Librium vs. Xanax: What are the Differences?

Benzodiazepines are a classification of prescription drugs that are used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. Both Librium and Xanax are classified as benzos, and the following provides information about each of these prescription anti-anxiety medicines, as well as compares Librium vs. Xanax and highlights similarities and differences between the two.

Librium vs. Xanax: What are the Differences?

Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that are among the most widely prescribed type of drugs in the U.S. They have characteristics and properties including hypnotic, antianxiety, sedative, and muscle relaxant.

In the short-term for treatment of acute symptoms benzos are considered generally safe, but in the long-term, it’s debated whether or not they are a good choice because of potentially negative side effects as well as tolerance and dependence.

The medical uses of benzos include the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (although not often), insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal and panic attacks.

When someone takes a benzodiazepine including Librium or Xanax, it calms down how messages are sent in the brain and slows down activity, which reduces anxiety symptoms.

Some of the general side effects of benzodiazepines can include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, coordination and vision problems, and headache. Long-term use of benzos can lead to dependence as well as withdrawal symptoms if some suddenly stops using them. If you stop using a benzo cold-turkey, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe or even fatal.

An overdose from benzos isn’t usually fatal unless it includes mixing substances. If benzos like Librium and Xanax are mixed with barbiturates, opioids or alcohol, it can cause a deadly overdose.

Before specifically comparing Librium vs. Xanax, what is Librium? Librium is a benzodiazepine that’s used for the short-term treatment of anxiety, insomnia and in some cases acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It’s not intended for long-term use because it can lead to addiction and dependence, and it’s classified as having a high potential for abuse.

When someone takes Librium, it slows down the activity in their brain by interacting with GABA receptors.

When people are prescribed Librium for alcohol withdrawal, they will usually start with very high doses on the first day, and then it’s gradually tapered down. For anxiety, the Librium dosage depends on the severity of the condition and the individual.

Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, and it’s one of the most commonly prescribed medicines. It is a benzo which is one of the commonalities seen when looking at Librium vs. Xanax. It depresses the central nervous system, and it’s a Schedule IV non-narcotic drug according to the DEA. Xanax is prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks, and it’s also currently being researched regarding effectiveness to treat nausea in cancer patients.

Xanax may also be used in patients with agoraphobia, or people with depression or premenstrual syndrome.

As with other benzos, many people also use Xanax recreationally to feel calm, to create a sense of euphoria, to reduce mild anxiety, or just to relax.

There are a lot of similarities between Librium vs. Xanax, but below are some of the differences between the two:

  • One of the primary uses of Librium is to relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms, while the number one reason to use Xanax is for anxiety, and the second most common reason Xanax is prescribed is for depression.
  • Librium is unique from Xanax and other benzos because it acts on the nervous system more slowly. It has a longer half-life of 24 to 48 hours, and it doesn’t reach its peak level of effectiveness until several hours after it’s taken. The half-life of Xanax ranges from 6 to 20 hours, and it’s a short to intermediate-acting benzodiazepine.
  • The dosages of Librium vs. Xanax are also different from one another. With Librium, dosages start at 5 mg capsules and go up to 25 mg capsules. With Xanax, dosages begin with 0.25 mg and only go up to 2 mg.

When comparing Librium vs. Xanax, both have a potential for addiction and abuse, but Xanax more so in many cases, because it does act more quickly and have a shorter half life. In general, drugs that are more rapid in their effects are more likely to be abused.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.