Valium vs. Ativan: What’s the Difference?

valium and ativan pills

Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are similar drugs that can cause similar side effects when they are abused. If you’re wondering about the differences between the two, this blog will clear things up and compare their uses, side effects of abuse, withdrawal effects, drug test detection times, and more. Keep reading to learn more.

Valium vs. Ativan: What’s the Difference?
Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are both benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders that are only available with a prescription. The main difference between the two is that Valium takes longer to clear from a person’s system, which increases the risk for negative side effects. Valium also has more unfavorable interactions with other medications.

What Is Valium?

Diazepam, sold under the brand name Valium, is a prescription drug that is typically used to treat seizures, panic attacks, alcohol withdrawal, and anxiety. It works by calming the central nervous system and producing feelings of calmness and relaxation. It is usually administered in tablets of various doses, which may be taken one to four times each day.

Valium is in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, and when it is taken for several weeks at a time or misused recreationally, it can be highly addictive. Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan produce similar effects but are short-acting. Conversely, Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, which means its effects last longer.1

Since Valium stays in the body longer than other benzodiazepines, fewer doses are usually necessary. However, it is often misused and abused. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 352,000 people currently misuse prescription sedatives like Valium.2

Benzodiazepines like Valium are commonly abused in the U.S., often time in conjunction with opiates or alcohol. This is a highly dangerous practice as it greatly increases the user’s risk for overdose.

Drug users may use slang terms to disguise conversations about Valium and common street names for Valium include:

  • Yellow Vs
  • Vs
  • Blue Vs
  • Benzos
  • Tranks

Valium is classified as a Schedule IV drug and although most people don’t misuse it for the purpose of getting high, they abuse it to deal with the stressors of everyday life. Many people who are addicted to Valium feel as though they cannot function or sleep without it.

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    How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System?

    Valium takes about 10 days to clear from your system, but this will vary from person to person. Certain factors like metabolism, age, and hydration will affect the amount of time it takes for any drug to work its way through your system. Even still, drug tests can be used to detect the metabolites Valium leaves behind after a person uses it. The chart below contains approximate detection times for various types of drug tests.

    Drug Testing for Valium

    Urine testDetectable for 1-6 weeks
    Blood testDetectable for 6-48 hours
    Saliva testDetectable for 1-10 days
    Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

    Source:  https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-valium-stay-in-your-system-80344

    Signs and Symptoms of Valium Addiction

    Behavioral signs of Valium addiction are much like those of other drug addictions but may include:

    • Foregoing normal interests and hobbies to use Valium
    • Isolating oneself from loved ones and friends
    • Taking pills frequently
    • Going to several different doctors to get prescriptions for Valium
    • Faking symptoms to get a Valium prescription
    • Hiding Valium pills
    • Having cravings for Valium
    • Suffering financially due to Valium abuse
    • Experiencing relationships problems due to Valium abuse
    • Continuing to use Valium despite the problems it causes

    Valium Withdrawal Symptoms

    Valium withdrawal occurs when a person is addicted and tries to stop or cuts back drastically. Withdrawal is characterized by uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, which can make it very difficult to stop using Valium once you’re addicted. Common Valium withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Headache
    • Irritability anxiety
    • Sweating
    • Vomiting
    • Muscle spasms
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Stomach cramps
    • Delirium
    • Seizures3,4

    Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Valium can be dangerous if attempted without medical care, especially if the person experiences more severe withdrawal symptoms like delirium or seizures.

    Instead of trying to quit Valium cold turkey or taper off it on your own at home, a medical detox program is a safer and more effective alternative. Medical detox provides 24/7 medical and clinical care to keep you comfortable during withdrawal. Treatment specialists also provide individual therapy to help you process the emotional side effects of withdrawal like anxiety or depression.

    Many people want to know how long withdrawal lasts, but it’s impossible to say exactly how long it will last because it varies from person to person. Often, it depends on how long they’ve been abusing Valium, how much they used each time, how frequently they misuse it if any polysubstance abuse occurred, and certain personal physical factors.

    Once you complete detox and withdrawal, treatment specialists at a medical detox center will even provide recommendations for your ongoing care and assist you as you make the transition to rehab or IOP. This step down in treatment is often crucial to long-term recovery and it can also aid in the treatment of post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

    What Is Ativan?

    Ativan is a brand name for the drug lorazepam. Like Valium, it is a benzodiazepine and a sedative that is typically prescribed to treat insomnia and seizure disorders like epilepsy. It can also be used before surgery to relieve anxiety.5

    Ativan affects the central nervous system and the brain to calm the user and it works by enhancing the effects of the naturally-occurring chemical GABA in the body. It is designed to be taken orally with food and is administered in white tablets. The dosage amount varies depending on the user’s medical condition, age, and response to treatment.

    Ativan is an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine and a Schedule IV drug. It is highly addictive, especially if it is taken regularly for an extended period of time so it is rarely ever prescribed for longer than four months. People with a history of substance abuse or who have untreated mental health disorders are at a higher risk of developing an addiction to Ativan.

