Valium vs. Xanax: Differences and Similarities

Valium and Xanax are benzodiazepines that act on the central nervous system by balancing the impact of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Due to this capability, both drugs are ideal for treating anxiety and panic disorders.

Although both Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (Alprazolam) are prescription drugs, they are widely misused and sold in the illicit drug market. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports 20 million active Valium addictions in the United States. Therefore, it is vital to understand how these drugs work and how they can affect your body.

This guide covers the primary differences between Valium and Xanax. Here, we cover the various drug interactions, side effects, and effectiveness of the two drugs.

Let’s get started.

What is Valium?

Valium (Diazepam) is a common prescription used to treat symptoms of anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle spasms. Valium is also used to treat seizures and sedate patients before surgery. The drug is categorized as an Antianxiety Agent (also referred to as an Anticonvulsant, Anxiolytics, or Skeletal Muscle Relaxant). 

Valium enhances the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body. It can be prescribed for a number of uses. These uses include anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, seizures, or used as a sedative.  

GABA is the nervous system’s chief inhibitory neurotransmitter. When the levels of GABA in the human body are low, people become anxious or develop muscle spasms and seizures. An intake of Valium balances GABA levels in the nervous system, subsequently reducing anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.

It is also vital to note that Valium has various side effects. Examples of these are weak breathing, panic attacks, agitation, hostility, aggression, severe drowsiness, and hallucinations. 

Valium Addiction

Valium and other Benzodiazepines (common depressants) can become addictive if used incorrectly.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that there are 20 million active Valium addictions in the United States. Valium is one of the most common benzodiazepines on the market. Due to its popularity, Valium is also available on the black market. 

When does abuse occur and what determines valium abuse?

  • Fail to follow a doctor’s prescription
  • Take many doses of Valium at a go
  • Take Valium without a doctor’s prescription

A normal prescription for Valium should last you for about 4 to 6 weeks. However, you risk becoming addicted when you use the drug longer than this period. 

What is Xanax?

Xanax, also called Alprazolam, is an anxiety medication available in the American market. The drug treats anxiety and panic disorders in patients. 

The drug is categorized as a Benzodiazepine. This group of drugs reduce anxiety by calming the brain and nerves in the central nervous system. Like Valium, Xanax enhances the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body. When you take Xanax, GABA levels in your body are balanced, subsequently acting on anxiety and panic disorders. 

It is vital to add that Xanax is taken as an oral medication. The doctor will prescribe specific doses based on your condition, response to treatment, and age. You should always ensure that you take Xanax as prescribed to lower the risk of addiction.

Xanax prescriptions often come with the following instructions:

  • Women should inform their doctors if they are breastfeeding before taking Xanax.
  • You should disclose to the doctor if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
  • You should also inform the doctor about any current medications you have or whether you take alcohol. Alcohol use while under Xanax prescription can cause addiction.
  • You should not self-medicate with Xanax at any point. Always speak to a doctor if you feel that your Xanax prescription is ineffective or if you have any concerns.

Xanax Addiction

Xanax addiction can occur due to its irregular use and not following doctors’ orders. The drug becomes addictive when used in the long term. Once you become addicted, you cannot stop using Xanax immediately, which may trigger anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, or tremors.

People addicted to Xanax can exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Obsession with obtaining the drug.
  • Risky behaviors.
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities.
  • Loss of control over Xanax usage.

Valium vs. Xanax: The Key Similarities

Although Valium and Xanax are different, they have several similarities. These comparisons are discussed below.

  • Both drugs can cause addiction in patients, and the main risk factor for dependency is taking prescriptions longer than expected. Patients who stop prolonged use of Valium can develop insomnia, nausea, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, lightheadedness, anxiety, and sweating.
  • The two drugs have some similar side effects: fatigue, drowsiness, and speech problems.
  • Both drugs can interact with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with Benzodiazepines can cause a lethal overdose or send you into a coma. Xanax and Valium can also interact with sleep medication, ketoconazole, cimetidine, itraconazole, rifampin, fluvoxamine, and carbamazepine.
  • As long as you follow the doctor’s orders, the use of Valium and Xanax is generally safe. However, none should be used in the long term.

Now, let’s look at the differences between these two medications. 

Valium vs. Xanax: The Major Differences

The main variances between Valium and Xanax are related to the side effects, drug interactions, and effectiveness. 

The following are important to note:

  • Although both drugs are Benzodiazepines, Valium can also be prescribed to alcohol addicts exhibiting hallucinations, agitation, delirium, tremors, and seizures. As earlier stated, Valium also relieves muscle spasms and is used to sedate patients before surgery.
  • Xanax can trigger additional side effects different from Valium. Examples are constipation, memory problems, and weight changes.
  • Valium can trigger additional side effects different from Valium. Examples are diarrhea, insomnia, confusion, rash, rage, euphoria, and double vision.
  • Valium can interact with omeprazole, cimetidine, erythromycin, fluoxetine, clarithromycin, and St. John’s wort.
  • Xanax can interact with nefazodone.
  • Finally, based on clinical trials, Valium is considered a better drug for treating anxiety than Xanax. However, the difference is clinically not significant.

Bottom Line

Both Valium and Xanax are categorized as Benzodiazepines used to relieve conditions like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. 

The two drugs can cause addiction, with extended use being the main risk factor. There are specific side effects associated with Valium and Xanax use, such as fatigue, drowsiness, and speech problems. 

Both drugs can also interact with alcohol, sleep medication, ketoconazole, cimetidine, itraconazole, rifampin, fluvoxamine, and carbamazepine. They also have similar withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous if not medically supervised.

Nevertheless, there are critical differences regarding their side effects, dosages, and drug interactions. 

It is always important to seek medical advice for a diagnosis or treatment before using valium or xanax. If you or a loved one may be suffering from xanax or valium abuse we are here to help.  Reach out to one of our experts at the Southern California Rehab Center for additional information. Talk to us today about rehabilitation, holistic therapy, and medical detox. 

Clinically Reviewed By

Dawn Masick, LMFT

Dawn has experience dealing with various relational, emotional, and psychological struggles. Dawn’s training has prepared her to work with children, teens, young adults, adults, couples, and families. She has undergone training in DBT, TF-CBT, and Family Therapy.  Other competencies include dealing with ADHD, mood/anxiety disorders, parenting challenges, addiction, PTSD, co- dependency, and relationship issues. I have experience in residential, school-based mental health, children’s community mental health, victims of crime (VOC), and private practice settings.

Dawn has been committed to guiding clients through their trauma, coming alongside them in their healing, and supporting them as they navigate life changes. Dawn’s passion is working with clients struggling with trauma in substance abuse and mental health.