Xanax and Valium are common prescription drugs that treat anxiety, insomnia, and other issues. Both are used for similar purposes and in similar cases. Both drugs work in the brain by working on the same neurotransmitters. Though Xanax and Valium are similar drugs with a lot in common, they have some differences that may be important when considering your options with a doctor.
If you are informed about your options, you may be able to find the right medication for you. A medical professional can help you make sense of these options and other medications that might benefit you. Find out how Xanax and Valium compare.
What Is Xanax?
A prescription drug called alprazolam is marketed under the brand name Xanax. The drug treats panic disorders characterized by anxiety and panic attacks. In addition to anxiety disorders, it can also treat depression associated with anxiety. Since its introduction in the 1970s, Xanax has become one of the most popular drugs globally.
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax treat anxiety disorders and sleep disorders in the United States, which are extremely common. Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, which is a broad category of psychoactive substances.
Xanax can treat anxiety-related problems and help you relax physically and mentally. It may promote relaxation, sleep, anxiolysis (anti-anxiety), and muscle relaxation. Xanax can also be misused recreationally, causing euphoria and disinhibition similar to alcohol.
Xanax is also used recreationally by diverting and trading prescription pills illegally. However, drug dealers make fake Xanax pills that are hard to tell apart from real Xanax. Counterfeit Xanax may contain alprazolam, but it can also contain other substances like fentanyl or other dangerous substances.
What Is Valium?
Diazepam, the generic name for Valium, treats anxiety, seizures, muscle spasticity, and sleep disorders. As with Xanax, Valium is a benzodiazepine that depresses the central nervous system. In 1963, diazepam became available as a medical treatment for the first time since it was patented in 1959. In the 1970s, it was the top-selling drug worldwide.
The medication remains one of the most popular in the world today. In today’s world of benzodiazepines, Xanax has surpassed Valium in popularity. Valium and Xanax both function similarly in the brain, like other depressants, but there may be slight differences when taking them.
Valium’s effects last longer than other drugs in its class because it is a long-acting drug. Compared to fast, short-acting drugs, long-acting substances tend to be less likely to be abused. Typically, recreational drug users seek substances that produce a euphoric high quickly and wear off quickly.
However, it is still possible to experience intoxicating effects such as euphoric relaxation and inhibition release when taking Valium. Misuse can also lead to side effects like impaired motor function, slurred speech, and balance problems.
How Do Xanax and Valium Work?
The brain reacts similarly to benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. The rest-and-digest response is triggered by gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural chemical in the brain. The brain normally releases GABA to bind to GABA receptors. As a result, GABA opens channels in your nerve cells, which allows a negative charge to enter, blocking nerve activity.
Nerve cells are slowed down, which allows you to relax. This process may be less efficient in people with panic disorders and anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium can enhance GABA. Next to GABA, these compounds also bind to a different site on the receptor than GABA does. As soon as they reach the receptor, they increase the time the channel stays open, making the inhibitory effects more intense.
Despite the fact that both drugs work similarly in the brain, your encounter with one may be different from that with the other. Some of their effects are similar, but their onset of action, duration of action, and effectiveness in treating specific problems can be different.
Valium begins working within 15 minutes of taking it since it is a fast-acting benzodiazepine. After 15 to 30 minutes, Xanax can begin working. One hour after taking Valium, its effectiveness peaks. It can take between 45 minutes and an hour and a half for Xanax to take effect.
The half-life of Valium is between 20 and 50 hours, making it a long-acting drug. Additionally, its active metabolites last even longer. There are no long-lasting metabolites associated with Xanax, which has a half-life of six to 20 hours.
Drugs that are active for a longer period are not necessarily more effective. Depending on the purpose, drugs with different durations of action may be more appropriate. As an example, you may not want the drug to last through the night and into the morning if you’re taking it for anxiety-related insomnia.
Which Is More Effective: Xanax or Valium?
When it comes to treating anxiety, Xanax and Valium are effective medications. In its heyday, Valium was the world’s most popular medication. Even though Xanax is a comparatively new medication, it is now the most popular benzodiazepine. Several studies have examined the efficacy of Valium and Xanax. The effects of alprazolam, diazepam, and a placebo on anxiety were evaluated in a double-blind study in 1980.
There was no difference between alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) in terms of effectiveness compared, and both were more effective than the placebo. Additionally, alprazolam was reported to have fewer side effects. However, only 86 people were involved in this study.
In 1986, a similar study compared diazepam and alprazolam for treating panic disorders. According to the study, both drugs reduced panic attacks and generalized anxiety equally well. Thirdly, in 1979, a study of 144 outpatients with anxiety found that alprazolam was less likely to cause side effects, but both were equally effective.
Additionally, diazepam and alprazolam were investigated as muscle relaxants in a 2018 study on mice. Xanax or Valium are commonly prescribed for anxiety, but they can also be used to treat muscle spasms that injuries or neurological conditions cause. Diazepam was found to have greater muscle-relaxing effects than alprazolam in the study.
In terms of their intended uses, Xanax and Valium are equally effective. Despite studies leaning one way or another, efficacy doesn’t seem to differ significantly. If your doctor helps you determine that one of these drugs suits your needs, you can try it out and see if it’s effective. Let your doctor know if you don’t see any improvement in your symptoms or if you experience uncomfortable side effects.
Your dose may be adjusted, or another medication may be prescribed. It’s impossible to find a single treatment that works for everyone when treating anxiety or other mental health problems. It may take a time of trial and error with your doctor before you find a treatment that works. Common issues like anxiety can be treated in various ways. You can try the next option if the first doesn’t work.
Other Considerations When Taking Xanax or Valium
If you are considering benzodiazepine medication, take into consideration its potential for misuse. A drug’s abuse potential is determined by its likelihood of being misused or recreationally used. An important criterion for judging misuse liability is whether a drug can cause euphoria, dependence, or addiction.
It is possible to misuse these drugs. Alcohol and benzodiazepines produce similar intoxicating side effects. The effects of these drugs can include feelings of euphoria, a release of inhibitions, a reduction in social anxiety, and an increase in mood.
Both Xanax and Valium are Schedule IV drugs in the United States, meaning they have some abuse potential, but they also have accepted medical uses. Xanax is the most common benzodiazepine medication found in illicit settings, but both of these drugs can be mishandled.
A prescription drug can be used illicitly if it is obtained from an illegal source, if it is used without a prescription, or if it is counterfeit. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported 47,546 illegal uses of alprazolam, compared with only 4,451 for illicit diazepam.
It is possible that diazepam may cause less severe withdrawal symptoms than alprazolam if you become dependent and then quit. There may be fewer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms with diazepam since it lasts longer and has active metabolites. However, in both cases, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can result in severe symptoms, including seizures. Talk to your doctor before quitting cold turkey if you feel you have become dependent on Valium or Xanax.