Xanax and Valium are two potent benzodiazepine prescription medications for managing anxiety and other conditions. Despite their effectiveness in treating the same conditions and falling under the same class of drugs, there are distinct differences you must be aware of before considering these drugs to treat your disorder. This article will examine Xanax vs. Valium and discuss the potency, differences, and similarities.
While this article will serve as a resource to learn more about these two effective and sometimes dangerous medications, only your doctor can determine the best course of treatment in your situation. They might consider prescribing you medication like Xanax or Valium, but they could also suggest alternative options. Since we all have unique characteristics, it means one of these drugs could be more effective in managing anxiety or another condition benzodiazepines treat. For that reason, you must learn about your choices. Below, we’ll delve into what you need to know about Xanax and Valium.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, and it’s a commonly prescribed drug to manage panic disorders, which consist of panic attacks and anxiety. This drug is sometimes used to manage depression and various other anxiety disorders people struggle with today. Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, with 16,780,805 prescriptions written to 3,632,458 people in 2020. Since its introduction to the general public, it’s been among the most popular drugs in the country. However, despite helping many people, it has also harmed many others when they abuse it.
Xanax falls in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These drugs are also used to manage insomnia and seizure disorders. Benzos also fall under the larger category of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants shared by opioids, barbiturates, and alcohol. All of these drugs produce sedative effects on the body and have the potential to be addictive.
A drug like Xanax will help individuals relax physically and mentally, making it a practical approach to managing anxiety-related issues. It promotes sleep, relaxation, and anxiolysis and relaxes muscles. Unfortunately, despite its positive properties, Xanax is often misused as a recreational drug because its effects are similar to alcohol and cause euphoria and disinhibition. What makes Xanax even more dangerous today is finding counterfeit Xanax on the street is more common than ever. In some cases, it could contain fentanyl, a deadly opioid.
What Is Valium?
Valium is the brand name of diazepam, and it’s another commonly used benzodiazepine drug that manages sleep issues, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, seizures, and various anxiety disorders. Valium also belongs to the category of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants and has a long history of helping people overcome their ailments. It was first patented in 1959 and made available for use in 1963. Throughout the 70s, it was a widespread drug like Xanax and claimed the top-selling drug distinction.
Although other benzos like Xanax have prevailed and become more prominent, Valium is still widespread globally. Xanax is more widely used in the United States despite the two drugs producing similar effects on the brain. However, there are some distinct differences between the two that should be noted.
One of the primary differences between Xanax and Valium is that Valium is a long-acting benzo. What this means is it produces effects much longer than other drugs in its class. Long-acting substances have a far lower chance of being abused than short-acting medications because it doesn’t provide the instant effect addicts look for in drugs. When drugs are misused and taken recreationally, drug users want something that produces effects instantly and lasts for a few hours. That being said, Valium still causes euphoria and the effects addicts seek, like lowered inhibitions, but it also causes impaired motor functions, memory impairment, and slurred speech.
Xanax vs. Valium: How Do They Work?
Despite Xanax and Valium being benzodiazepines that produce similar effects, there are differences. Both drugs interact with a naturally occurring brain neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which serves an important role in your rest-and-digest response. In most cases, our brain releases GABA that binds with the GABA receptors, and GABA opens these channels and blocks nervous system activity.
The effects of these drugs cause nerve cells to slow down, which helps you relax. Those with anxiety or panic disorder typically have issues that make this natural process less efficient, so Valium and Xanax step in to increase GABA efficacy in their brain by binding to GABA receptors as well. Despite these medications working similarly in our brains, the experience with one drug will vary from the other.
For example, Xanax is considered more potent than Valium. Half a milligram of Xanax is equivalent to 5 milligrams of Valium, and someone unaware of this may overdose if they believe the two drugs share the same strength, even if they cause similar effects. The speed at which they work, how long it takes you to feel their impact, and their effectiveness will also vary from one person to another.
Valium’s effects come on in as little as 30 minutes, whereas Xanax produces them in around 15 minutes. Valium reaches peak effectiveness in an hour, with Xanax varying between 45 minutes and an hour. As mentioned above, Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine because its half-life ranges from 20 hours to 50 hours. The half-life of Xanax is much shorter, lasting anywhere from six to 20 hours without any long-lasting metabolites.
It’s important to mention that the length of time drugs remain in your system should not indicate their effectiveness. The time they stay in our system might be better for different purposes. If you’re taking medication for insomnia, you don’t want it to last into the next day.
Is Xanax or Valium More Effective?
Both medications are considered highly effective for anxiety, but Valium is a much older drug than Xanax and is still widely prescribed by doctors. However, Xanax is a newer drug and has surpassed Valium as the most popular benzodiazepine. Many studies show the efficacy of both drugs, and in a 1980 double-blind study, researchers compared Xanax and Valium for anxiety in an outpatient setting. The result? Both drugs were better than the placebo, but it showed that Xanax is more effective than Valium for this particular application. Xanax also had fewer side effects.
Xanax and Valium are relatively safe medications when used as prescribed, but you should always watch for tolerance, which can lead to dependence and addiction. You shouldn’t have an issue if you don’t misuse these drugs, but tolerance can still occur. Benzodiazepine addiction is severe and can be deadly, especially without intervention. If you notice you’ve become tolerant of these drugs’ effects, contact your doctor immediately.
Both drugs effectively manage their respective ailments. Studies might lean one way or another, but they don’t offer differences when it comes to efficacy. When searching for a medication that manages your needs, your doctor might prescribe one before the other to determine which works better for you. If you don’t notice any improvements, please report everything to your doctor.
Your doctor may adjust your dosage or find an alternative benzodiazepine. Bear in mind there is never a guarantee that benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium will work forever. It might treat your symptoms in the short term, which is what they’re designed to do, but you might notice that relief wears off the longer you take it. As mentioned above, tolerance is a significant issue. If you experience it, please don’t take more Xanax or Valium to combat the tolerance. Speak to your doctor. For this reason, these drugs should not be taken long-term.
Xanax and Valium treat millions of people each year and serve a vital purpose in our society. However, dangers are associated with using these medications. They are addictive, especially when misused and abused. The abuse potential is incredibly high because of the euphoria they produce, and the side effects are similar to alcohol, which makes people seek out. Unfortunately, you can experience severe or even deadly withdrawal symptoms with abrupt cessation of these drugs. If you reach a point where you’re abusing these medications and don’t know where to turn, you must consider professional addiction treatment.