Xanax (Alprazolam) vs. Klonopin (Clonazepam)

Xanax and Klonopin are types of benzodiazepines (or “benzos”), a widely prescribed class of sedative-hypnotic drugs used to treat anxiety, panic, severe stress reactions, and other conditions.

Xanax and Klonopin are the two most commonly prescribed benzos. In 2019, pharmacists filled an estimated 35 million prescriptions for Xanax and an estimated 22 million prescriptions for Klonopin.1

Although alike in many ways, these drugs have different FDA indications. This page will cover the similarities and differences between Xanax and Klonopin, and how to get help for an addiction to benzodiazepines.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a prescription benzodiazepine medication used to treat certain anxiety disorders. Xanax is available as a pill or tablet and also prescribed under the generic name alprazolam.2

Like other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, Xanax works by calming down an otherwise over-excited nervous system and, as a result, produces feelings of relaxation.3

Xanax is the most prescribed benzodiazepine and also frequently sold on the street for illicit purposes.1,4

Xanax Uses

Xanax is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.2

Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worry that is hard to control and negatively impacts a person’s functioning.2

Panic disorder involves recurrent panic attacks and fear of future panic attacks, or periods of intense fear combined with symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and/or numbness and tingling.2

These are the only 2 FDA-approved uses for Xanax. However, Xanax is addictive and often misused by people who take the drug without a prescription, in ways other than prescribed (e.g., larger doses, more frequently, crushing the pills), or to get “high.”3

What Is Klonopin?

Klonopin is a prescription benzodiazepine medication used to treat panic and seizure disorders. Klonopin is available as a pill or tablet and also prescribed under the generic name clonazepam.5

Similar to Xanax, Klonopin is a type of central nervous system (CNS) depressant that can calm an otherwise excited CNS.3

Klonopin is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines and one of the most frequently encountered benzos on the illicit market.4

Klonopin Uses

Klonopin is used as a short-term treatment for panic disorder—a type of anxiety disorder where a person experiences recurring panic attacks or episodes of acute fear along with other distressing symptoms, including dizziness, shortness of breath, shaking, and sweating. People with panic disorder also experience significant fear of future panic attacks.5

Klonopin can also be prescribed by itself or in combination with other medications to treat certain types of seizure disorders.5

These are the only 2 FDA-approved uses of Klonopin. However, like Xanax, Klonopin is also addictive and often misused by people who take the drug without a prescription or in larger doses than prescribed to feel its potentially euphoric and sedating effects.3,4 

Which Has Worse Side Effects: Xanax or Klonopin?

The potential side effects of Xanax, Klonopin, and other benzodiazepines are largely the same, as well as the risks of long-term use and misuse.

The most common side effects of Xanax include:2

  • Drowsiness.
  • Light-headedness.

The most common side effects of Klonopin include:5

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Fatigue.
  • Memory problems.

Possible severe side effects of both drugs include:2,5

  • Paranoia.
  • Extreme confusion.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Side effects may vary from person to person, depending on how often and how much of the drug they take.

Additionally, combining Xanax, Klonopin, or any benzo with alcohol or other drugs can increase the severity of side effects.

Klonopin & Xanax Off-Label Uses

On occasion, doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin for uses beyond their FDA-approved indications. This is known as off-label use.

For example, depression is an off-label use for Xanax.6

Off-label uses of Klonopin include:7

  • Restless leg syndrome.
  • Acute mania.
  • Insomnia.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder.

What’s the Duration and Half-Life of Klonopin and Xanax

Klonopin and Xanax are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to how long each drug stays in the body. The half-life of a drug is defined as the time it takes for half of the drug in the bloodstream to be eliminated.

Similarly, the duration of action of a drug refers to the amount of time that it lasts in the body. Short-acting drugs usually have a short half-life and vice versa. As a result, short-acting drugs are likely to produce withdrawal symptoms more quickly.

Xanax is classified as a short-acting drug. Drugs.com describes the average half-life of Xanax as 11.2 hours, with the peak drug concentration occurring 1–2 hours after the drug is taken.

For Klonopin, the half-life is listed as anywhere from 18–50 hours. Peak drug concentration for Klonopin is between 1–4 hours.

Xanax vs. Klonopin for Anxiety

Both Xanax and Klonopin are approved to treat different types of anxiety disorders and only meant for short-term use. Determining which medicine is more appropriate or potentially more effective will depend on the person and their individual needs.

People who are curious about which medicine is right for them—or if either drug is even appropriate in the first place—should consult with their doctor.

Getting Treatment for Xanax and Klonopin Addiction

Both Xanax and Klonopin are addictive and should only be taken as directed by a doctor. Regular use—even when taken as prescribed—can lead to physical dependence and increase the chance of developing an addiction.2,5

Furthermore, an attempt to suddenly stop use or reduce the dose of benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin can result in severe and potentially dangerous complications.

If you or someone you love has lost control of their drug use, professional treatment can help.

At Recovery First, we offer medical detox and other levels of addiction treatment. Our inpatient drug and alcohol rehab near Miami tailors treatment plans to meet the individual needs of each patient.

To learn more about our programs, ways to pay for rehab, or using insurance to pay for rehab, call us at .

Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to take your call, answer any questions, and help you start the rehab admissions process.

You can also quickly confirm your insurance coverage by filling out this quick and confidential .

Addiction can be devastating, but it is treatable. Call us at for more information today.

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