Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a benzodiazepine drug commonly used to treat anxiety. It is typically taken as a tablet, though it also comes as an injection or a liquid concentrate (Ativan Intensol).
Some individuals abuse this drug by taking it outside of prescription guidelines, which can lead to addiction and many health risks.
Ativan (Lorazepam) Addiction Signs And Symptoms
Central nervous system (CNS) depressant medications like benzodiazepines are not typically prescribed for long-term use because of the elevated risk of tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Ativan works by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural brain chemical that calms brain activity. Over time, the brain becomes less efficient at regulating GABA on its own and relies on Ativan to do it.
These changes in the brain make it difficult for a person to stop using Ativan. They also cause someone to build a tolerance to the drug, which means they have to take more of it for the same effect. Unfortunately, the increased dosage can fuel the addiction.
Other signs and symptoms of Ativan (lorazepam) addiction include:
- hand tremors
- psychotic reactions
- drug seeking
- loss of interest in social activities
- “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
- poor work and school performance
- money problems from drug use
- strained relationships because of Ativan
Physical dependence may also be a sign of addiction, as the two often go together. As the brain relies on the drug to calm it, the body may also depend on it for relaxation. Physical dependence on Ativan is indicated by withdrawal symptoms, such as rebound anxiety and insomnia, when someone stops taking the drug.
Side Effects Of Ativan Use
Like most prescription drugs, Ativan may cause adverse side effects, some more serious than others. If someone abuses the drug by taking it in excess, they are more likely to experience negative effects, such as:
- drowsiness or dizziness
- inability to concentrate
- impaired coordination
- increased heart rate
- shortness of breath
- memory impairment
- difficulty speaking
Some people taking Ativan have unknowingly engaged in behaviors when they were asleep or not fully awake. These include driving, preparing food and making phone calls. Feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide and a general disinterest in life are other possible side effects.
Ativan (Lorazepam) Overdose
A person can overdose on Ativan (lorazepam) by taking too much at once or by allowing it to build up in their system from repeated high doses. Common signs of lorazepam overdose include confusion, slowed reflexes, impaired coordination and loss of consciousness or death.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 30 percent of opioid-related overdoses also involve benzodiazepines (“benzos”) such as lorazepam. When used in combination with one another, these two drug types can be particularly unsafe.
Since benzodiazepines and opioids are both CNS depressants, they both have a sedating effect on the body. Taking them together can result in impairment of brain functioning and can dangerously suppress breathing. This may result in coma or death.
The same risk comes with mixing alcohol or other benzodiazepines with Ativan.
Physical dependence to Ativan (lorazepam) can occur even if the drug is taken as prescribed. It may develop in as little as two weeks.
Individuals who have used lorazepam for more than one to four weeks and those who use the medication in doses that are higher than recommended by their doctor are at risk of having withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it suddenly.
Other factors that make it more likely that a person will face symptoms of withdrawal after stopping Ativan use include a history of personality disorder, alcoholism and/or drug abuse.
Some Ativan withdrawal symptoms are:
- loss of appetite
- fast heartbeat
- stomach pain
- high fever
- short-term memory loss
- increased sensitivity to touch, light and/or noise
Because of the potential for severe physical and mental withdrawal symptoms, it’s recommended that an individual taper off of Ativan gradually and while under the care of a physician.
Medically Supervised Detox For Ativan
Some withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepines like Ativan (lorazepam) are life-threatening, so it is dangerous for a person to attempt to detox alone. Our medically supervised detox program at The Bluffs monitors individuals closely through this process.
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Medical detox takes place in an inpatient setting, where our professionals administer medication as needed to ease discomfort and withdrawal symptoms. A tapering schedule may be implemented to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Many people relapse when attempting to detox on their own because taking more Ativan gives them quick relief. With the support of a medically supervised detox program, many are able to break this cycle and prepare for addiction treatment.
Treatment For Ativan (Lorazepam) Addiction
Each person has a different experience with addiction. At The Bluffs, we create unique treatment plans for each individual that address the underlying causes of substance abuse. Dual diagnosis treatment, for example, helps many people who struggle with co-occurring disorders like anxiety along with addiction.
Our residential rehab facility ensures each person’s safety as they go through treatment for Ativan (lorazepam) addiction, and also offers around-the-clock support.
We use evidence-based treatment methods like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help people recognize and change destructive thoughts and behaviors. Through a holistic approach, we aim to replace harmful habits with a healthy lifestyle that leads to lasting recovery.