What is the difference between Ativan and Xanax?

We review the three main differences between Ativan and Xanax: drug use, action times and abuse tendencies. Although both Ativan and Xanax are both classified as benzodiazepines, their medical use is slightly different. Come explore and discuss the similarity and difference between Ativan and Xanax here.

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Similarities between Ativan and Xanax

Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are both benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are a class of psychoactive drugs characterized by and used as tranquilizers, sedatives, muscle relaxants of to induce sleep. Benzos can also be used to relieve anxiety, nervousness, tension, or other psychological symptoms or even to stop seizures.

Xanax and Ativan are also similar in their potency. Both Ativan and Xanax are rapid onset medications, for example. Their medicinal effects can be observed in under 30 minutes of administration. Furthermore, both drugs are high potency medications that are administered in doses of 1 mg or less.

Ativan dosage: 0.5-1 mg
Xanax dosage: 0.25-1 mg

Differences Between Ativan and Xanax

1. Drug uses are different. Doctors prescribe the two drugs for different reasons. Specifically, Ativan and Xanax are used for the following medical treatments:

Ativan – used to treat anxiety and as a preoperative sedative
Xanax – used to treat anxiety and panic disorder

2.  Action times are different.  Although both Ativan and Xanax are short acting benzos, action times are a little different. The major difference between Ativan and Xanax is in the amount of time that the drug is active, or how long the effects last in the body. In general, Xanax takes less time to peak but is active for less overall hours.

Ativan – time to peak is 1-6 hours; average half life is 14-15 hours
Xanax – time to peak is 1-2 hours; average half life is 11-12 hours

3. Addictive qualities are different.  Chronic use of any benzodiazepine can lead to physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms once you stop taking the medication. This is true of both Ativan and Xanax, and withdrawal from both medications is a slow tapering off over a period of days. However, doctors recognize that Xanax may have more abuse potential than other benzodiazepines, including Ativan.

Ativan – relatively less abuse potential
Xanax – the most abuse potential of all benzodiazepines

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Please let us know if you have questions about the addictive qualities of Ativan or Xanax. We respond to all comments, emails and videos. Click here for more information about signs of prescription pill addiction and to evaluate your medication use.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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