Compare Ativan vs. Ambien

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Ativan
(Lorazepam)

Ambien
(Zolpidem)

Helps you relax. Ativan (Lorazepam) is okay for occasional or short-term use (up to 4 weeks) for anxiety and sleep. Less likely to have drug interactions, but more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms compared to similar drugs.Helps you sleep. Ambien (Zolpidem) is good for falling asleep and staying asleep, but it can be habit-forming and might be more likely than other sleep medicines to cause disturbing side effects.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
5.1035598705501615Ativan
Reviews for Ativan (Lorazepam)
70%
of people say Ativan (Lorazepam) is worth it
50%
say it works well
15%
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Ambien (Zolpidem)
66%
4% vs. Ativan (Lorazepam)
50%
Same vs. Ativan (Lorazepam)
16%
1% vs. Ativan (Lorazepam)
Side effects
AtivanAmbien

The Ativan FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.

More about Ativan side effects »
  • Dizziness 4%
  • Drowsiness 3%
  • Allergy 3%
  • Sinus inflammation 2%
  • Dry mouth 2%
  • Sore throat 2%
  • Diarrhea 2%
  • Lack of energy 2%
  • Lightheadedness 1%
  • Low mood disorder 1%
More Ambien side effects »
How it works
AtivanAmbien
Ativan (Lorazepam) is a fast-acting benzodiazepine. It affects neurotransmitters in the brain and calms the nervous system. This reduces anxiety and can cause sleepiness.Ambien (Zolpidem) is in a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. Researchers don't know exactly how it works, but it interacts with your brain to make you relaxed and sleepy.
Type of medication
AtivanAmbien
Anti-anxiety
Benzodiazepine
Prescription only
SedativePrescription only
Available as
AtivanAmbien
  • Pill
  • Liquid
  • Pill
  • Extended release
Used for (click to learn more)
AtivanAmbien
Risk factors for serious side effects
AtivanAmbien
  • Taking more than the prescribed dose
  • Taking longer than 4 weeks
  • History of drug abuse
  • Long-term use
    • Alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
      Detailed Ativan (Lorazepam) risks & warnings »
      • Continuous use for 2 weeks or more
      • Alcohol
      • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
      • Less than 7 hours of sleep
      • Undiagnosed psychiatric conditions
      • Taking with alcohol or drugs
        • Respiratory conditions
        • Liver problems
        • Muscle disease
        • Elderly
        • Higher dose
        • Liver problems
        • Taking Ambien (Zolpidem) with other nervous system depressants
        • Long-term use
        • Women of childbearing age
        • Breast-feeding
        Detailed Ambien (Zolpidem) risks & warnings »
        Pregnancy category
        AtivanAmbien
        DFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

        Research studies with real people found harmful effects on unborn babies, but the benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

        See the FDA package insert
        CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

        Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

        See the FDA package insert
        Alcohol
        • Can be habit-forming, so it's not typically used for long-term treatment, or for people who've had problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
        • Not safe to use with alcohol.
        • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
        • Ambien (Zolpidem) can be disinhibiting (like alcohol) or cause hallucinations. Tell your doctor if you notice any unusual changes in behavior.
        Food
        No specific food-related info.
        • Works best if taken without food.
        Kidneys and liver
        No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
        • Might not be safe if you have problems with your liver, kidneys, or lungs, or if you have a history of depression.
        Sex
        No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
        Sleep
        • Can cause memory problems, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.
        • Can cause temporary dizziness and drowsiness.
        • Stopping Ativan (Lorazepam) suddenly may cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, agitation, flu-like symptoms, trouble sleeping, and muscle pain or burning. Withdrawal symptoms can last 6 weeks or longer. Work with your doctor to gradually reduce your dose.
        • More likely to cause sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating.
        • It's easy to become reliant on sleep medicines. In the long run, it's better to learn good sleeping habits and behavior so that you can sleep better naturally.
        • Effective at helping people fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
        • Only take it if you have time to sleep for at least 7 hours.
        • Can cause headache, drowsiness, and dizziness.
        • Can cause sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating.
        • All prescription sleep-aid medicines like Ambien (Zolpidem) have a risk of physical dependence. Dependence means that you'll feel withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the medication all at once. Talk to your doctor about natural ways to improve sleep or treat underlying conditions that prevent sleep.
        • Ambien (Zolpidem) increases your risk of performing potentially dangerous activities while asleep, such as sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating. Talk to your doctor immediately about stopping Ambien (Zolpidem) if any sleep-related activities occur.
        • Ambien (Zolpidem) make you feel drowsy and sleepy, leading to falls and severe injuries. This is especially a risk if your older. Falls from sleep medicines like Ambien (Zolpidem) have caused severe injuries such as hip fractures and head injury. You may need a lower dose if you're taking other medicine that affects your nervous system or have issues with falls in the past. Check with your doctor first.
        Weight
        No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
        Upsides and benefits
        AtivanAmbien
        • Effective at relieving short-term anxiety and sleeplessness.
        • Can be used together with antidepressants to manage anxiety disorders. Especially helpful for anxiety symptoms while you wait for an antidepressant to kick in (it can take several weeks).
        • Less likely to have drug interactions compared to other benzodiazepines, so it might be a better option if you're taking multiple medications.
        • Effective at helping people fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
        • Extended release form is particularly good for staying asleep, and you can use it for longer than the immediate release form.
        Downsides and risks
        AtivanAmbien
        • Can cause memory problems, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.
        • Can be habit-forming, so it's not typically used for long-term treatment, or for people who've had problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
        • Compared to other benzodiazepines, more likely to cause withdrawal if you take it for a long time and then stop suddenly.
        • Most people find that it gets less effective over time.
        • Not typically used for long-term treatment because it can be habit-forming.
        • Some people find that it's less effective over time.
        • More likely to cause sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating.
        • Might not be safe if you have problems with your liver, kidneys, or lungs, or if you have a history of depression.
        • It's easy to become reliant on sleep medicines. In the long run, it's better to learn good sleeping habits and behavior so that you can sleep better naturally.
        Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
        AtivanAmbien
        • Good for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms.
        • Starts working in 45 minutes when swallowed.
        • Starts working in 10 to 20 minutes when dissolved under your tongue.
        • Can cause temporary dizziness and drowsiness.
        • Addictive. Long-term use can cause dependence or abuse.
        • Not safe to use with alcohol.
        • Take 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
        • Only take it if you have time to sleep for at least 7 hours.
        • Very addictive. Meant for short-term treatment. Dependence can form after daily use for 2 weeks.
        • Can cause headache, drowsiness, and dizziness.
        • Can cause sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating.
        • Works best if taken without food.
        • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
        • Withdrawal symptoms usually resolve in 1 to 2 nights.
        • Report any confusion or changes in thoughts or behavior.
        Learn more
        More about AtivanSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
        More about AmbienSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert