If you have been trying to curb your anxiety, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all your resources. You may have tried everything natural but can’t shake this feeling inside. Unfortunately, you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last to give up hope on anxiety and reach out for chemical relief. You’ve been doing all of the research online, and it’s come between two potent benzodiazepine drugs—Valium vs. Xanax—and you may want to know which is best for anxiety treatment? There is a lot to consider, and it’s something you should speak to your doctor about first. Still, these are two central nervous system (CNS) depressants notorious in their quest to conquer anxiety and causing worse problems than the individual started off having, which means you should proceed with caution.
Anxiety has been affecting humans for centuries, but it wasn’t written into literature until April 1869 when a doctor from New York coined the term that he saw in one of 30 patients. It was initially called neurasthenia, neuro for “nerve,” and asthenia for “weakness.” He sometimes referred to the condition as “nerve exhaustion,” and argued that it affected the “brain-workers in almost every household of the Northern and Eastern states.” The doctor, George Miller Beard, also believed he suffered from the condition but overcame it in his early 20s. If we could all be lucky to “overcome” it as he did.
The rise of anxiety coincided with the time barbiturates were synthesized, the initial medication that preceded benzodiazepines for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. The first of these drugs reached markets in 1881 and were lauded for their success. However, as fast as they reached the market, doctors began witnessing how addictive they could be and the dangers of the withdrawal syndrome. For years to come, they sought a new and less addictive means of anxiety treatment. In 1960, the first benzodiazepine, Librium, hit the market, followed by Valium in 1963 and Xanax in 1981.
Benzodiazepines were highly successful and less dangerous than barbiturates, but drugs like Xanax and Valium pose inherent dangers. With 18.1 percent of the population struggling with anxiety, these medications serve a purpose in our society. However, Valium and Xanax are addictive drugs that can cause more harm than good. If you’ve exhausted all other resources and believe the pros outweigh the cons, we’ll examine the benefits of both drugs below to determine which is right for you.
What Is the Difference Between Valium and Xanax?
Valium and Xanax are central nervous system depressant benzodiazepines, but are they the same? Well, no, but they’re often compared to one another. Those prescribed the medication may also wonder if one is more effective than the other or if one is more addictive. Valium and Xanax are two different benzodiazepines prescribed for various reasons. Valium is the brand name for diazepam and Xanax for alprazolam.
Since both drugs fall under the same category, they have the same mechanism of action. Despite sharing this similarity, everything else is different. Their structural differences affect how they produce side effects in your body and how long those last. For example, Valium has a half-life of 48 hours, while Xanax has a half-life of only 11.2 hours. The half-life of a drug refers to the time it takes for the amount of the active substance in your body to be reduced by half.
Even when two drugs fall under the same class, the duration of their side effects, doses, and the speeds at which they work make all of the difference. Drugs with a shorter half-life wear off faster, meaning someone seeking relief from panic attacks or waking up in the middle of the night may use more in a shorter time. Unfortunately, that can teeter the line between therapeutic use and addiction, which is why, depending on the situation, long-acting benzos like Valium might be more effective. We all have unique needs that cannot be compared.
Valium vs. Xanax: How Do They Work?
Valium and Xanax enhance the effects of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces the nerve cell activity in the central nervous system. When our bodies are riddled with anxiety, can’t calm themselves, fall asleep, or endure seizures, it’s a sign the brain is not producing enough GABA. When you introduce a drug like Valium or Xanax into the mix, it enhances production, thus producing a calming that reduces muscle tension and anxiety, induces sleep, or stops seizures. These two medications are also known for their amnesic side effects, meaning they’re effective before surgery.
Despite falling under the same drug class, Valium and Xanax are structurally different and affect the ability to relieve anxiety, help you fall asleep, stop seizures, and affect your short-term memory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medications for anxiety disorders, but you’re less likely to feel sleepy after using Xanax than Valium.
Valium vs. Xanax: Which Is More Addictive?
As mentioned earlier, you might have given up on the natural path after exhausting all resources and seeking solutions to overcome your anxiety. Sometimes, anxiety is so severe that chemical relief is the best option. The one issue with these medications is that you cannot use them for more than a few weeks without becoming physically dependent. Physical dependence can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, followed by addiction. With that being said, Valium and Xanax are both addictive. Despite their effectiveness in treating anxiety, panic disorders, and other conditions, they’re not something to consider for long-term use.
Many people who take Valium or Xanax report that the medication is the “missing piece” in their lives. Their anxiety is reduced dramatically, and they feel normal. Many of them even feel euphoric. When that goes away, they take more. The relaxing sensation interrupts the brain’s reward circuit and encourages the drug use to persist, resulting in benzodiazepine abuse and the need for benzo addiction treatment to overcome it.
As noted earlier, drugs like Xanax are harder to stop because of their short half-life. For that reason, you could go as far as saying Xanax is more addictive than Valium. Still, both drugs will affect brain tissue and cause potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. However, Xanax is known for causing more severe withdrawal symptoms than Valium. If you’ve become addicted to these prescription benzodiazepines, you must seek treatment to overcome the affliction. It can be a dangerous journey without the proper guidance.
Valium vs. Xanax: Which Is Better for Anxiety?
Both medications effectively treat anxiety, but which one is better? Valium has a quicker onset, and its half-life requires more processing time before it exits the body. However, Xanax is approved for treating panic attacks. With that being said, you’ll find relief with either drug but speak to your doctor to determine which one is best for your needs. We all have a unique chemistry and needs, meaning we cannot disclose which will work best for you.
Valium vs. Xanax: What Are the Side Effects?
All drugs produce some kind of side effect, and Valium and Xanax are no different. Since these drugs have similar profiles and affect your central nervous system, they’re known to cause confusion, lightheadedness, and drowsiness. However, these two can also produce nausea, constipation, and other gastrointestinal issues. Valium and Xanax can also lead to depression, which must be monitored by the prescribing physician.
Other common side effects benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax cause include:
- Blurred vision
If you experience adverse side effects as a result of Valium or Xanax, you must reach out to your doctor right away. They could have you abstain from the medication and determine a new course of action. If you feel you’re becoming dependent on either drug, you must also let them know. You should never take a higher dose or more frequently than prescribed to combat this. Your doctor can help you by adjusting the amount or considering a new plan that involves abstinence from benzodiazepines.
Despite their effectiveness, take caution when using benzos for anxiety.