Klonopin (clonazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are both benzodiazepines with a risk of abuse, dependence and overdose. However, Klonopin stays in the body longer than Xanax.
Klonopin and Xanax are two medications often mentioned in the same discussion around treatment of certain conditions. But is there a significant difference? How are the two different and what does someone prescribed one of these drugs need to be mindful of? Learn more about each drug and what you should consider when taking either medication.
Xanax is the most popular trade name for the prescription medication alprazolam. The generic alprazolam is also manufactured under various other brand names:
Alprazolam is a member of the benzodiazepine class of drugs known primarily for their sedative and anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) properties.
- Panic Disorder – involves recurring, typically unexpected panic attacks. This condition is often accompanied by agoraphobia, a fear of places or situations that are perceived as dangerous, uncomfortable or hard to escape.
- Anxiety Disorders – these disorders involve anxiety with various causes and severity. This includes, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety associated with depression (though not depression alone), social anxiety disorder, and other situational anxieties.
Xanax Side Effects
Common to benzodiazepine users, those taking Xanax may experience side effects including:
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty focusing
- New or worsening depression
- Agitation or confusion
- Muscle twitching
A brand name for the drug clonazepam, Klonopin is also a medication in the benzodiazepine family. It is also marketed under other brand names such as:
Similar to Xanax, Klonopin is frequently prescribed for the treatment of conditions relating to panic and anxiety. In addition, Klonopin is more commonly prescribed than Xanax for its anticonvulsant or antiepileptic properties. Diagnosed conditions benefiting from this include:
- Seizure Disorders – clonazepam is used in the treatment of a range of epileptic disorders including Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, absence seizures, and myoclonic seizures.
- Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome – certain benzodiazepine medications are commonly prescribed to treat the side effects of alcohol withdrawal.
- Tourette’s Syndrome – Klonopin has been used as a secondary treatment for Tourette’s.
- Multiple Sclerosis – used in treatment for convulsions and spasticity.
Klonopin Side Effects
Commonly identified side effects of Klonopin are similar to those experienced with other benzo medications. In addition to those noted with Xanax, other symptoms may include:
- Irritability and aggression
- Loss of libido
- Impaired balance or coordination
Other Similarities and Differences
Another notable difference between Klonopin and Xanax is the timing of their effects on the body. Klonopin has a longer onset period, meaning it typically takes longer to be felt by the body. It also has a longer half-life, so its effects are usually present over a longer period of time in the patient.
While this may not affect other considerations, it can affect how frequently the medication must be consumed and how quickly and dramatically its effects are felt on the body. There are some reports that Xanax is more likely to produce a high than a comparable dose of Klonopin, although a Klonopin high is also possible.
Medical use of Xanax and Klonopin may vary in prescription. However, they are both benzodiazepines, and they share similar risks in their use. While their prescription use may vary, warning signs around their consumption have commonalities.
Drugs in the benzodiazepine family have a demonstrated potential for abuse. Those who are prescribed benzos over an extended period of time may find themselves at risk for increased tolerance, dependence or related drug seeking behavior.
Due to the recognized risk of dependence, benzodiazepine prescriptions are typically offered to treat short-term or acute symptoms. For those suffering long-term symptoms, it may be recommended to switch to a course of treatment that is less at risk for substance abuse.
For example, while Xanax or Klonopin may provide effective relief for symptoms of anxiety, those who exhibit chronic symptoms may ultimately be switched to a different course of treatment in order to avoid dependence or withdrawal.
Both Xanax and Klonopin may create significant withdrawal symptoms for those who cease use after prolonged use. Withdrawal symptoms include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Aches and pains
- Agitation and restlessness
- Anxiety or depression
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Dysphoria or mood swings
- Elevated blood pressure
- Flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Tremors or shaking
Weighing the Risks
Whether for anxiety, panic or other symptoms, approved treatment with Xanax or Klonopin can have valuable outcomes. However, the risks for addiction ar real. If you have questions about the role of benzodiazepines in healthy treatment or are concerned about someone struggling with dependence, please consult one of our trained counselors for guidance.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.