Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of prescription drugs that are used to treat conditions like anxiety. Both Librium and Xanax are classified as benzos, and the following provides information about each of these prescription medicines and highlights similarities and differences between the two.

Note to reader: It should be noted that Libirum, the brand name for chlordiazepoxide is discontinued. Although chlordiazepoxide is no longer sold under the Librium brand name, it is still commonly referred to as Librium.

How are they similar?

Some of the major similarities between Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and Xanax are:

  • They are both Schedule IV controlled substances,
  • They are benzodiazepines,
  • They work similarly in the brain, and
  • They can have deadly interactions with other substances. If benzos like Librium and Xanax are mixed with barbiturates, opioids or alcohol, it can cause a deadly overdose.

How are Librium and Xanax Different?

Though Chlordiazepoxide and Xanax are similar in many ways, there are some major differences. For instance –

Use Cases

  • Chlordiazepoxide is a benzodiazepine and is FDA-approved for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and pre-operative anxiety. When people are prescribed chlordiazepoxide for alcohol withdrawal, they usually take the drug while in an inpatient medical detox setting. 
  • Xanax, brand name of alprazolam, is FDA-approved for anxiety and panic disorder/attacks.

Long-acting vs Short-acting

  • Chlordiazepoxide is a long-acting drug that takes hours to reach its peak concentration in your bloodstream, while Xanax works quickly. This is why it is often chosen for alcohol detox. It can treat withdrawal symptoms over a longer period of time. Once you take a dose of chlordiazepoxide, it takes several hours for the drug to reach its max concentration in your blood.
  • Unlike chlordiazepoxide, Xanax is a short-acting drug. It reaches its peak concentration in the bloodstream between one and two hours after you take a dose. Because it has such a short onset, it can also leave the body much more quickly than chlordiazepoxide.

Half-Lives

  • Chlordiazepoxide has a long half-life.  The half-life of the drug, or how long it takes for half of a dose to leave your body, is between 24 and 48 hours. Since it generally takes five half-lives for a drug to completely leave your system, this means that chlordiazepoxide can stay in your body for a week or longer.
  • On the other hand, Xanax has a shorter half-life and is generally out of the body within a couple of days. Xanax’s half-life is 11.2 hours and it usually takes five half-lives for a drug to completely clear the body.

Both Librium and Xanax are benzodiazepines with a potential for addiction and abuse, and are Schedule IV controlled substances. However, despite these similarities, the drugs are otherwise usually prescribed for different reasons and last different lengths of time. If you have any more questions about these two drugs or have a feeling that someone you know could be misusing the drug, please reach out to one of our recovery specialist.

  • Sources

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Xanax,” February 14, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2020.

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Chlordiazepoxide,” March 31, 2019. Accessed June 27, 2020.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates,” March 10, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2020.

    Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, January 30, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2020.

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.