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Xanax vs. Benzodiazepines: Its Effectiveness and Differences

Author: Kevin Olsen

Last Updated: 9/16/2022

Benzodiazepines are medications that treat anxiety. Along with anxiety they also treat alcohol withdrawal and muscle spasms. The first Benzodiazepine, Chlordiazepoxide, was created in 1955 by chemist Leo Sternbach. The cost of all different benzodiazepines varies based on the drug you are taking and if you do or do not have insurance.

Xanax, or its Generic name of alprazolam, is a medication used to help those with anxiety or panic disorders. The medication was invented by chemist J.B Hester in Michigan in the late 1960s and was first administered to a patient in 1970 in Germany. Xanax was created due to the rising need for psychiatric treatment in the 1950s and 1960s. They began to research a way to cure insomnia related to anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common conditions in the world, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone. Since so many people are affected by anxiety, many people need a way to treat it. 

If you do not have insurance Xanax will cost around $350 or more for 60 pills. With insurance, they will usually cover the full cost once you hit your specific deductible. So depending on your plan you could pay anywhere from $0 – $100 or more. Xanax is FSA approved and first became approved back in 1981. In 2020, the FDA filed a new law stating that all Benzodiazepines must have a warning on their boxes about addiction, abuse, and misuse. Continue reading to find out more about all Benzodiazepines and Xanax specifically.

What are the Main Differences Between Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

There are many different Benzodiazepines, and Xanax is one of them. Xanax is one of the most popular, and the strongest, of all benzodiazepines. Two other popular ones are Klonopin and Ativan, so we will look at the differences between these three. First, we will look at Xanax and Klonopin. One major difference is that Klonopin is also used to treat seizures. Another big difference, which can also lead to abuse, addiction, and misuse of Xanax, is that Klonopin effects last longer meaning you don’t need to take it as often. 

With Xanax, you need to take it more frequently during the day which can lead to wanting more and more. Xanax peaks after one or two hours whereas Klonopin peaks after four hours. 

Next, it’s important to compare Xanax and Ativan. Xanax and Antivan treat anxiety like most benzodiazepines. They are similar drugs with one major difference. Ativan leaves your body faster meaning you have fewer side effects and leaving less of a chance of you having less of a chance of toxicity as well.

What are the Conditions That Xanax and Benzodiazepines Treat?

There are many different benzodiazepines and some of them treat various things. One common trend, however, is that they all treat anxiety disorders. Below we list the conditions that benzodiazepines treat.

  • Anxiety and Panic Disorders: Many Benzodiazepines including oxazepam, Ativan, and Xanax treat anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax also is used to help with random onset panic attacks. 
  • Insomnia: Restoril, Halcion, and Flurazepam are some of the benzodiazepines used to treat insomnia. While Restoril and Flurazepam are okay to use on a longer-term basis, Halcion should not be used for more than two or three weeks at a time due to difficulty breathing.
  • Seizures: Multiple benzodiazepines aid in the treatment of seizures. Some of them are Onfi, Klonopin, and Sympazam. While Klonopin will help with most seizures, Onfi and Sympazam are generally only used in combination with other benzodiazepines to help with seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
  • Alcoholism/Alcohol Withdrawal: Three commonly used Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal are Valium, Ativan, and Librium. The dosage will vary based on the level of alcoholism the patient suffers from. This will also decide if they can take the in an outpatient or inpatient setting. They help by counteracting most of the major symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal. These symptoms can often be a major reason people tend to relapse so removing those symptoms can play a major role in beating alcoholism.

Overall, benzodiazepines treat dozens of conditions and vary based on specific situations.

Which is More Effective Between Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines with a short half-life and low potency are usually the ones that will be most effective as they are stronger and will affect you more rapidly. Some of these Benzodiazepines are Valium, Tranxene, and Librium. 

Since there are so many benzodiazepines, Xanax is not more effective than them as a whole. Valium is considered to be more effective than Xanax because it will have fewer side effects and will be a little stronger. Klonopin is another benzodiazepine and Xanax is more effective as it is stronger and will affect you more quickly. 

However, each situation varies and calls for a different benzodiazepine. Ultimately, it depends on the condition and the dosage.

What are the Possible Side Effects You May Experience When Taking Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

Xanax comes with many benefits but it also comes with risks and side effects. Depending on the dosage and other medications you take, it’s possible to experience a wide range of side effects.

We list some of these side effects below.

