Both Xanax and Valium are prescription drugs used to treat conditions like anxiety only available from your doctor. Although these drugs are used to treat anxiety disorders and are considered effective treatment options with a lot in common, there are notable differences that you should be aware of and discuss with your doctor before using one of them. 

While this guide can serve as a resource to learn more about the medication, only your doctor can help you determine which medication, if any, will be right for you. We all possess unique characteristics that could make one of these drugs more effective than the other, so it’s important to be informed about your choices. Please continue reading to learn more about Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) and the similarities or differences they possess. 

Alprazolam, also known by its brand name Xanax, is a drug used to treat panic disorders characterized by anxiety and panic attacks. The medication is also used to treat depression and other of the many anxiety disorders. Since its introduction, Xanax has ranked in the top half for the most popular drugs in the country. However, despite its effectiveness, it can be dangerous when abused. 

Xanax belongs to a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These are routinely prescribed for common issues people face, like insomnia or anxiety disorders. It also belongs to a broader class of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are shared by alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates. 

Xanax has the ability to help a person relax both mentally and physically, making it a useful tool in treating anxiety-related issues. It can facilitate relaxation, sleep, anxiolysis (anti-anxiety), and relax your muscles. However, Xanax is commonly misused as a recreational drug because it produces intoxication similar to alcohol with euphoria and disinhibition to match. Even worse, counterfeit Xanax is extremely common on the street and is something hard to decipher from the real thing. When you misuse the drug, it’s dangerous, but it can be deadly from an illicit source, especially with the influx of fentanyl today.  

Diazepam, also known by its brand name Valium, is another commonly prescribed benzodiazepine that treats muscle spasms, sleep issues, restless leg syndrome, seizures, and an array of anxiety disorders. Valium also belongs to the classification of drugs known as central nervous system depressants. The drug was patented in 1959 and was made available for medical use a few years later in 1963. Throughout the 1970s, the drug took a path similar to Xanax and was the top-selling drug globally. 

Despite other benzos like Xanax replacing its fame, Valium is still one of the most popular drugs globally. However, Xanax has become more widely used than Valium. As a depressant drug and benzodiazepine, Xanax and Valium provide similar effects in the brain, although there are notable differences when using the medications. 

Valium is a long-acting benzo, meaning the effects last longer than other drugs in its class. Long-acting substances have a lower potential for abuse than short-acting drugs because they don’t provide that instant intoxication an addict seeks. When using drugs recreationally, drug users want something that hits quickly and lasts for a few hours. With that said, Valium still provides euphoric effects and lowered inhibitions, and misuse can lead to a loss of balance, slurred speech, memory impairment, and impaired motor functions. 


Alprazolam and diazepam are both benzodiazepines that produce similar effects in the brain. The two drugs interact with a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that serves a vital role in your rest-and-digest response. In most cases, the brain releases GABA to bind with GABA receptors, and GABA opens the channels to block nervous system activity. 

The effect slows down nerve cells, allowing you to relax. Individuals with anxiety or panic disorders have a problem that causes the process to be less efficient. Valium and Xanax help increase GABA efficacy in the brain by binding to GABA receptors as well. The only difference is the binding site. Once it’s there, it increases the amount of time GABA opens the channel to these negative ions, causing a more intense effect. 

Although these medications work similarly in our brain, the experience with one drug will be different than the other. Despite them causing the same effects, the speed at which they start working, how long it takes you to feel the effects, and its effectiveness will vary from one person to another. 

Valium produces effects in as little as 15 minutes, while Xanax will start working between 15 and 30 minutes. Valium will reach its peak effectiveness in an hour, while Xanax varies between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. As was mentioned above, Valium is a long-acting benzo because it has a half-life of 20 to 50 hours, and it breaks down into active metabolites that last longer. Xanax has a much shorter half-life of six to 20 hours without any long-lasting metabolites. 

We should mention that the length of time a drug stays in your system doesn’t indicate it’s more effective. The varied amount of times in our system may be better for different purposes. For example, if you’re using the medication for anxiety-related insomnia, you don’t want it lasting until the next day. 

When it comes to treating anxiety, both Xanax and Valium are effective drugs. Valium is a much older drug but is still widely prescribed by physicians. Xanax is a much newer drug that has surpassed Valium as the most popular. Various studies have been conducted to compare the efficacy of the medications used in Xanax and Valium. In a 1980 double-blind study, researchers compared diazepam and alprazolam for anxiety in an outpatient setting. 

The study found that both drugs were more effective than the placebo. However, it also found that Xanax (alprazolam) was more effective than diazepam. They also mentioned that Xanax had fewer reported side effects, although this study only involved 86 people. 

Both alprazolam and diazepam are effective when used as prescribed. Although studies might lean one way or another, they don’t offer the differences when it comes to efficacy. When you’re searching for a medication for your specific needs, you may try both of these medications to see how they affect you. If you don’t notice any improvement, report this to your doctor. 

The doctor could adjust your dosage or try another medication altogether. When treating anxiety or any of the issues benzodiazepines treat, it’s not guaranteed the drugs will work for everyone. When you find a treatment that works, it’s usually through trial and error. You should also keep in mind that many treatment options exist for these common issues. You must be open-minded in your search. 

Although these drugs are prescribed by doctors and serve a vital purpose, they can be addictive when abused. The abuse potential is extremely high because of the euphoria it produces when you’re under the influence of it. The side effects are similar to alcohol, which is desirable to many people. 

Benzodiazepines are considered Schedule IV drugs in the United States, meaning that despite their therapeutic effects, there is abuse potential. Although many benzodiazepines are misused, Xanax is the most common benzo found on the black market. 

Illicit drug use includes getting a prescription drug from illegal sources, using a prescription drug without a prescription, or purchasing counterfeit versions of the drug off the black market. If you’re participating in any of these actions to obtain benzodiazepines, you may have developed a substance use disorder (SUD). The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported 47,576 instances of illicit Xanax, compared to 4,451 cases of Valium. 

If you’ve become dependent on one of these drugs, you should never stop without medical care. Both drugs have the potential to cause severe and even fatal withdrawal symptoms. Since diazepam stays in your system longer, it’ll wear off more gradually than Xanax and produce fewer withdrawal symptoms. However, it can still be severe depending on how much you took. For that reason, you should never stop without getting help. Call your doctor right away to see what steps you can take to stop using these medications.

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