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What Is the Difference between Diazepam and Clonazepam?

By Jay Leone
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Although diazepam and clonazepam are part of the same drug class and share several characteristics, there are some key differences between the two. These medications are produced in multiple forms, allowing for different means of ingestion. They are also recommended for different conditions, and are associated with different side effects. Consultation with a physician is necessary to determine the appropriate drug for specific situations.

Diazepam and clonazepam both belong to the benzodiazepine family of anti-anxiety medications, and are often prescribed as part of a treatment plan for anxiety disorders. Medications in this drug class enhance gamma-aminobutyric acid's effects in the brain. This acid enables communication between nerve cells. Diazepam and clonazepam medications can be used to inhibit the excessive brain activity that may lead to anxiety or certain other types of psychiatric disorders. Like other drugs in the benzodiazepine class, diazepam and clonazepan are available by prescription only and should not be taken unless directed by a doctor as part of a treatment plan.

While these medications are both widely prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, they are often prescribed to treat other issues. Diazepam can be used as part of a treatment plan for certain neurological diseases, including tremors, delirium, and seizures. This medication may also be used to treat hallucinations linked with alcohol withdrawal. Clonazepam is prescribed for certain types of seizures, such as akinetic seizures, petit mal seizures, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Both diazepam and clonazepam are available in varying strengths in tablet form. Diazepam is also manufactured into liquid solution, injection and rectal gel forms. While clonazepam is available in traditional tablet form, the medication is also produced in disintegrating tablet form. These medications are both designed to be stored at room temperature.

Taking either of these medications may cause side effects. The more common side effects associated with diazepam use include loss of balance, drowsiness, and fatigue. Muscle spasms, rage, double vision, confusion, and lack of sleep are rare diazepam side effects. Common side effects linked with clonazepam include weakness, sleep disturbance, sedation and headache. A person who experiences severe side effects from either of these medications should go to an emergency room or contact his or her doctor immediately.

These medications, like all benzodiazepines, are associated with causing possible fetal damage, so they are not recommended for use in pregnant women. Since diazepam and clonazepam can pass through breast milk, women who are breastfeeding also should not take these medications. Regularly taking higher doses of benzodiazepines for extended periods may lead to dependency. Abruptly discontinuing a regimen involving diazepam or clonazepam may lead to symptoms of withdrawal such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, headache, or lightheadedness.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005942 — On Dec 25, 2021

Clonazepam is stronger than Diazepam.

By anon1000939 — On Feb 03, 2019

My husband was on 5mg Diazepam three times a day for 12 years and his doctor took him off of it and put him on 1mg of Clonazepam after his first ear surgery that failed. He has been having trouble ever since and his doctor has been reducing the dosage, but he is at a standstill right now. We would like to know would it be better for him to go back on Diazepam to get off than to stay on Clonazepam?

By literally45 — On Feb 02, 2014

Clonazepam is stronger than diazepam but it has a shorter half-life. Clonazepam has a half-life ranging from 18-50 hours and diazepam's half-life ranges from 20-100 hours. So, on average, clonazepam leaves the body in half the time that diazepam does. This means that clonazepam has to be taken more frequently than diazepam.

I suppose we could say that clonazepam is better for short term, more severe anxiety issues, in comparison to diazepam. That being said, diazepam has been on the market for much longer and some doctors feel that it's a more reliable drug.

Doctors consider the advantages and disadvantages of a drug and prescribe it only if they feel that the advantage are greater for the patient. So it's best to trust a doctor's opinion. But if there are adverse side effects of a medication, of course that should be shared with the doctor.

By stoneMason — On Feb 01, 2014

@fBoyle-- Clonazepam is stronger than diazepam. 1mg of clonezapem is roughly equivalent to 20mg of diazepam. They are both prescribed in small doses.

But this doesn't mean that one is better than the other. It just means that some people might be better off on one depending on the severity of their symptoms. Plus, everyone reacts to drugs differently.

By fBoyle — On Feb 01, 2014

Which is the stronger medication of the two?

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