel sleepy. Xanax acts faster than lorazepam. Xanax can also be used for the treatment of tinnitus, depression, and dysautonomia.

These psychotropic drugs are quite effective when used for the right reasons and right duration. Numerous randomized trials have been done for Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam). It has been identified that lorazepam works wonders for panic attacks. It is a safe and effective drug prescribed to reduce anxiety. 

The dose must not be increased without a doctor's advice as it can cause physical and emotional dependence. Additionally, it is best to avoid Xanax if you have narrow-angle glaucoma.