Ativan is a high-potency benzodiazepine drug with a short half-life. This means that the drug’s effects are felt relatively quickly. These qualities can make Ativan attractive to people who abuse benzodiazepines and may also increase the risk of addiction.
A recent research report found that lorazepam, the generic form of Ativan, is one of the top 100 most prescribed drugs in the US. It also reported that it’s the third most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine drug in America.
The large amounts of lorazepam that are being prescribed could create more opportunities for the drug to be misused and abused in ways that lead to addiction.
Ativan addiction is often best treated in a comprehensive treatment program that includes both detox and rehab. By receiving this integrated care, both the physical and psychological symptoms of lorazepam addiction can be treated.
Ativan is a prescription benzodiazepine drug, or benzo, that is used to treat anxiety disorders or anxiety that accompanies depression. Lorazepam creates its calming and relaxing effect by slowing activity in the brain.
Due to its anticonvulsant properties, Ativan may be prescribed to treat epilepsy as well. It can also be used to treat certain symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment.
Ativan, like other benzodiazepines, is a central nervous system depressant. In addition to slowing the brain, drugs in this class slow critical life-support systems, such as breathing. This effect can make benzos dangerous when abused, especially when they’re abused with other drugs.
Ativan is prescribed as a tablet or injection. Ativan tablets come in 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg doses. The injectable form has 2.0 or 4.0 mg of lorazepam per dose and may be administered into a vein (intravenously) or into the muscle (intramuscularly).
The generic form, lorazepam, is also available as a liquid concentrate that is taken orally. Each of these forms may be abused in a way that leads to addiction and physical and mental harm.
Ativan: How It’s Abused
People commonly abuse Ativan to relax, to relieve tension, or to create a sense of calm. Taken in high doses, lorazepam may also produce a euphoric state or high. Underlying these pleasurable effects, however, are many dangers, including addiction, dangerous withdrawal, and overdose.
Misusing a personal prescription or someone else’s to self-medicate anxiety, insomnia, or another health problem is considered abuse and can lead to addiction. Taking the drug to create a high or pleasurable effect, even if it’s a personal prescription, is also abuse.
When the tablet form of the drug is abused, it’s most commonly taken orally, however, some people may try to crush it up so that they can snort (insufflation) or smoke it. According to the DEA, teens and young adults frequently abuse benzodiazepines by swallowing or snorting them.
People who shoot or inject Ativan typically inject it directly into their veins to achieve the quickest effects. Some people may also inject it into a muscle.
The liquid concentrate form of lorazepam may be abused by mixing it into a beverage or food.
Ativan may be abused with other drugs, a behavior called polydrug abuse. The DEA reports that many people who abuse cocaine and heroin also abuse benzodiazepines.
A person may take Ativan with another drug to increase the feel-good effects of either drug. It may also be abused to reduce the negative side effects of the other drug.
For instance, benzodiazepines such as Ativan may be abused to reduce withdrawal symptoms from opioids or alcohol. In other cases, a person may take Ativan with cocaine to reduce some of the unpleasant side effects that often accompany stimulant abuse.
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Ativan Abuse Signs And Symptoms
When a person abuses Ativan on a frequent basis they will likely develop a tolerance and become dependent on the drug. When a person is tolerant to lorazepam’s effects, they no longer feel the sensations they seek when they take their usual dose.
A physical dependence is when a person’s body only functions normally while under the influence of the drug. Because of this, when a person doesn’t take the drug they may become sick and go into withdrawal.
As a person becomes tolerant to and dependent on Ativan, they may begin to take higher or more frequent doses to compensate for these effects. Doing so increases the odds of a person developing adverse health effects, addiction, and overdose.
Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal can accompany prescribed use, and these states alone do not necessarily mean a person is addicted. When these symptoms are accompanied by uncontrollable patterns of use, cravings, and other signs of a substance use disorder, a person is likely addicted.
A major sign and symptom of Ativan addiction is when abuse becomes compulsive and a person struggles to stop or reduce their use, despite a desire to quit.
At this time, an individual may become upset if they can’t find and use the drug. They may also claim that they need the drug to function, to relax, or to feel normal.
To maintain a more constant supply of lorazepam, a person may steal pills from loved ones. They may also offer to buy them from friends and family members, purchase them illegally off the street, or try to order them online.
A person with a prescription drug problem may also go to a doctor and pretend they have anxiety or another condition treated by Ativan, so that they can get a prescription for the medication.
Though certain laws have made it difficult, some individuals may go to multiple doctors, or doctor shop, in the hopes they can get more than one Ativan prescription.
Ativan Abuse Short-Term Effects
A person who is abusing Ativan may appear as if they are drunk or intoxicated on alcohol. If this is the case, it’s important not to pass off lorazepam abuse as alcohol abuse.
Each form of drug abuse has specific treatments and therapies that work best for it. Further, if a person is believed to be drinking and is then offered a drink, a dangerous interaction between alcohol and Ativan could occur.
The following short-term side effects of lorazepam abuse may occur when low to moderate doses of this drug are taken:
- impaired thinking
- memory impairment
- poor coordination
- slurred speech
When higher doses of the drug are used, as is common in patterns of abuse, a person may develop these symptoms of lorazepam abuse as well:
- hostile or erratic behavior
- impaired reflexes
- shifting moods
Ativan Abuse Long-Term Effects, Risks, And Dangers
Ativan is recommended for short-term use of four months or less. Long-term use beyond this time has not been studied and for this reason is not recommended. While any length of abuse can be dangerous, long-term lorazepam abuse carries even greater side effects and risks.
