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Klonopin Vs. Ativan: Pros & Cons for Panic Attacks

Updated on October 10, 2022
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Jacob is an activist and writer living in D.C. He loves sharing his unique expertise on a wide range of health and lifestyle topics.

Klonopin tablets, like the ones shown here, are extremely effective at controlling anxiety disorders.
Klonopin tablets, like the ones shown here, are extremely effective at controlling anxiety disorders. | Source

My Personal History With Anti-Anxiety Medications

Millions of Americans suffer from panic attacks. Unfortunately, I was one of those people. Sometimes, a simple anti-depressant is the only medication that is needed to put an end to these debilitating episodes. For some people, however, stronger prescription medication is required. After trying to treat my anxiety with standard SSRI medication for several years, my doctor suggested we try something more targeted specifically for panic attacks. Since the 1960s, a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines are the "gold standard" used by psychiatrists to treat people who have panic disorders.

Within the benzodiazepine class, there are many different drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. Ativan, also known by the generic name lorazepam, and Klonopin (whose generic name is clonazepam) are two of the most widely prescribed drugs in this class of medications. Both drugs can be habit forming, so it is important to take them only as directed by a doctor. But which medication is better at managing panic attacks? My doctor gave me a trial period with each medicine, so I was able to compare and contrast the two medicines.

Ativan, pictured here, is one of the fastest-acting anti-anxiety medications.
Ativan, pictured here, is one of the fastest-acting anti-anxiety medications.

Ativan Acts Very Fast

According to the MedLine drug database, Ativan is an extremely fast acting medication. After taking a dose, your blood level of lorazepam quickly rises, and reaches it's peak within just a couple of hours. This makes it an extremely good drug for treating spur-of-the-moment panic attacks. Because it is so fast-acting, many people report feeling relief within minutes of taking Ativan. Although Ativan works quickly, the effects of the lorazepam also wear off quickly, as the drug has a half-life of 8 hours or less in most people. This means you can take it, get anxiety relief, and then have it wear off without feeling groggy or drugged later that night or the next day.

The Differences Between Ativan & Klonopin

This is a double-edged sword though. Because Ativan is so fast-acting, and the half-life is so short, some people find that their panic attacks quickly return and they need more and more lorazepam to keep them at bay. Many people have found that this is not the case while taking Klonopin. With clonazepam, blood levels of the active drug rise much more slowly, which means it can take a bit longer to achieve complete relief from an actue panic attack. Once the drug is in your system, though, it has a half-life of 30 hours or more. This means that the drug is still working for more than a day after you take your last dose.

Picking the Medicine That's Right for You

For this reason, Klonopin can be better at controlling chronic panic attacks better than Ativan. Whereas people find they need to take more and more Ativan to achieve the same symptom relief, people taking Klonopin are often able to take a dose just once a day to achieve complete symptom control. If you only have panic attacks once in a blue moon, Ativan might be a great drug to help you combat them when they do come up. But if you are having panic attacks almost daily, klonopin might be the better choice for you.

Ultimately, klonopin ended up working better to control my panic attacks. I found I was able to take one very low dose tablet each day, and it effectively kept the overwhelming episodes of anxiety I used to experience at bay. As with all psychiatric medication, only a physician can tell you if lorazepam or clonazepam are right for you. If you struggle with a panic disorder, ask your doctor which treatments might work best for you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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