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Clonazepam vs. Xanax: Is There a Difference?

Overview

Anxiety disorders can cause emotional and physical symptoms that can disrupt your everyday life. Emotional symptoms of anxiety disorders include feelings of fear, apprehension, and irritability. Among the physical symptoms are:

  • pounding heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach and digestive problems
  • headaches
  • tremors and twitching
  • numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
  • sleep problems and fatigue

Anxiety disorders can be treated, though. Treatment usually requires a combination of methods, including medication.

To treat your anxiety, your doctor may recommend clonazepam or Xanax.

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How they work

How they work

Clonazepam is a generic drug. It’s also sold as the brand-name drug Klonopin. Xanax, on the other hand, is a brand-name version of the drug alprazolam. Both clonazepam and Xanax are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and are classified as benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key chemical messenger in your brain. These drugs cause nerve impulses throughout your body to slow down, leading to a calming effect.

Uses

What they treat

Both drugs treat anxiety disorders, including panic attacks in adults. Clonazepam also treats seizures in adults and children. The effectiveness and safety of Xanax has not been established in children, on the other hand.

The effects of both clonazepam and Xanax may be more powerful or longer lasting in older people.

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Dosage

Forms and dosage

Clonazepam comes in an oral tablet, which you swallow. It also comes in an oral disintegrating tablet, which dissolves in your mouth. You can take clonazepam one to three times per day, as directed by your doctor.

Xanax comes in immediate-release and extended-release oral tablets. The generic version, alprazolam, also comes as an oral solution. Your doctor may direct you to take the immediate-release tablet several times per day. The oral solution is also an immediate-release form. You will take it several times per day. The extended-release tablet only needs to be taken once per day.

For either medication, your doctor will probably start you off with the lowest possible dosage. If necessary, you doctor can increase the dosage in small increments.

Both drugs may begin working within hours or days of the first dose. A dose of Xanax will affect you for a few hours. The effect of clonazepam lasts about two or three times as long.

Strengths

Clonazepam oral tablet Clonazepam oral disintegrating tablet Xanax immediate-release oral tablet Xanax extended-release oral tablet  Alprazolam oral solution
0.5 mg 0.125 mg 0.25 mg 0.5 mg 1 mg/mL
1 mg 0.25 mg 0.5 mg 1 mg  
2 mg 0.5 mg 1 mg 2 mg  
  1 mg 2 mg 3 mg  
  2 mg      
 

Cost

Cost

How much you’ll pay for a prescription drug can vary depending on where you live, your pharmacy, and your health insurance plan. Generally speaking, generic versions are significantly less expensive than brand name versions. That means clonazepam will likely be cheaper than Xanax.

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Side effects

Side effects

There are a lot of potential side effects of benzodiazepines, but you’re unlikely to have more than a few. For most people, the side effects are mild and tolerable. They usually occur early on and subside as your body gets used to the drug.

The most common side effects are light-headedness and drowsiness. These can impair your ability to drive. If you feel lightheaded or sleepy while taking either of these drugs, don’t drive or operate dangerous equipment.

It’s possible to have an allergic reaction to both clonazepam and Xanax. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, itching, or skin rash. If you develop swelling of the face, tongue, or throat or trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

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Interactions

Interactions

Taking other CNS depressants with clonazepam or Xanax can intensify their intended effects. Mixing these substances is dangerous and can cause loss of consciousness. In some cases, it can be fatal.

Other CNS depressants include:

  • sedatives and sleeping pills
  • tranquilizers and mood stabilizers
  • muscle relaxants
  • seizure medications
  • prescription pain medications
  • alcohol
  • marijuana
  • antihistamines

You can find detailed lists of interacting substances for both drugs in the interactions for Xanax and clonazepam.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, and ask about potentially dangerous interactions.

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Takeaway

Talk to your doctor

Xanax is not an effective treatment for seizures. So, if you have seizures, clonazepam may be a treatment option for you.

If you’re being treated for an anxiety disorder, ask your doctor to discuss the pros and cons of each medication. It’s hard to determine in advance which medication will be most effective for you. Your doctor will recommend one based on your symptoms and medical history. If the first choice doesn’t work, you can move on to the next.

Q&A

Q&A

  • Are either clonazepam or Xanax habit-forming?
  • Clonazepam and alprazolam can be addictive. If you take them daily for several weeks or longer, you may also develop a tolerance to them. A tolerance means that you need more of the drug to get the same effect. You may also experience withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking either drug. Withdrawal can increase your heart rate and your anxiety. It can also cause sleeplessness and agitation. It is extremely important that you follow your doctor’s instructions for taking and stopping these drugs to help avoid both addiction and withdrawal.

    - The Healthline Medical Team
  • Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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