    Common slang terms or street names for Ativan include:

    • Goofballs
    • Heavenly blues
    • Stupefy
    • Simply benzos

    When Ativan is abused and taken in larger doses than intended, it can cause a quick high with side effects like euphoria, calmness, relaxation, and drowsiness. When it is taken with alcohol or other drugs, the effects of the high are intensified but the user’s risk for overdose is also much higher. Accidental Ativan overdose often occurs when alcohol is involved.

    How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

    Ativan stays in your system for about three days after you take a dose.6  However, this timeframe will vary on a case-by-case basis as individual factors like genetics and metabolic rate also play a role. The chart below states the approximate drug test detection times for Ativan.

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      Drug Testing for Ativan

      Urine testDetectable for 6-10 days after a dose
      Blood testDetectable for 6 hours-3 days after a dose
      Saliva testDetectable for 6-8 hours after a dose
      Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

      Source:  https://www.rehabcenter.net/ativan/detection-times/

      Signs and Symptoms of Ativan Addiction

      Someone who is addicted to Ativan may display some of the following behavioral signs:

      • Giving up social activities and hobbies to use Ativan
      • Frequently taking pills even when there is no medical reason
      • Getting Ativan from multiple doctors
      • Craving Ativan
      • Faking symptoms to get a prescription for Ativan
      • Hiding Ativan pills
      • Isolating from friends and family
      • Experiencing financial and relationship problems due to Ativan abuse
      • Continuing to use Ativan despite the problems it causes

      Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

      If a person becomes addicted to Ativan and then tries to stop using it or cuts back, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms. Common physical and psychological symptoms of Ativan withdrawal include:

      • Insomnia
      • Loss of appetite
      • Mood swings
      • Trouble concentrating
      • Short-term memory loss
      • High fever
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Diarrhea
      • Muscle pain
      • Tingling feeling in arms and legs
      • Increased heartbeat
      • Increased sensitivity to noise, touch, and light5

      Similar to detox and withdrawal for Valium, a medical detox program is the safest way to detox from Ativan. Attempting to do it on your own at home could be dangerous and have serious or life-threatening risks.

      Valium Uses vs. Ativan Uses

      Valium and Ativan are both benzodiazepines and are used for similar medicinal purposes. However, both drugs are also frequently abused recreationally.

      Valium is used to treat:


      • Anxiety disorders
      • Alcohol withdrawal
      • Muscle spasms
      • Seizures7
      Ativan is used to treat:


      • Anxiety disorders
      • Alcohol withdrawal
      • Insomnia
      • Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
      • Sedation prior to a medical procedure
      • Seizures7

      Valium vs. Ativan: Addiction and Dependence

      Valium and Ativan are both classified as Schedule IV drugs, which means they have a significant risk for misuse, dependence, and addiction. Addiction is especially likely if either drug is used regularly for an extended period of time. They are not intended to be taken for months or years on end, even for medical purposes. Chronic abuse of Valium or Ativan can cause tolerance, addiction, and many negative side effects that may lead to serious health problems.

      Valium vs. Ativan: Side Effects of Abuse

      The side effects of Valium and Ativan abuse are very similar and neither drug should be used with alcohol or other drugs, as this increases the user’s risk of overdose.

      Side Effects of Valium AbuseSide Effects of Ativan Abuse
      • Extreme fatigue and weakness
      • Nausea and diarrhea
      • Dizziness and/or blurry vision
      • Restlessness
      • Decreased sex drive
      • Seizures
      • Respiratory problems
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Shakiness
      • Fever
      • Depression
      • Hallucinations
      • Delirium/paranoia
      • Memory loss
      • Anxiety
      • Insomnia/nightmares
      • Impaired judgment
      • Confusion8
      • Confusion
      • Loss of coordination
      • Memory problems
      • Sleep problems
      • Irritability
      • Unsteadiness when walking
      • Impaired judgment9

      Get Valium Addiction Treatment or Ativan Addiction Treatment Today

      Valium or Ativan addiction can greatly reduce the quality of a person’s life by causing financial problems, damaging relationships, compromising employment, or causing criminal offenses. However, it is possible to overcome addiction and start living a sober lifestyle that is both healthy and satisfying.

      If you or a loved one is suffering from Valium addiction or Ativan addiction, there’s no reason to continue suffering. Help is available for those who need it most. At Briarwood Detox Center, we can help you start your recovery journey with safe, effective, and comfortable drug detox in Houston or drug detox in Austin, Texas. Call (888) 857-0557 today to learn more about our drug detox programs and Executive Detox Program in Houston, offering enhanced privacy features and deluxe amenities.


      1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682047.html
      2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-annual-national-report
      3. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/013263s094lbl.pdf
      4. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html
      5. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6685/ativan-oral/details
      6. https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/10/15/how-long-does-ativan-lorazepam-stay-in-your-system/
      7. https://www.iodine.com/compare/valium-vs-ativan
      8. https://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/valium-signs-symptoms.html
      9. https://www.healthline.com/health/cdi/ativan#abuse

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