ativan vs xanax

Ativan vs Xanax: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: Fri, January 19, 2024

Both Ativan and Xanax or alprazolam are used to treat anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. They also belong to the benzodiazepines family, a set of drugs that inhibit excess stimulation of nerves in the brain. Despite their similarities, people still raise the debate involving Ativan vs Xanax.

In this article, we will talk about Ativan, Xanax, and the differences between the two.

What Is Ativan? 

Ativan is a type of prescription medicine used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. It can also be used along with other types of medications.

Ativan can also cause slowing down or may even stop one’s breathing, especially if the person recently used opioid medication. Hence, Ativan misuse can lead to addiction to the drug, overdose, or even death.

Lorazepam, the generic name of Ativan, can be addictive. Thus, it should only be used by the person it was prescribed for. 

If you want to stop taking Ativan, you need a doctor’s approval. Life-threatening withdrawal symptoms may occur if you abruptly stop taking the medicine after long-term use. Withdrawal symptoms from Ativan may last for 12 months or longer.

How Does Ativan Work? 

Ativan slows down the activity of the brain and nerves. It also affects physical functions and responses. Moreover, Ativan is a tranquilizer. Thus, it can make the user feel calm and relaxed. 

Additionally, Ativan can stop painful spasms in muscles. When taken correctly, it can also prevent life-threatening seizures. 

Generally, this medication is safe and effective for patients who take Ativan as directed or for legitimate reasons. However, potential adverse reactions to the drug must be watched out for. These include sleepiness during the day, low levels of energy, confusion, chills, and poor coordination.

Ativan has powerful effects on the brain and nerves. However, rebound side effects are experienced by a lot of users. Rebound side effects refer to the worsening of the same symptoms. 

Specifically, Ativan can cause rebound anxiety, sleep disturbances, abnormal movements of the body, and agitation.

What Is Xanax? 

Xanax is a type of anti-anxiety medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine family. It decreases abnormal excitement in the brain. Xanax primarily acts on the central nervous system and produces a calming effect.

Additionally, Xanax slows down the brain’s imbalanced chemicals movement. This results in reduced nervous tension and anxiety. Xanax also boosts the effects of a natural chemical in the body called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

Though Xanax helps a lot of people, it can also lead to addiction. To lower the risk of getting addicted to the drug, you must take Xanax exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

How Does Xanax Work? 

Xanax reduces anxiety by attaching to GABA, a receptor in the brain. Xanax produces a calming effect in the brain after it binds to this receptor. By doing this, Xanax calms a person down.

Oftentimes, Xanax is prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. It quickly alleviates symptoms of the said disorder.  In addition, Xanax helps people to sleep. However, due to its calming effects, many people abuse Xanax. 

Those who excessively use Xanax develop tolerance to the drug. Due to this, they take more Xanax to feel its calming effects. Eventually, these people get addicted to Xanax. 

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Ativan vs Xanax: Which Drug Is More Addictive? 

Both Ativan and Xanax are members of the benzodiazepine family. Primarily, these drugs are used to treat anxiety and psychiatric disorders.

Ativan and Xanax, like other types of benzodiazepines, work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter. It also helps inhibit excess activity in the brain. 

In addition, both Xanax and Ativan have calming effects that many people desire. 

For these reasons, both drugs are addictive. Abruptly quitting either Ativan or Xanax can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. 

Which One Works Quicker? 

Ativan and Xanax are both equally effective.

However, in terms of which one works quicker, Xanax does. Xanax has an onset effect, with a shorter duration of action which only lasts for four to six hours. 

On the other hand, Ativan takes longer to work. Its duration of action lasts for at least eight hours.

Ativan vs Xanax: What’s the Difference? 

Benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax are both used to treat anxiety. Both are equally effective in treating anxiety and other similar psychological disorder.

The main differences between Ativan vs Xanax are:

  • Xanax features a quicker onset effect. 

  • The duration of action of Xanax lasts for four to six hours. Ativan’s duration of action lasts for eight hours.

  • Sedation and performance-impairing effects occur more quickly with Xanax than Ativan..

  • Typically, Ativan and Xanax are not prescribed together.


Both Xanax and Ativan are benzodiazepine medications. Oftentimes, they’re used to treat anxiety. These medications also work in similar ways. However, these medications have a few subtle differences.  

If you or your loved one is suffering from issues related to Ativan or Xanax, reach out to a professional. Using a sobriety app for support and rehab can also help. 

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