Lorazepam vs Xanax | What Are Benzodiazepines?

If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may have been prescribed a medication that is designed to help with your symptoms. A number of drugs can help with anxiety, primarily those falling under the class known as benzodiazepines. What are benzodiazepines? What are the pros and cons of lorazepam vs Xanax?

Benzodiazepines for Anxiety

A type of drug that is used primarily for treating anxiety, benzodiazepines are also known to be effective in treating other conditions. The medication works by affecting the neurotransmitters in the brain. These are chemicals that the nerves release to be able to communicate with other nerves. One of the neurotransmitters is known as GABA, which suppresses the nerve activity. Researchers believe that it is the excessive activity of these nerves that may be the cause of anxiety as well as some other psychological disorders.

Benzodiazepines act to reduce the nerve activity in the brain and the spinal cord and are used for treating seizures, insomnia, and anxiety and panic. They are also known to be effective when used as a muscle relaxant, as general anesthesia and sedation prior to surgery, for the symptoms of depression, for alcohol withdrawal, and for drug-associated agitation.

Mixing Benzodiazepines with Alcohol

When taking benzodiazepines, it can be very dangerous to also drink alcohol. When you drink alcohol while taking the medication, you may feel the effects of alcohol much quicker. Alcohol and benzodiazepines have similar effects on the central nervous system, so it is not safe to consume both at the same time. You could experience additional depression of the brain function as well as respiratory depression. This can lead to breathing difficulties that result in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the body, which can result in death.

Lorazepam vs Xanax

Two medications in the benzodiazepine family are Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, and lorazepam, also known as Ativan. Both are used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, short-term relief of anxiety symptoms, and anxiety associated with depression. Xanax is also prescribed for panic disorders. Lorazepam is also used for insomnia associated with stress or anxiety.

Either medication may also be prescribed if you are starting to take an antidepressant. Since drugs like Zoloft or Prozac take more time to take effect, Xanax or lorazepam can help you until your antidepressants start to work.

Xanax and lorazepam are often preferred over other anxiety medications because their effects are felt more quickly, with Xanax having an even quicker onset than lorazepam. They can typically begin to work within one hour. The effects of Xanax, though, last for a shorter duration than lorazepam. While these drugs can work well for the emotional and physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), there are certain risks associated with the use of these medications.

Lorazepam has fewer unfavorable interactions with other medications than does Xanax. However, lorazepam has some dangerous side effects, including some drug-induced movement disorders, such as involuntary muscle movements. This drug has also been known to cause seizures, respiratory depression, psychological depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Physically Addictive

Both medications have side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, sedation, memory problems as well as the potential for addiction. Lorazepam and Xanax are both physically addictive, especially if they are prescribed at high doses for extended periods of time. Stopping either one suddenly can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms.


One of the significant differences between lorazepam vs Xanax is that Ativan leaves your system more quickly, which will reduce the chance of toxicity or side effects. However, if you stop Ativan suddenly or if your daily dose is reduced considerably, you could experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as eight hours.

Your level of anxiety during withdrawal may actually be worse than the anxiety you felt before you started taking the medication. It is best to withdraw from benzodiazepines under the supervision of a healthcare professional, for your safety and well-being throughout the process.

Contact Recovery Without Walls for Prescription Drug Help

At Recovery Without Walls, we understand that it can be difficult and even dangerous to stop abusing prescription drugs without help. We are here to guide you through safe and effective withdrawal from prescriptions such as benzodiazepines, including lorazepam and Xanax. We personalize your treatment based on evidence-informed research, exceptional psychotherapy, nutritional support, and integrative healing methods designed to treat your whole body. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.