Librium vs Valium

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For patients with anxiety disorders or symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, certain drugs that affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain can assist in managing these conditions. Librium and Valium are two such medications frequently prescribed for these purposes. They both belong to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which enhance the effects of GABA, a natural chemical in the body that induces calmness. Librium (Chlordiazepoxide) is often used to manage severe anxiety and acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms due to its long-acting nature. On the other hand, Valium (Diazepam) is also beneficial for treating anxiety but is additionally utilized to relieve muscle spasms and seizures because it not only influences GABA but also has muscle relaxant properties.

What is Librium?

Chlordiazepoxide (the generic name for Librium) was the first drug of the class known as benzodiazepines, a significant advancement from barbiturates which were primarily used beforehand. Chlordiazepoxide received FDA approval in 1960. Librium works by enhancing the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain to produce a calming effect. It is commonly prescribed for moderate to severe anxiety disorders and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Librium has more direct influence on GABA receptors with only minor influence on other neurotransmitter systems, resulting in fewer side effects than other anti-anxiety medications that have stronger effects on these other systems.

Diazepam (the generic name for Valium), also part of the benzodiazepine family, came onto the scene after chlordiazepoxide but quickly gained popularity due to its faster onset and longer-lasting effects compared to Librium. Like its predecessor, diazepam enhances GABA activity in the brain but it's often preferred over chlordiazepoxide for conditions requiring rapid relief such as acute alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms or status epilepticus.

What conditions is Librium approved to treat?

Librium and Valium are both approved for the treatment of various anxiety disorders:

  • Librium is generally used in the management of acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • It can also be used to treat severe, debilitating, or disabling anxiety
  • Valium is often prescribed for short-term relief of severe, disabling, or distressing anxiety symptoms.
  • It's also utilized in controlling agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal.

Both drugs are part of a group called benzodiazepines and should only be taken under medical supervision due to their potential for dependence and other side effects.

How does Librium help with these illnesses?

Librium aids in managing anxiety disorders or for short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. This is achieved by increasing GABA's inhibitory action, which leads to decreased activity of certain nerve cells and therefore provides a calming effect. Like serotonin, GABA plays an influential role in mood regulation, sleep patterns, cognition among other things. It is believed that individuals with severe anxiety may have relatively lower levels or less efficient use of GABA. Therefore, by augmenting its impact through Librium intake, patients can manage their condition more effectively and potentially experience improved stability in mood and reduced feelings of nervousness.

What is Valium?

Valium is a brand name for diazepam, which is a benzodiazepine. This means it enhances the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain by increasing its availability and reducing nerve activity. Diazepam was first approved by the FDA in 1963. Being a benzodiazepine, Valium does not inhibit serotonin reuptake as SSRI antidepressants do but acts on GABA instead. Its distinction from SSRIs translates to different side effects; specifically, it's more likely to cause sedation and can lead to dependency with long-term use (common issues with benzodiazepines like Librium). The enhanced action on GABA can be beneficial for treating anxiety disorders or alcohol withdrawal symptoms, especially among patients who may not respond well to other types of medications.

What conditions is Valium approved to treat?

Valium is a versatile medication that has been approved for the treatment of various conditions, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures occurring as part of certain medical conditions such as epilepsy.

How does Valium help with these illnesses?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. It's crucial for inducing calmness and relaxation, making it very important in managing anxiety disorders. Valium works by enhancing the effects of GABA, increasing its ability to dampen neural activity and thus bring relief from symptoms of anxiety. Its actions on other neurotransmitters may also contribute to its effectiveness as an anti-anxiety medication. Since it has a broad spectrum of action, Valium can be prescribed when patients are not responding well to more specialized anxiolytics like Librium or might be combined with them for enhanced effect. This makes Valium particularly useful in treating various types of anxiety disorders where patients require immediate relief from severe symptoms.

How effective are both Librium and Valium?

