Valium and Xanax are two of the most commonly abused anti-anxiety drugs in the United States. These two drugs are popular brand names of different generic drugs. Valium is a brand name for the generic drug diazepam while Xanax is a brand name for the generic drug alprazolam.
Considered as minor tranquilizers, these two drugs are under the class of medications called benzodiazepines. These drugs work by boosting the activity of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, which according to research may have a relaxing and calming effect. This is because if your body does not have adequate GABA, this may be the reason for anxiety.
While both are benzodiazepines, these drugs are not exactly alike. Depending on what you use it for, it can affect you in different ways. Here are eight similarities and differences between Valium and Xanax.
1. Legal Status
In the United States, all drugs are classified into different schedules to identify whether they have legitimate medical uses, their abuse potential and whether they should be controlled. Valium and Xanax are both classified as Schedule IV substances, which is a classification that indicates the following:
- Valium and Xanax have a low potential for abuse relative to Schedule III substances
- They have an accepted medical use
- These drugs may induce limited physical and/or psychological dependence if abuse
Because of the Schedule IV classification, many Americans have the misconception that these drugs are harmless compared to other abused drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, and opioids. However, many people have been using and abusing them not realizing they can be addictive.
Valium was first marketed in 1963 and became the most popular benzo drug for more than three decades. The drug became the most prescribed drug in the United States from 1969 to 1982. In the year 1978 alone, more than 2 billion pills were sold. In 1985, the generic form of Valium was approved knows as diazepam and Valium lost the exclusivity of marketing the drug.
Xanax was introduced almost 40 years ago in 1981, but it is as popular as ever. It became available in generic form in 2006 as alprazolam and according to 2018 drug statistics, it was the 23rd most prescribed medication in the U.S. with over 27 million alprazolam prescriptions filled during that year.
Even if these two drugs are only available through prescription, many people are trying to find ways on how to be prescribed Xanax or Valium. The popularity of these two drugs is often attributed to how often they are being featured in pop culture. Many movies, TV series, and songs reference these two drugs. During the peak of its popularity, Valium was said to be the little yellow pill in the Rolling Stones’ 1966 song Mother’s Little Helper. Xanax, on the other hand, was constantly referenced in hundreds of songs by mainstream and underground rappers such as Eminem, Lil Wayne, and a rapper who named himself after Xanax, Lil Xan.
3. Physical Appearance
Since Valium and Xanax come in generic forms, they now come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Diazepam is available in both tablet and liquid form. The Valium branded pill is a round tablet and it comes in yellow, white, and blue color depending on its strength. However, other diazepam brands can be flat, round, and can come in many different colors and markings.
Alprazolam is available as a tablet, liquid, dissolving tablet, and extended release tablet. The Xanax branded pill is available as an oval tablet or as a bar tablet. However, alprazolam tablets can come in different shapes (round, oval, rectangular, etc) and in different colors (white, blue, yellow, green, peach, etc).
Even though the generic forms of Valium and Xanax provide the same effects, this did not stop fake Valium and fake Xanax pills from entering the market. Because both branded drugs are more notoriously known, people who abuse the drugs unknowingly buy counterfeit versions of the pills.
The FDA or Food and Drug Administration approved both of these drugs as a treatment for anxiety. Xanax or alprazolam is also used to treat panic disorder. Valium or diazepam is also used as a treatment for other conditions including skeletal muscle spasm, insomnia and sleep disorders, acute alcohol withdrawal and seizures. Valium, however, is not approved for panic disorder.
Xanax branded pills are a little more expensive than Valium branded pills with the difference at around $30 to $100 US dollars. In buying the generic version, alprazolam is also slightly more expensive but the difference is very small. The big difference comes when you buy the branded version of either pill versus the generic version. Buying branded Xanax or Valium starts at more than $200 US dollars for 60 tablets, while the generic version of these drugs only cost around $7.5 US dollars for the same number of pills.
Many people ask whether Xanax is really stronger than Valium. According to the benzodiazepine equivalency table, alprazolam is more potent with .5mg equivalent to 5mg of diazepam. People who are not aware of this might be prone to overdose especially if they think that both drugs share the same strength.
Alprazolam and diazepam both take effect quickly, which is the reason why they are effective in relieving anxiety. They provide a euphoric, relaxing high that can combat anxiety disorders. Diazepam takes effect within 15 minutes of dosage, while alprazolam may take a little bit longer from around 15 minutes to an hour.
The effects of Valium and Xanax last for almost the same duration. Diazepam effects last four to six hours, while the effects of Xanax last approximately 5 hours. Users of both drugs may experience side effects including dizziness, drowsiness, memory problems, and confusion.
While the duration of their effects in the body are quite similar, the length of time they remain in the body is very much different. Diazepam has a long half-life as it takes 20 to 100 hours before 50% of the drug is cleared from the body. It can take several weeks before you can clear out traces of Valium in your system. Alprazolam, on the other hand, has a shorter half-life of 11 hours and can take several days before it leaves the body.
8. Addiction Potential
If you take Valium and Xanax recreationally or beyond the prescribed length advised by your doctor, you can become dependent on these drugs and later on, build tolerance. When you become tolerant, the tendency is to increase the dosage of the drug to get the same effect. This could very well lead to a full-blown addiction problem.
Xanax, having a shorter half-life, is typically harder to stop than Valium, which has a longer half-life. This is because benzos with a shorter half-life are generally more addictive. Xanax has also been shown to have more severe withdrawal symptoms than Valium. These two medications have both been linked to an increasing number of drug deaths, including high-profile celebrity deaths caused by benzos.
If you are experiencing anxiety, it is best to consult with a licensed professional rather than self-medicate. If you have been prescribed Valium or Xanax, only take these drugs at the prescribed length of time as they are only recommended for short-term use. If you have a history of substance abuse, these drugs are not suitable.
If you are currently struggling with Valium or Xanax addiction, help is available today. Contact Lighthouse Treatment Center to learn more about our specialized modes of treatment.