Advertisement

Lorazepam vs. Xanax: What’s the Difference?

Overview

Highlights

  1. Lorazepam and Xanax are both prescribed for short-term use.
  2. Lorazepam is approved for people who are at least 12 years old. Xanax is approved for adults older than 18 years.
  3. Deadly drug interactions are possible if you take lorazepam or Xanax with certain substances.

If you have anxiety that interferes with your quality of life or social relationships, there are some medications that can help you. Two of these drugs are lorazepam and Xanax.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Uses

What they treat

Lorazepam and Xanax are benzodiazepines. They both slow the activity of your central nervous system (CNS) and provide a tranquilizing effect. This calming result can help you manage anxiety and nervousness. Both of these drugs are prescribed for short-term use.

Lorazepam is approved to treat short-term anxiety disorder and anxiety associated with depression. Xanax is also approved for these uses. Additionally, Xanax is approved to treat panic disorder and panic attacks, with or without agoraphobia.

Off-label uses

Off-label drug use
Off-label drug use means that a drug that’s been approved by the FDA for one purpose is used for a different purpose that has not been approved. However, a doctor can still use the drug for that purpose. This is because the FDA regulates the testing and approval of drugs, but not how doctors use drugs to treat their patients. So, your doctor can prescribe a drug however they think is best for your care.

Lorazepam is also used for the off-label treatment of:

  • irritability
  • mania
  • recurring seizures
  • presurgery sedation
  • alcohol withdrawal
  • chemotherapy-induced vomiting
  • status epilepticus, or severe seizures

Xanax is used for the off-label treatment of:

  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • severe premenstrual syndrome
  • essential tremor
  • ringing in the ears

Learn more: All about off-label prescription drug use »

Side effects

Side effects

While these drugs share several side effects, each drug can cause some unique side effects.

For example, Xanax can cause memory impairment. It can also increase the risk of mania or excitability and difficulty sleeping in people who have bipolar disorder.

Lorazepam may cause:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • heartburn
  • blurred vision
  • confusion

Common side effects

The most common side effects of both lorazepam and Xanax are drowsiness and dizziness. These can impair your ability to drive. If you feel lightheaded or sleepy after taking either of these drugs, don’t drive or operate dangerous equipment. This effect may pass within a few hours or last until the next day. Both drugs can also cause dry mouth and low blood pressure.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Dosage

Forms and dosage

Lorazepam is available in immediate-release tablets. It’s also available as an injectable solution. The injectable form is only given by a healthcare professional in a hospital or clinic.

Xanax is available in immediate-release tablets. Some you swallow, and some you let dissolve in your mouth. Extended-release Xanax tablets are also available. They’re only approved to treat panic attacks. You take fewer doses with this form. Xanax also comes in a solution that you take by mouth.

The strengths of all forms of lorazepam and Xanax are similar, between 0.5 mg and 3 mg. Forms and dosages vary depending on what they are used to treat. You’ll usually start with the lowest possible dose. Your dosage is something to discuss with the prescribing doctor.

Interactions

Drug interactions

Taking CNS depressants like lorazepam and Xanax with other CNS depressants can slow your respiratory system. This effect can be deadly.

It’s important to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications that you currently take. Always read the package labels and follow directions carefully. You can learn more about interacting drugs in the detailed interaction information for lorazepam and Xanax.

Advice from our medical expert
Do not take benzodiazepines with other medications without checking with your doctor or pharmacist. Only take them exactly as prescribed, and do not drink alcohol or take other sedatives when using benzodiazepines. The combined effects can be quite severe.
– Alan Carter, PharmD
Advertisement
Advertisement

Warning

Dependence warning

Benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam and Xanax, can be physically and psychologically habit-forming. This is more likely at higher doses and if you have a history of substance abuse.

The risk of dependence on these medications or tolerance to them increases the longer you use them. The risk also increases as you age.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur if you stop taking these medications abruptly. Symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • depression

Talk to your doctor before stopping either medication. Your doctor can help you taper off slowly.

Advertisement

Takeaway

Talk to your doctor

Lorazepam and Xanax are both effective in treating anxiety for a short time. But they also have many other uses, which are specific to each drug. Additionally, the side effects of each drug are similar, but not exactly the same.

To help decide the drug that’s best for you, your doctor will consider the condition you have as well as your medical history and the other drugs you take. It’s not always clear why one medication works better for some people than for others. If the drug you end up using doesn’t work out, your doctor may change the dose or try other benzodiazepine medications that may help.

Article Resources
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement