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Librium vs. Xanax: What are the Key Differences?

Benzodiazepines were designated to treat individuals who struggle with insomnia and anxiety. The drugs followed barbiturates, which were highly addictive medications that were slowly phased out of regular use. Two such drugs that have replaced barbiturates are Xanax and Librium, which are classified as benzodiazepines, and are anti-anxiety medications that we will compare below. While they share the same title as benzodiazepines, they do vary in how they work.

Xanax, which is also known as alprazolam, is among the most widely prescribed benzodiazepines in the world. It is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. In 2013, it accounted for nearly 48 million prescriptions in the United States, and it is considered to have high misuse liability. Librium is also used to treat anxiety, but it is commonly used to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal due to its muscle relaxant properties.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are psychoactive substances and some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. They possess several different characteristics, such as hypnotic, anti-anxiety, and muscle relaxants. It is typically used for short-term treatment of acute symptoms. Benzodiazepines are considered safe, but medical professionals have debated about their long-term use. They argue whether it’s the right choice due to adverse side effects, as well as the possibility of dependence and addiction.

The medical use of drugs includes treating generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, panic attacks, and alcohol withdrawal.

When someone uses Librium or Xanax, it produces a sense of calm and slows down how messages are sent in the brain. When brain activity slows down, it reduces anxiety symptoms. Some of the general side effects of benzodiazepines use can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Vision problems
  • Coordination problems
  • Headaches
  • Dependence
  • Addiction

Long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to a road of dependence and withdrawal symptoms. If you stop using the drugs cold-turkey, it can cause severe or fatal withdrawals. 

Benzodiazepine overdose is not typically fatal unless other drugs are used in conjunction. If Xanax or Librium are combined with barbiturates, alcohol or opioids, it can lead to grave consequences.

What is Librium?

Before we can compare the differences between Xanax and Librium, we must look at what makes Librium. It is a benzodiazepine used for short-term treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and in some cases, acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It was not designed to be used long-term due to its potential for dependence and addiction. Librium is classified as having a high potential for abuse.

When Librium is consumed, it works to slow down activity in the brain by interacting with GABA receptors. It produces anxiolytic effects, which helps put anxiety symptoms at bay.

When an individual is prescribed Librium for alcohol withdrawal, they will start with high doses on their first day. It will be followed by a gradual taper to ensure there are no withdrawal symptoms. For anxiety, the dosage will depend on the severity of the disorder and the person.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medication. It works by depressing the central nervous system (CNS) and is a Schedule IV non-narcotic drug. Xanax is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks, and currently is being researched for its effectiveness in treating nausea for cancer patients.

Xanax can also be used to treat agoraphobia and those with depression or premenstrual syndrome. Similar to other benzos, it is used recreationally to achieve a sense of euphoria, reduce mild anxiety, or relax.

Librium Vs. Xanax: Key Differences

One of the main objectives of Librium is to relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The focal point around Xanax use is to treat anxiety. The second most common use of Xanax is to treat depression. Librium is unique from Xanax due to the pace in which it works on the central nervous system, which is much slower than other benzos. It has a half-life of 24 to 48 hours, and it won’t reach its peak level until several hours after it’s ingested. The Xanax half-life only ranges from six to 20 hours, which makes it a short-to-intermediate-acting benzodiazepine.

A significant difference between the two drugs is dosage, where they differ vastly. A Librium dosage starts at five milligrams and can reach up to 25 milligrams. Xanax, the dose is much lower, where it begins at 0.25 milligrams, and may only reach up to two milligrams.

Another comparison that can be made is that both have the potential for addiction and abuse. Xanax, however, is abused more often because it works quicker and has a short half-life. Generally speaking, drugs that produce rapid effects are more likely to be abused. Since Xanax is more commonly prescribed, it can also play another role in why it is more frequently abused.


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Griffin, C. E., Kaye, A. M., Bueno, F. R., & Kaye, A. D. (2013). Benzodiazepine pharmacology and central nervous system-mediated effects. Retrieved from

Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A. S., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. Retrieved from

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