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What Is the Difference between Clonazepam and Lorazepam?

By Susan Abe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Clonazepam and lorazepam are both benzodiazepines, a class of medications used to treat generalized anxiety disorders, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol withdrawal and insomnia due to their sedative effects. Benzodiazepines have been in use since the 1950s and are classified by their length of action: short to long-acting. They interact with the brain using the same chemical receptors as alcohol, hence their use in the medical treatment of alcohol withdrawal and their tendency to become addictive to those who use them regularly. In fact, benzodiazepines require a doctor's prescription in some countries because of their addictive qualities and their potential for misuse. Although they belong to the same family of drugs, clonazepam and lorazepam differ in their available forms, recommended dosages, recommended uses, absorption rates and other factors.

Different routes of administration are available for clonazepam and lorazepam. For example, lorazepam can be administered orally as tablets, sublingually (SL), intramuscularly (IM) or intravenously (IV) for faster onset of action. Clonazepam by comparison is only available for oral administration as tablets. Though both are benzodiazepines, the two drugs are in different classes. Clonazepam is considered a long-acting benzodiazepine, with a rapid onset time of one to four hours and a half-life of approximately 34 hours, while lorazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine with the same approximate onset time but a half-life of only 15 hours.

The therapeutic uses of these medications are similar but differ in important ways. Although both are used to control anxiety and can be used as anticonvulsants, lorazepam is the preferred alcohol withdrawal agent of the two. Clonazepam, however, is the preferred agent to utilize for benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms and dosage taper programs. It is also used to treat social phobias and pain of neurological origin. Intravenous lorazepam administered preoperatively is the expected drug of choice to allay surgery-related fears.

Clonazepam and lorazepam have similar side effects due to their identical method of action on the central nervous system. Drowsiness, low blood pressure, an unsteady gait, memory lapses, and difficulty with coordination can all result from taking a prescribed dose. Both drugs can be extremely dangerous respiratory depressants when combined with alcohol. Interactions with other drugs will also be very similar for both. Neither should ever be combined with pain medications, sleep medications or any type of sedating drug without the knowledge and permission of the attending physician.

Furthermore, both clonazepam and lorazepam will have the same withdrawal symptoms of increased anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, rapid heart rate and other symptoms. Owing to clonazepam's longer half-life, however, the side effects will not occur until a longer length of time has passed since the last dose. It is strongly recommended by medical authorities that any discontinuation of benzodiazepines used regularly for as little as six weeks be undertaken only under the supervision of a physician. These medications are usually tapered during a withdrawal program as opposed to abrupt cessation.

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Discussion Comments
By anon948310 — On Apr 29, 2014

Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine also.

By anon936457 — On Mar 01, 2014

I don't feel addicted when I get my regular dose, so that being said, you're only an addict when you run out!

By anon927606 — On Jan 25, 2014

@stoneMason: I've tried both, and I found that lorazepam worked best for situational anxiety, as it has a stronger effect in a shorter time period. Clonazepam is better for general anxiety and lasts much longer.

By SarahGen — On Oct 05, 2013

@MikeMason-- What type of anxiety do you have?

Lorazepam is usually better for situational/social anxiety and panic attacks because it's a stronger drug and shows its effects quickly.

But if you have generalized anxiety and are dealing with anxious thoughts all the time, then clonazepam will work better. Clonazepam stays in the system a lot longer and will keep generalized anxiety under control.

Some people also respond to drugs better than others. Ask your doctor about clonazepam if you have generalized anxiety.

By stoneMason — On Oct 04, 2013

Has anyone tried both of these drugs for anxiety? Which is better?

I was on lorazepam for anxiety and frankly, it didn't do much and caused some side effects.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 03, 2013

My cousin is withdrawing from benzodiazepine drugs. He has an addiction to benzo drugs. He was abusing them for a long time. He had tried to quit them before but he couldn't do it because of the withdrawal side effects. It's very difficult to quit benzos, the side effects can be debilitating.

This time, he is going to quit them though. His doctor put him on clonazepam to help him quit. He says that the clonazepam is helping a lot. He doesn't get mood swings, migraines and dizziness like he used to.

The tricky part is to quit the clonazepam as soon as he has adapted to being off of benzos. Otherwise, he might get addicted to clonazepam.

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