Both chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) have a long history of success in treating patients with anxiety disorders, and they were initially approved by the FDA within a few years of each other. Since they act on the same neurotransmitter systems, they may be prescribed under similar circumstances. The effectiveness of Librium and Valium in alleviating symptoms associated with anxiety was directly studied in several clinical trials; both drugs exhibited notable efficacy in managing symptoms as well as having established safety profiles.

A review study demonstrated that Librium is effective at reducing symptoms associated with anxiety disorders starting from the first week of treatment. Its side effect profile is considered favorable compared to many other anxiolytics, making it well-tolerated even among elderly populations. This same report indicates that Librium has become one of the most widely prescribed anxiolytic drugs across the globe.

In comparison, a 2018 meta-analysis indicated that Valium seems to be more effective than placebo for acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome, demonstrating its versatility beyond just anxiety treatment. Nonetheless, due to its potential for tolerance and dependence development if used long-term or at high doses, diazepam is typically considered only after other treatments have failed or are not suitable. In addition, significant data exists supporting its use alongside cognitive-behavioral therapy for certain conditions like panic disorder which confirms its efficacy as part of comprehensive treatment plans.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Librium typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Librium range from 5-100 mg/day, but studies have indicated that for moderate anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety, the usual starting dose is 5 or 10 mg taken three to four times a day. For severe anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety, the dosage may be increased to 20 or 25 mg taken three to four times a day. Dosage can be increased after a few weeks if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in any case is 100mg/day.

For Valium, oral doses typically range between 2-40mg per day depending on the condition being treated. It's often split into smaller doses taken two to four times daily. However, doses shouldn't exceed more than what your doctor prescribes as it carries risk for dependency and withdrawal syndrome.

At what dose is Valium typically prescribed?

Valium treatment typically begins at a dosage of 2–10 mg, taken 2–4 times daily. The dose can then be increased to manage more severe symptoms or conditions such as alcohol withdrawal that may require higher dosages. Divided doses are often recommended throughout the day depending on the specific indication and patient response. Maximum dose varies significantly based on condition being treated but should not exceed 40 mg per day divided into multiple doses for adults, unless under strict medical supervision. If there is no adequate response to treatment within a few weeks, your healthcare provider may reevaluate your medication regimen.

What are the most common side effects for Librium?

Potential side effects of Librium include:

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Confusion, forgetfulness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Rash or itching skin
  • Swelling around the eyes

Whereas using Valium may lead to:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of balance or coordination
  • Memory problems -Muscle weakness -Spinning sensation (vertigo) -Nausea, constipation.

Both drugs can potentially cause dependency. Therefore it's important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking these medications.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Librium?

While Librium and Valium both belong to the benzodiazepine class of drugs, they can cause different side effects in some patients. If you're taking Librium, it's important to watch for any potential warning signs such as:

  • Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Signs of an allergic reaction or severe skin problems: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in your face or throat, fever with a sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain accompanied by red or purple rashes that blister and peel
  • Vision issues like blurred vision or seeing halos around lights; eye pain or swelling might also occur
  • Rapid heartbeats that may feel like pounding in your chest; this could be coupled with shortness of breath and sudden dizziness which leaves you feeling faint
  • Lower than normal sodium levels - symptoms include headache, confusion, slurred speech; extreme weakness; vomiting; loss of coordination leading to unsteadiness
  • Sudden onset nervous system reactions - extremely rigid muscles along with high fever sweating confusion uneven heartbeats tremors and a sense that one might pass out are indicative.

If you experience symptoms similar to serotonin syndrome including agitation hallucinations fever excessive sweating shivering rapid heart rate muscle stiffness twitching loss of coordination nausea vomiting diarrhea seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Valium?

Valium, a common alternative to Librium, is associated with its own set of side effects. These can include:

  • Dry mouth and stuffy nose
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Changes in appetite, potentially leading to weight changes
  • Muscle weakness or lack of coordination
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Slowed speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and constipation Potential more serious side effects can also occur such as confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, tremors or uncontrolled muscle movements. Like with any medication it's important for individuals taking Valium to monitor their reactions and consult their healthcare provider if they experience bothersome symptoms.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Valium?

