Xanax vs. Ativan

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Depression Treatment: Xanax or Ativan?

Both Xanax and Ativan are anxiolytic drugs with some antidepressant and sleeping effect. When taking one of these medications, the patients’ muscles become relaxed. Xanax and Ativan have an anticonvulsant activity and a mild soporific effect. In particular, they facilitate sleep, increase the duration of sleep and also lead to decrease in a number of awakenings during the night.



When taking Xanax or Ativan, patients notice decrease in symptoms of anxiety and fear, as well as decrease in emotional tension. Xanax is used more often to treat panic disorders. Both drugs are prescribed for a short-term treatment. Xanax and Ativan have practically no effect on the cardiovascular and respiratory system of healthy patients. Both of them are practically not cumulated in the body.

Indications for Use

Xanax is used to treat patients with neurotic and neurosis-like disorders, which are accompanied by a sense of anxiety. Xanax may be prescribed to patients with reactive depressive conditions, including those developed against a background of somatic diseases. Ativan can be used to treat patients with panic disorders, insomnia and withdrawal syndrome (including alcohol and narcotic withdrawal syndrome).

It should be highlighted that Xanax can be prescribed for patients who are 18 years old, while Ativan can be used even by those patients who are 12 years old.

Mode of Application

Both medications are intended for oral use. Ativan can be also used as solution for injections. Each of them is taken regardless of the food intake. A usual daily dose is recommended to be divided into 2-3 doses. The duration of therapy and doses are determined individually. When choosing a dose, the patient’s condition should be carefully monitored. Some people may have intolerance to one of the drugs and, taking into account the effect achieved, the dose should be adjusted.

Adults with panic disorders and depressive states are usually prescribed Xanax or Ativan at an initial dose of 0.1-0.2 mg twice or three times a day. If it is necessary, in 1-2 weeks after the start of the therapy the dose is gradually increased (it is recommended to start increasing the dose from evening reception, after which the morning dose is increased). The recommended therapeutic dose is the same for both medications, and it is 3 mg a day, approximately.

Cancellation of each of these drugs is carried out gradually. It is recommended to reduce the dose of Xanax and Ativan by 500 mg every 3 days during 2-6 weeks. If the therapy is stopped unexpectedly, the development of withdrawal effects can occur. Depending on the condition of the patient and his/her response to decrease in the dose, the withdrawal period of both drugs may be increased.

When choosing a dose, it should be taken into account that patients who have not previously received psychotropic drugs have a better response to such medications (lower doses are needed to achieve a therapeutic effect) than patients who previously received antidepressants and anxiolytics.

Side Effects

Primarily, at the beginning of the therapy with Xanax or Ativan, patients may feel increased fatigue, drowsiness, attention deficit, dizziness, development of drug dependence, and psychomotor reactions may slow down as well. The risk of these adverse reactions is higher for elderly patients.

Drug Interactions

Combined use of Xanax or Ativan with other antidepressants is acceptable for patients with endogenous depression. There is a mutual enhancement of action of neuroleptic drugs, hypnotics and anticonvulsants, ethyl alcohol and central muscle relaxants, when they are used with Xanax or Ativan.