What Are The Differences Between Lorazepam And Xanax?

Xanax, a trade name for the generic drug alprazolam, came to the United States after the company Upjohn (now a subsidiary of Pfizer) introduced it in 1981. The company initially sold the drug as a treatment for panic disorders. By 2010, it became the most prescribed and abused benzodiazepine in the market. (1)

Lorazepam, commonly sold under the trade name Ativan, is similarly a benzodiazepine. The drug first hit the market in 1977 after the US government approved its patent application back in 1963. The World Health Organization listed the drug in 2015 as one of the most effective, cost-effective and safe drugs for its purpose. (2)

Uses Of Xanax And Lorazepam

Xanax is a minor tranquilizer meaning it possesses some sedating properties. It works by binding itself to our GABA receptors to regulate the flow of electrical impulses in our brain. Lorazepam, being a benzodiazepine too, works in the same way Xanax does.

Doctors prescribe both drugs for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Both drugs have some level of sedating capabilities; however, more studies support Lorazepam for such use. Both drugs have also been proven to treat nausea brought about by chemotherapy.

Listed below are some uses exclusive to each drug:


  • Seizures: Doctors often administer Lorazepam as the first-line treatment for seizures. The anticonvulsant property of Lorazepam is highly reliable but may cause prolonged sedation.
  • Agitation: The drug Lorazepam is often used as an alternative to the drug haloperidol when sedating agitated and violent individuals. However, haloperidol is still a more preferred drug for such purpose.
  • Catatonia: Physicians administer Lorazepam to persons who are suffering to Catatonia characterized by the inability to speak. Catatonia is a state in which a person has no ability to do motor actions due to a lack of critical mental function.


  • Panic Disorders: The FDA initially approved Xanax for the treatment of panic disorders. However, the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry recommends it for the treatment of panic disorders only to patients with no history of addiction, or dependence.

Side Effects Of Xanax And Lorazepam

Both Xanax and Lorazepam are benzodiazepines; hence, they share some similarities in their uses, action, and even side effects. The Food and Drug Administration categorized both drugs as Schedule IV drugs because they have a, although minimal, potential for abuse and addiction.

Other common side effects of both drugs include ataxia, inability to create new memories, drowsiness, dizziness, and depression. If a person misuses them, the drugs may also worsen the symptoms of epilepsy. Some patients have also claimed that the drugs can cause suicidal thoughts among those taking it.

Also Read: Klonopin Vs Xanax

Effect On Pregnant Women

A study on the teratogenic effect of benzodiazepines like Xanax and Lorazepam found out that there is a minimal probability that the fetus will experience long-term adverse effects. The same result appeared in babies that were ingesting breast milk from a mother taking either of these drugs. (3)

Can Xanax And Lorazepam Be Taken Together?

Finally, patients are not recommended to take both Xanax and Lorazepam at the same time. This is due to the presence of their sedating and depressing effects. Taking them together may intensify the adverse effects of each drug. This may result in severe depression, seizures, suicidal thoughts, respiratory depression and more.


"Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2006: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits" (PDF). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2017.

"WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (19th List)" (PDF). World Health Organization. April 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2017.

McElhatton, P. (1994). The effects of benzodiazepine use during pregnancy and lactation.