Valium is usually well-tolerated, but like all medications, it can cause certain side effects. Serious adverse events are rare but could include:

  • Signs of allergic reactions such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • New or worsening symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior such as confusion, hallucinations
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Irregular heart rate or palpitations
  • Agitated state with hyperactivity and restlessness, feeling overly excited or irritable.

If you observe any of these signs immediately stop taking Valium and contact your healthcare provider without delay.

Contraindications for Librium and Valium?

Both Librium and Valium, along with most other benzodiazepines, may worsen symptoms of depression in some people. If you notice your anxiety or mood disorders worsening, or an increase in suicidal ideation, thoughts, or behavior while on these drugs, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Librium nor Valium should be taken if you are taking certain medications such as opioids (like codeine), muscle relaxants (such as carisoprodol), antihistamines (like diphenhydramine) or alcohol. Always inform your physician about all the medications you are currently using; these substances can interact negatively with Librium and Valium causing severe drowsiness and respiratory distress. The discontinuation of either medication should also be done under professional supervision due to potential withdrawal effects.

How much do Librium and Valium cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Librium (10 mg) averages around $115, which works out to around $1.90–$3.80/day, depending on if you're taking a dose between 5mg and 100mg.
  • The price for Valium is slightly less; a pack containing 30 tablets (10 mg each) costs approximately $220, amounting to about $7.33/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Librium (i.e., more than 50 mg/day), then brand-name Valium could be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be your primary consideration when determining which medication is right for you.

As far as generic alternatives go:

  • Generic Chlordiazepoxide (Librium's active ingredient) is available in packs ranging from 30 to 120 capsules with average costs ranging from about $0.40/day up to nearly $3/day based upon dosages between 5mg and up to potentially even up to twice daily doses at times.

  • Diazepam – the generic alternative for Valium – starts as low as just under half a dollar per day ($.44), but can increase significantly if taking multiple pills throughout any given day due its shorter half-life compared with chlordiazepoxide.

Popularity of Librium and Valium

Chlordiazepoxide, best known by its brand name Librium, was prescribed to approximately 800,000 individuals in the United States in 2020. Despite being one of the first benzodiazepines developed and approved for medical use, chlordiazepoxide accounts for less than 2% of total benzodiazepine prescriptions within US. Chlordiazepoxide's usage has been generally declining since peaking in the mid-1970s due to the development of other drugs with fewer side effects and lower potential for dependence.

Diazepam, more commonly recognized as Valium, was prescribed to nearly six million people in America during that same period. Diazepam still represents a significant portion (roughly 15%) of all benzodiazepine prescriptions nationwide despite having seen some decrease over recent years due to concerns about dependency and addiction. Nonetheless, diazepam remains widely used for its efficacy treating a broad range of conditions such as anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and muscle spasms.


Both Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and Valium (diazepam) have long-standing records of usage in the treatment of anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and other conditions. They are both benzodiazepines, known for their sedative properties and backed by numerous clinical studies indicating that they are more effective than placebo treatments. In some cases, these drugs may be combined with others, but this is subject to careful consideration by a physician due to potential drug interactions.

Librium acts primarily on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter which decreases activity in your nervous system—providing a calming effect. On the other hand, Valium not only increases the action of GABA but also possesses amnestic properties.

Librium is often considered as a first-line treatment option for those suffering from severe acute alcoholic withdrawal symptoms because it has less abuse potential compared to other shorter-acting benzodiazepines like diazepam. Conversely, Valium would usually be used in patients who require rapid relief from acute anxiety or muscle spasms due its faster onset of action.

Both drugs are available in generic form offering cost savings especially for out-of-pocket payment situations. Patients should expect an adjustment period where optimal dosage is determined.

The side effect profile between Librium and Valium can vary slightly even though both medications generally produce similar effects including drowsiness, fatigue and ataxia among others; however, one might be better tolerated over another depending on individual patient factors such as age or liver function status etc. It's crucial that any changes in mood or mental state during use should prompt immediate medical attention.