The Basics of Klonopin & Valium
Both drugs are benzodiazepines, which calm abnormal overactivity in the brain. Both will generally cause a person to grow calmer, helping them to relax, and both medications share significant overlap in terms of properties and use.
How Do These Drugs Work?
Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of a neurotransmitter called GABA-A, which results in their hypnotic, sedative effect. Importantly, both can cause physical dependence if used for too long or not as prescribed, which is why doctors typically avoid prescribing them on a long-term basis when alternative options are available.
While similar, Klonopin and Valium are not identical in the way they’re generally taken and used. For example, Klonopin is typically prescribed at around 1 mg twice per day whereas Valium is typically prescribed at 5 mg four to five times per day.
The drugs also have somewhat different use cases. Klonopin is approved for treating seizure and panic disorders. Valium is approved for treating seizure disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal, and skeletal muscle spasm, spasticity, athetosis, and stiff-person syndrome (although Klonopin is sometimes used off-label for treating these same conditions).
Unlike Klonopin, Valium is sometimes used adjunctively in the treatment of convulsive disorders, meaning it isn’t the sole medication used as part of a person’s treatment.
Is One Drug More Effective?
Where the drugs overlap in use cases, there isn’t generally one that is clearly more effective in all scenarios, which is why doctors continue to prescribe both. One study did find that clonazepam (Klonopin) may be more effective for the treatment of burning mouth syndrome (BMS) as compared to diazepam (Valium).
Another study has suggested clonazepam may be as effective as other benzodiazepines in the treatment of anxiety disorders but with a better safety profile. This would mean it would make a good primary treatment for these problems, with patients only switching to a different benzodiazepine if they cannot take clonazepam for some reason or it proves ineffective.
Is Either Drug More Addictive?
Both benzodiazepines have the potential to cause physical and psychological dependence, although there doesn’t seem to have been any definitive studies on whether one is significantly more likely to cause a serious problem with dependence than the other.
The drugs do differ in half-life, with Klonopin having a half-life of about 30 to 40 hours and Valium having a half-life of up to 100 hours.
While some call Klonopin a long-acting benzodiazepine, it may be more accurate to call it an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine, whereas Valium is definitively long-acting. This means Valium stays in the body significantly longer than Klonopin, with all else being equal.
Warnings & Side Effects
Both of these drugs are benzodiazepines, which means they can be dangerous if misused. They have a sedative effect, depressing breathing. Because of this, they can be dangerous if taken in very high doses or if mixed with other drugs that also cause respiratory depression, like opioids or alcohol.
Neither drug should ever be taken with any other drug without first talking to a doctor and making sure the combination will be safe.
As mentioned above, both drugs have the potential to cause dependence, meaning a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking them. This is why you should talk to a doctor about quitting benzodiazepines, even if you’ve only ever taken them as instructed, to avoid the potential for withdrawal.
Both Klonopin and Valium are associated with most of the same side effects, including these:
- Muscle weakness
Klonopin is also associated with potentially causing upper respiratory infections, which Valium is not.
Which Drug Is Better?
Neither drug is not definitively “better” than the other. As is true when comparing most medications that have been relatively well researched, both medications clearly have use cases, some of which the other benzodiazepine cannot work as a replacement for. Additionally, some people may react better to one benzodiazepine than the other.
As for which medication best fits your needs, that is a discussion that should be had with a medical professional. It’s valid to wonder about your alternative options, but a doctor generally chooses what they prescribe for legitimate reasons. If you want to know if either Valium or Klonopin might be a better fit than the other, ask your doctor, and they can likely explain the benefits and drawbacks of their recommendation.
- Benzodiazepine Addiction. UCLA Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior.
- Clonazepam (Klonopin). (September 2021). National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- Comparison of Treatment Modalities in Burning Mouth Syndrome. (December 2009). Australian Dental Journal.
- Diazepam. (May 2021). National Library of Medicine.
- Klonopin vs. Valium: Differences, Similarities, and Which Is Better for You. (May 2020). SingleCare Administrators.
- Benzodiazepines for Anxiety Disorders: Maximising the Benefits and Minimising the Risks. (January 2018). Advances in Psychiatric Treatment.
- The Efficacy and Safety of Clonazepam in Patients With Anxiety Disorder Taking Newer Antidepressants: A Multicenter Naturalistic Study. (May 2016). Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience.
- Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects. (Summer 2013). The Ochsner Journal.