The dangers of shooting or injecting Ativan include damage to the veins and serious infection of the skin or tissue. A person who shares needles may also contract a serious and possibly deadly transmissible disease, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B and C.
Taking Ativan can negatively impact a person’s psychomotor activity or mental functioning. This can impair a person’s reaction time and driving skills. Because of this, an individual who is under the influence of Ativan may have an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash.
Ativan abuse can occasionally cause paradoxical disinhibition, also referred to as paradoxical reactions. This state causes adverse and unusual reactions to the drug that can be harmful. Symptoms include excitement, irritability, and talkativeness. Some people may become aggressive, violent, or develop fits of rage.
Further, some people who abuse Ativan may become depressed and have suicidal ideation or thoughts of suicide.
Withdrawal from Ativan can also be very dangerous. Though relatively rare, at its most severe, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause seizures and delirium tremens, complications that could be life-threatening.
Ativan Overdose Signs And Symptoms
When a person takes more Ativan than their body can process, amounts of the drug could reach toxic levels that cause overdose.
Though benzodiazepine overdoses are often non-fatal, at its most severe, an Ativan overdose could be deadly. Fatal overdose is often caused from respiratory depression, a condition that occurs when a person’s breathing slows or stops.
The risk of a fatal overdose from respiratory depression increases when Ativan is abused with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Mixing Ativan with alcohol, barbiturates, or sedative/hypnotics could depress the CNS in a dangerous way.
Ativan is also very dangerous when abused with opioids such as prescription painkillers, fentanyl, and heroin. The dangers of mixing Ativan and opioids include respiratory depression, sedation, coma, and death.
When a person experiences a mild Ativan overdose they may have the following symptoms:
- paradoxical reactions
- slurred or slow speech
Overdose may progress to more serious states, especially if a person is taking alcohol or other drugs. When this occurs, signs and symptoms of a severe lorazepam overdose include:
- a hypnotic state
- hypotension or low blood pressure
- impaired balance, coordination, or muscle control
- limpness or decreased muscle tone
When overdose is this severe, a person may have respiratory depression, slip into a coma, or die.
Ativan Withdrawal Timeline
Ativan dependence can occur in as little as one week after a person takes the recommended, prescribed dose of this drug. Taking higher doses may cause dependence more quickly. Once a person is dependent, they will likely experience withdrawal when they quit taking lorazepam.
Short-acting benzodiazepines like Ativan exit a person’s system more quickly, and because of this, withdrawal may be experienced sooner.
Individuals who take large or frequent doses of lorazepam or who have abused it for an extended period of time may experience symptoms of Ativan withdrawal more severely.
The length of withdrawal can depend on the level of addiction and how slowly a person is weaned off of lorazepam. When a person’s dose is tapered, withdrawal from Ativan may take several weeks or less.
After the acute stage of withdrawal passes, some people may experience extended withdrawal symptoms, a condition referred to as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal may last several months.
Ativan Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms
When a person abruptly quits taking Ativan without tapering or gradually reducing their dose, they will likely develop withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
People who take high doses of the drug may also experience withdrawal if they significantly cut back on the amount they take.
Ativan Withdrawal Mental Signs And Symptoms
Ativan withdrawal can cause psychological or cognitive symptoms, such as:
- rebound anxiety
- short-term memory loss
Ativan Withdrawal Physical Signs And Symptoms
When a person quits taking Ativan, they may have discomfort or sickness due to withdrawal, symptoms that could include:
- involuntary movements
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
- rebound insomnia
- stomach cramps
If a person has protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), they may have anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, or insomnia.
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Ativan Withdrawal And Detox Programs
The best Ativan withdrawal and detox programs provide comprehensive medical care so that a person is as safe and comfortable as possible.
Though withdrawal symptoms can still become uncomfortable at times, a medical detox program may significantly alleviate the pain and discomfort that can occur at this time.
Medications are commonly used to accomplish this goal. They may also be administered to reduce cravings and for the purpose of tapering a person off of Ativan.
An inpatient medical detox program provides 24-hour medical care, observation, and monitoring. This service can be essential when a person is addicted to a drug like Ativan that may have dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Without professional help, withdrawal symptoms and cravings could become severe, states that lead some people to relapse. Choosing a residential medically supervised detox program for Ativan offers a higher level of protection from this and other risks.
Finding A Drug Rehab Program For Ativan Abuse
Inpatient drug rehab programs for Ativan provide the most intensive level of care for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
Many people begin abusing Ativan as a way of self-medicating co-occurring disorders like anxiety or depression. The best Ativan addiction treatment programs include treatment for dual diagnoses such as these.
At The Treehouse, we offer comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment. Many of our treatments can be highly beneficial for both addiction and co-occurring disorders. This includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
These and other therapies teach coping skills that protect and nurture a person’s recovery from both addiction and mental health problems. By treating both the mental illness and addiction, a person has a higher chance of obtaining long-term sobriety as well.
Contact The Treehouse Rehab now for more information on Ativan addiction and treatment.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research — Benzodiazepines
- DailyMed — LABEL: ATIVAN- lorazepam injection
- DailyMed — LABEL: ATIVAN- lorazepam tablet
- MedlinePlus — Lorazepam
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Substance Abuse Treatment ADVISORY News for the Treatment Field: Protracted Withdrawal
- U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency — Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide 2017 Edition
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration — Ativan® C-IV (lorazepam) Tablets Rx only
- US National Library of Medicine — Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects
- US National Library of Medicine — Comprehension of Top 200 Prescribed Drugs in the US as a Resource for Pharmacy Teaching, Training and Practice