What is the difference between Lorazepam and Xanax?

Lorazepam and Xanax are both prescribed for anxiety, but which is better? Two medicines in the benzodiazepine family are Xanax (the brand name for alprazolam) and Lorazepam (Ativan). Both effectively treat short-term relief of anxiety symptoms, anxiety disorders, and anxiety associated with depression. Xanax is also prescribed for panic disorders. Lorazepam also treats insomnia associated with stress or anxiety.

They are in the benzodiazepine family of drugs, which help inhibit excess nerve stimulation in the brain. Researchers believe excessive neural firing in the brain causes anxiety. Lorazepam and Xanax are often preferred over other anxiety medicines because their effects are quicker, with Xanax having a faster onset of action than Lorazepam.

They typically begin to work within an hour. Though, the effects of Xanax last for a shorter duration than Lorazepam. Both drugs belong to the class of benzodiazepines, so they have a similar mechanism of action; still, structural differences between them affect their activity in the body.

Benzodiazepines for anxiety

A drug that primarily treats anxiety, benzodiazepines are also effective in treating other medical conditions. The drug works by affecting the neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that the nerves release to communicate with other nerves. For example, the GABA neurotransmitter suppresses nerve activity. Researchers believe that the excessive activity of these nerves may be the cause of anxiety and some other psychological disorders.

Benzodiazepines reduce the nerve activity in the brain and the spinal cord and treat seizures, insomnia, anxiety, and panic. They are also known to be effective as a muscle relaxant, as general anaesthesia and sedation before surgery, for the symptoms of depression, for alcohol withdrawal, and drug-associated agitation.

What is Lorazepam?

Lorazepam is indicated for managing anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of anxiety or anxiety associated with depressive symptoms. Anxiety or tension linked with everyday stress usually does not require treatment with an anxiolytic.

The possible side effects of Lorazepam

Most adverse reactions to benzodiazepines, including CNS effects and respiratory depression, are dose-dependent, with more severe effects occurring with high doses.

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Forgetfulness or amnesia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Skin rash

What is Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is indicated for managing anxiety disorders and providing short-term relief for adults' anxiety symptoms. Xanax is also indicated for treating panic disorders in adults with or without agoraphobia (a fear of places and situations that cause helplessness, panic, or embarrassment).

The possible side effects of Xanax

Common side effects of Xanax include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Memory problems
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Stuffy nose
  • Loss of interest in sex

How do Lorazepam and Xanax work?

Lorazepam and Xanax, like other benzodiazepines, enhance the actions of a GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter reduces the activity of nerve cells, so enhancing it has a calming effect that can improve anxiety symptoms, reduce muscle tension, stop seizures, and induce sleep. Benzodiazepines are also known for their amnesic impact or ability to disrupt short-term memory, and this makes them useful before surgery. In addition, due to structural differences, some benzodiazepines are more likely to relieve anxiety, make you sleepy, stop seizures, relax muscles, or make you forget.

Lorazepam and Xanax are both FDA-approved for anxiety relief. However, they are less likely than Diazepam or Temazepam to induce sleep. Sedative effects of Lorazepam that occur are of slower onset but last longer than alprazolam. Lorazepam may also be effective in the treatment of seizures. 

Difference between Lorazepam and Xanax

The primary difference between Lorazepam and Xanax is Lorazepam leaves a person's system more quickly, reducing the chance of toxicity or side effects. Lorazepam also has fewer unfavourable interactions with other medications when compared to Xanax. Each drug, however, can cause dangerously increased sedation when consumed with alcohol, other depressants or other anti-anxiety medications.

Which one works quicker?

Xanax is more quickly absorbed than Lorazepam, with peak concentrations occurring within 1-2 hours following the administration, compared to 2 hours for Lorazepam. The effects of Xanax last 4-6 hours, although there are wide variations among individuals. Effects of Lorazepam last around 8 hours, although they may persist longer in some individuals.

How much Xanax equals 1mg of Lorazepam?

Benzodiazepine equivalency tables show that 0.5 mg of Alprazolam (Xanax) is approximately equivalent to 1 mg of Lorazepam. However, people of Asian descent metabolise Xanax differently than other races. In addition, certain disease states like alcoholism, obesity, liver and kidney disease, and even old age may affect how Xanax behaves in your body, so benzodiazepine equivalency tables must be used as a guide only. They do not reflect individual variation. Therefore, take both Lorazepam and Xanax for the short term.

Which drug is more addictive?

Take Lorazepam and Xanax for the short term due to the risk of addiction and dependence. Generally speaking, benzodiazepines with a shorter half-life (such as Lorazepam and Xanax) are more challenging to stop than those with a longer half-life (such as diazepam). In addition, both Lorazepam and Xanax readily enter brain tissue, reinforcing drug taking and generally associated with more severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, Lorazepam and Xanax are at high risk of abuse. Experts have advised using Xanax with caution as it has been linked with severe withdrawal symptoms. 


Lorazepam and Xanax (Alprazolam) effectively treat anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Both are benzodiazepines and serve the same purpose, still there are some differences. Lorazepam and Xanax may act by enhancing the effects of GABA in the brain. By influencing GABA, benzodiazepines reduce the activity of nerves in the brain.