  • Drowsiness and Dizziness: Taking Xanax or other benzos affects your motor functions and you will often see warning labels to not use heavy machinery. This is also why many people will state that they don’t remember doing things after taking Xanax or that they will wake up somewhere different from where they took the drug.
  • Change in Sex Drive and Erectile Dysfunction: Xanax is known to lower sex drive, this is different from other benzodiazepines such as Klonopin. Klonopin can be taken long-term and not have any adverse effect on sex drive. Other benzodiazepines such as Kratom, are also known to lower libido.
  • Heart rate changes: Xanax and benzodiazepines increase heart rate, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke 
  • Addiction: While rare, it’s possible to abuse benzodiazepines and develop an addiction 

Xanax also helps with anxiety by changing how your nervous system is working. It is believed that this change also can cause erectile dysfunction. While not all Benzos will cause ED, most will. This may also change based on the dosage as the everyday use of the drug is much more likely to cause ED and low libido than a small dose once in a while.

What are the Most Serious Side Effects I Could Experience With Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

Xanax and other benzodiazepines typically have a short list of minor side effects. However, some people may experience severe side effects. These effects are influenced by drug tolerance, dosage, and how often someone takes benzodiazepines.

Below we list the most serious side effects you can experience with Xanax and benzodiazepines.

  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Issues with walking
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of motor skills 
  • Vomiting
  • Coma 
  • Co-occurring mental health problems
  • Overdose 
  • Death 

Because Benzos and Xanax change how your nervous system is working to help with panic and anxiety disorders, it also causes other changes. These side effects may be fatal and also create indirect risks such as physical or sexual abuse, kidnapping, or death. It is always important to be careful when handling high-level medicines such as these.

What are the Precautions You Should Follow When Taking Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

When taking medication for a condition, always take precautions. Before mixing Xanax or benzodiazepines with other substances, always consult with a doctor. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking when taking Xanax and other benzodiazepines.

Below we list helpful precautions to follow when taking Xanax and benzodiazepines.

  • Avoid mixing Xanax or benzodiazepines with alcohol 
  • Don’t mix Xanax or benzodiazepines with other medications
  • Don’t combine benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan 
  • When experiencing severe side effects, stop taking the medication and visit your healthcare provider 
  • Only take the dosage you’re prescribed
  • Avoid operating machinery when under the influence of benzodiazepines

These are only some precautions you should take. Speak with your doctor to learn more.

Which Type of Benzodiazepines Can Work with Xanax?

Unless specifically directed by a healthcare professional you should never mix Xanax with any benzodiazepines. The effects of both medicines can be very detrimental to your health. For example, Halcion is a sleep aid benzo and if paired with Xanax it leads to dangerously slow heart rate, puts you in a coma, or even leads to death. 

Some benzodiazepines will pair with Xanax such as Klonopin but this is never recommended. Most doctors will not have you mix drugs but rather prescribe you a different one to help with your symptoms.

How can Benzodiazepine Help with Alcohol Withdrawal?

When you experience alcohol withdrawal you are experiencing neurotransmitter rebound. The main neurotransmitter affected is GABA or the Gamma-Aminobutyric acid system. When you take benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal the medicines stimulate GABA and counter many of the adverse effects of the withdrawal. 

Taking benzodiazepines is not a cure or permanent fix for alcoholism. If you do not lower your dosage of alcohol or stop entirely, once you stop the benzodiazepine the effects will set back in. It is important to stop consumption of alcohol when you take benzodiazepines to get the full effects.

Are there any Side Effects When Taking Xanax or Benzodiazepines?

Yes, there are many side effects to both Xanax and other benzodiazepines. Common side effects between them are dizziness, drowsiness, loss of motor skills, and lower sex drive or libido. Other more severe side effects include coma, changes in heart rate, and even death.

Can you take both Xanax and Benzodiazepines?

Yes, it’s possible to take Xanax and other benzodiazepines at the same time. It will be seldom recommended by any physician because the adverse effects strongly outweigh the benefits. They would most likely just take you off of one benzodiazepine and put you on another if necessary.

Can You Drink Alcohol with Xanax?

No, you should never mix alcohol with Xanax. There are many severe side effects to doing this. Both alcohol and Xanax are considered sedative drugs meaning if you take both at the same time leads to severe drowsiness and blacking out. Overall, you can’t drink alcohol with Xanax.

Mixing alcohol and Xanax also causes dangerous mood swings full of rage, aggression, and hostile behaviors. While these are mostly short-term, there are some long-term effects to using Xanax and alcohol together. These include heart disease, stroke, cancers, liver damage, and depression. Mixing these substances also affects your appetite and unhealthy changes in weight.