Klonopin and Valium are both similar drugs that are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Both drugs may also be used to treat several other issues when they’re prescribed off-label. They’re members of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which are also central nervous system depressants. Like other benzodiazepines, both Klonopin and Valium have some misuse potential since they can cause some intoxicating effects. 

Valium and Klonopin have some similarities, including their intended effects and their adverse reactions. If you’re diagnosed with a mental health issue that may be treated with a benzodiazepine, which one might be right for you? How do these similar drugs compare, and is there a significant difference between the two?

Learn more about Klonopin, Valium and how these two benzodiazepines compare. 

What is Klonopin?

Klonopin is a prescription drug, and it’s important to avoid the drug if you haven’t been directed to use it by a doctor. Klonopin was first patented in 1960, and it gained FDA approval in the United States in 1975. In 1997, generic versions of the drug became available. Benzodiazepines are among the most common prescription drugs in the world, and Klonopin is among the top prescription drugs in the United States to this day. 

Klonopin is a benzodiazepine medication that’s used to treat panic disorders and certain types of seizures. Klonopin is the brand name for a drug called clonazepam. Like other benzodiazepines, Klonopin works by slowing down brain activity and excitability in the central nervous system. It’s in a wider category of drugs called central nervous system depressants. The drug comes in tablet form, and the dose is small enough that it may be taken up to three times a day. 

The drug is a potent depressant with anti-anxiety effects that can be useful in people with panic disorders. Issues like panic, anxiety, and even muscle spasms may be caused by overactivity in the nervous system. Drugs like Klonopin can slow down activity in a way that leads to physical and psychological relaxation. Klonopin may also be used off-label, which means doctors may prescribe it to treat things that the FDA hasn’t approved it for. This can include social anxiety, generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder, mania, ALS, sleepwalking, chronic restlessness, and other issues. 

Klonopin may also be used illegally as a recreational drug. Depressants can cause intoxicating effects that are similar to drinking alcohol. Misusing the drug in this way can lead to dependence, addiction, and overdose. 

What is Valium?

Valium is a popular brand name for a drug called diazepam, which is also a benzodiazepine medication and a prescription central nervous system depressant. Diazepam was patented in 1959 and was approved in 1963. The patent for the drug ended in 1985, and since then, hundreds of brands that contain diazepam have emerged. Along with other benzodiazepines, Valium was one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world in the 1970s. Today, Valium remains one of the most common prescription drugs in the United States. 

Valium is used as a short-term treatment for anxiety disorders, though it’s not indicated to help manage everyday stress. It may also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal since it can alleviate tremors and anxiety that may be associated with withdrawal symptoms. It may be used alongside other treatments to treat muscle spasms that are caused by neurological issues or nervous system injuries. 

Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, which means it remains active in your system for longer. For that reason, it may be used to treat withdrawal from short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax, which are commonly used recreationally. 

Short-acting benzodiazepines have a higher misuse potential and may be used recreationally more than Valium. However, Valium can have some intoxicating effects that lead someone to misuse the drug. Using Valium for a long time or as a recreational drug can cause you to develop a substance use disorder or chemical dependence.

How Do They Work?

Both Klonopin and Valium work in similar ways in the brain. Like other benzodiazepines, they primarily work with a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that’s tied to rest and relaxation. It binds to GABA receptors and opens a channel that allows a negative charge to slow activity in a nerve cell. This helps to calm your nervous system, which facilitates anti-anxiety, sleep, muscle relaxation, and other calming effects. Benzodiazepines can bind to GABA receptors in a different place. When GABA binds to the same receptor, the benzo will keep the open channel open for longer, allowing GABA to have a more pronounced calming effect.

Klonopin and Valium work in a similar way to other benzos and other depressants like alcohol. However, even though they work in similar ways, it doesn’t mean they have the exact same effects on the body. They have different onsets of action, duration of action, and effectiveness. Klonopin can start to work within an hour, and it can last for six to 12 hours. It has a half-life of around 18 to 60 hours, which means that’s how long it takes for it to be reduced to half of its original concentration in your bloodstream. Valium also starts working within an hour, but it can begin working as early as 15 minutes. 

Is Klonopin or Valium More Effective?

valium-vs klonopin

Klonopin and Valium have similar effects, and their indented uses are related but not exactly the same. Valium is primarily used to treat anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety. This might be characterized by recurring worries, restlessness, racing thoughts, and hypervigilance. Since Valium is long-acting, one dose can alleviate these consistent symptoms for many hours at a time. 

On the other hand, Klonopin is used to treat panic disorders, which are characterized by sudden anxiety and fear without an obvious cause. Panic attacks also come with other symptoms like a racing heartbeat, sweating, chest pains, shortness of breath, and trembling. Anxiety and panic disorders may be related. Many people with panic attacks have a generally anxious feeling while they anticipate another attack. Panic attacks happen suddenly and last for a period of about 10 minutes, but the fear of the next panic attack can last for several weeks or months. Research suggests that Klonopin can help to reduce the relapse of panic attacks.

However, Klonopin can be useful in the short term, but people with long-term problems might run into some issues on the depressant. Klonopin has a tendency to become less effective after a few months of consistent use. As you build up a tolerance to the drug, it will be less effective at the same dose. In order to maintain its effectiveness, your doctor will have to increase the dosage or switch you to a new medication. Valium may take longer for you to build up a tolerance, but it can cause chemical dependence after long-term use. 

Klonopin may be more useful in treating panic disorders than Valium, but Valium may have a wider range of potential uses. There are a wide variety of benzodiazepines and mental health medications. There’s no one medication that will work perfectly for everyone. Instead, treating mental health problems is a trial and error process that is personalized to your needs. 

Does Klonopin or Valium Cause Worse Side Effects?

Since Klonopin and Valium both work in similar ways and have similar effects, they can cause some of the same side effects. Both drugs can cause chemical dependency, which is when your brain chemistry adapts to the presence of a drug in your system. When you stop using a drug you’re dependent on suddenly, it can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Both Klonopin and Valium can cause some potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures and delirium tremens.

Common side effects of Valium can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Memory problems
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of balance
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Itching

Common side effects of Klonopin use include:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea 
  • Loss of appetite

Both drugs can cause some side effects after regular use, but you’re more likely to experience side effects with high doses, recreational use, or after mixing them with other drugs. Both Valium and Klonopin can be dangerous when they’re mixed with other benzodiazepines, alcohol, opioids, and other depressants like barbiturates. Very high doses and mixing the drugs can cause potentially life-threatening overdose symptoms like respiratory depression and a loss of consciousness. 

If you or someone that’s taken one of these benzodiazepines loses consciousness, can’t be woken up easily, or stops breathing, it’s important to call for emergency services as soon as possible. A benzodiazepine overdose can be treated with a medication called Flumazenil, which counteracts the effects of the drugs.

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