Nowadays, it’s hard to keep track of the many different medications, and their respective side effects, that are used to treat anxiety disorders. Clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax) are two of the most popular anti-anxiety medications, and though they both treat similar conditions, they differ in important ways. Here’s a rundown of the differences between these two common drugs.

How They Work

Clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax) are both classified as benzodiazepines and are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. According to Healthline, both are central nervous system depressants which work by affecting the a neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The drugs work by causing nerve impulses throughout your body to slow down, which results in an overall sedating, calming effect.

Healthline reported that there is one main difference in Clonazepam and Alprazolam uses: Clonazepam can also be prescribed to treat seizure disorders, such as tremors and spasticity, and other conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, and Tourette syndrome. The other difference is that alprazolam will affect you for a few hours, while clonazepam has a longer duration of action.


Both drugs are commonly prescribed, with reporting that alprazolam is prescribed more frequently than any other benzodiazepine. These types of drugs are especially effective at treating individuals who suffer from panic attacks, and can provide near immediate relief from the onset of an attack, according to WebMD.

Side Effects

Clonazepam and Alprazolam, like all benzodiazepines, can induce drowsiness, irritability, concentration problems, and are addictive.

Along with giving an overall calming affects, both drugs can give users an “addictive high,” reported. When used in ways other than those prescribed by a physician, the drugs can cause problems with speech and coordination, poor memory and concentration, and feelings of disorientation.

Abuse Risk

As explained in the book Pharmacology for Anesthetists, by Dr. John D. Current, benzodiazepines are the most abused pharmaceutical drugs; alprazolam is the most abused benzodiazepine, while clonazepam is the second most abused. Each account for more emergency department visits than any other benzodiazepine for drug abuse, overdose, and adverse reactions to legitimate use of the medication.

According to Áine MacGrory, a registered pharmacist working in Dublin, Ireland, one of the major factors contributing to alprazolam abuse may be related to doctors prescribing it for the wrong amount of time.

“Alprazolam is really effective for the short-term treatment of anxiety, but it should be prescribed in small quantities and more closely monitored,” MacGrory told Medical Daily.

MacGrory explained that abuse in both can be accidental or intentional.

“Some people are constantly prescribed the drugs and addiction results as a dependence develops. For others, it is more purposeful, as these drugs enhance the effects of alcohol, so when taken together, they get a better buzz,” she said.

Both drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms when suddenly stopped. Common withdrawal symptoms of alprazolam include tremors, fatigue and impaired coordination. Withdrawal symptoms of clonazepam include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and even more severe panic attacks. Often, intervention and rehabilitation is necessary for those who abuse clonazepam and alprazolam, but MacGrory explained that addiction can also be overcome with “careful dosage regimes.”