Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) are two types of benzodiazepines (also known as benzos). Benzos are anti-anxiety medications. Available only by prescription, Valium and Xanas are both used to treat anxiety. Many people who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders find that find these medications extremely helpful in allowing them to carry out their lives. While Valium and Xanax are in the same medication class, they are very different medicines, and they cannot be used interchangeably.
Alprazolam (brand name Xanax) is used to treat severe cases of panic and anxiety disorders. Xanax is typically used for severe cases, and Valium is typically used for cases that are less severe. Valium has other uses as well: it can help with alcohol and drug withdrawal, and it is also a muscle relaxant. Both of these drugs work fast- they do not need to build up in the user's system to be effective. They typically begin working within a few hours, and due to their short half-life, their effects are cleared from the body within approximately 24 hours. Both Valium and Xanax have the potential to become addictive, so most doctors do not prescribe these medications on a long-term basis. Of course, it's important for any patient who is prescribed these medications to understand correct usage and potential effects of both short and long term use.
While there are many similarities between Xanax and Valium- both are anti-anxiety medications, both are benzodiazepines, both are addictive- there are many differences as well, beyond the fact that Valium is used for moderate anxiety while Xanax is used for more severe cases. While both medication are addictive, Xanax seems to be more addictive than Valium. If given the choice between prescribing Xanax or Valium, it makes sense for providers to start with Valium to see if it can alleviate symptoms. Since Xanax is so addictive it's often used as a last resort after other medications have proven ineffective. Xanax is harder to withdrawal from than Valium. Users report a higher rate of side effects when weaning off of the medicine. The longer that Xanax is taken for, the longer withdrawal symptoms tend to last. This is not the case with Valium. With both medications, withdrawal symptoms are similar, and may include headaches, anxiety, psychiatric symptoms, sleep disturbances, and muscle cramps. Withdrawal is difficult for many users because the symptoms are similar to the reasons they started taking the medication in the first place.
While there downsides to benzodiazepine use, there are many benefits as well. When used correctly, under the care of a physician, these medications can be incredibly useful for patients who are struggling with anxiety and panic. It's important that patients using these medications keep all appointments with their doctor, only use the medications for a short time (unless otherwise prescribed) and use the medications as directed for the full duration of use.