Ativan (Lorazepam) Vs. Xanax (Alprazolam) | Differences & Similarities

While Ativan and Xanax have lots of similarities, they also have quite a few differences as well. Similarities range from the kind of drug they are to the side effects they can bring on, while differences include what the two drugs treat and as well as their dosages and half-lives.

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam and Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam. 

Both drugs are benzodiazepines and are often used for mental health conditions like anxiety disorders. While the two prescription drugs have a lot in common, they are two different drugs and one may be used over the other for a variety of different reasons.

Ativan Vs. Xanax: Differences

Based on their similarities alone, it would be easy for someone to believe that Ativan and Xanax are the same medication. But the two drugs do have their differences, including:


One of the more obvious differences between Ativan and Xanax is their generic name and active ingredient. Ativan’s generic name and active ingredient is lorazepam and Xanax’s generic name and active ingredient is alprazolam.

Approved Treatments

While Ativan and Xanax both treat generalized anxiety disorder, Xanax is also approved to treat panic disorders and panic attacks with or without agoraphobia. Ativan can also be used in the treatment of seizures and alcohol withdrawal as well.


Xanax and Ativan are also available in different dosages and formulations. Xanax can be found in a liquid, immediate-release tablet, dissolving tablet, and extended-release tablet. Ativan comes in a liquid, injection, and tablet.

No matter the formulation, the strengths Xanax comes in include 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, and 3 mg. Ativan, on the other hand, is available in 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 mg.


Ativan and Xanax also have two different half-lives. A half-life is the time it takes for half a dose of the drug to leave the body. Ativan’s half-life is about 12 hours, while Xanax’s half-life is about 11 hours

How long the two medications actually stay in your body depends on a variety of factors like overall health, how long you’ve taken the drug, the dose you take, and your weight.

Ativan Vs. Xanax: Similarities

Ativan and Xanax may have their differences but because they are both benzodiazepines, they also have plenty of similarities as well.

Class Of Medication

As noted above, one of the major similarities between Xanax and Ativan is that they are both benzodiazepines or benzos. 

This is a type of sedative drug that’s typically used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, muscle spasms, and seizures. The two anxiety medications both have a calming effect on the brain and body.

Abuse Potential

Both Xanax and Ativan are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that while they may not have the most potential for abuse compared to other drugs, they can still lead to dependence and addiction.

Side Effects

Ativan and Xanax also share quite a few side effects.

The most common side effects can include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • unsteadiness
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • blurred vision
  • nausea
  • changes in appetite
  • constipation
  • low blood pressure
  • muscle weakness
  • memory problems
  • confusion
  • fatigue

Drug Interactions

There are also certain medications that shouldn’t be taken with both Xanax and Ativan. When mixed, the combination of the following drugs with Ativan or Xanax can lead to life-threatening reactions:

  • opioids
  • central nervous system (CNS) depressants
  • alcohol
  • antipsychotics
  • antidepressants
  • anticonvulsants.
  • barbiturates

How They Work

Ativan and Xanax work by increasing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA reduces activity in the brain and can improve anxiety symptoms, reduce muscle tension, help with sleep, and stop seizures.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax can be addictive, especially if taken in high doses or over a long period of time. 

When you do abuse Xanax or Ativan over a long period of time, your body can become dependent on the drug. When this happens and then you stop taking the drug, withdrawal symptoms are likely to show up.

The withdrawal symptoms of Ativan and Xanax often include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • heart problems
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • diarrhea
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia
  • drug cravings
  • muscle twitches
  • mood swings

Signs Of Addiction

The signs of Xanax and Ativan addiction are also very similar. If you’re worried a loved one may be struggling with substance use disorder related to Ativan or Xanax, there are some signs you can look out for, including:

  • using the drug more often than prescribed or in higher doses
  • taking the medication for reasons other than prescribed
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when quitting the drug
  • spending large amounts of money on the drug
  • stealing or using illegal methods to get the drug
  • taking the drug despite it having negative effects on work, school, or home life

If you or a loved one are struggling with Ativan or Xanax abuse, you don’t have to go through it alone. There is help available at Ohio Recovery Center. We offer a variety of addiction treatment options such as detox, inpatient drug rehab, medication-assisted treatment, and aftercare.

Ativan Vs. Xanax Frequently Asked Questions

Ativan and Xanax are both benzodiazepines that function as central nervous system depressants. Despite their numerous similarities, there are also key differences. The following frequently asked questions can help to improve general understanding of these drugs and how abuse is treated.

If you are concerned that you are developing a dependence related to Ativan or Xanax, you should speak with your doctor. No one should ever attempt to detox off of benzodiazepines alone, as the withdrawal symptoms are severe.

People who are dependent on benzodiazepines should seek out a medical detox center that specializes in long-term drug tapers. The entire process can take several weeks, but the later stages can often be completed in an outpatient setting.


People who abuse drugs and alcohol have a variety of reasons for doing so, but one of the most common is the presence of an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

People who abuse illicitly obtained benzodiazepines may be self-medicating for anxiety or a trauma-related disorder.

Others may abuse benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax for recreational purposes. Drugs like Xanax are frequently mixed with other drugs, including alcohol, to heighten the effects. This practice is incredibly dangerous.

Getting Treatment For Benzodiazepine Addiction

Treatment is available for benzodiazepine addiction. Contact us today to learn more about detoxification and treatment for drug addiction.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration
  2. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 22, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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