Ativan is a benzodiazepine that produces feelings of calm and relaxation. Benzodiazepines are commonly abused medications that can lead to overdose when mixed with alcohol and opioids.
Ativan Abuse And Addiction
Ativan can be habit-forming and, when prescribed, comes with strict warnings about usage and dosage. Even those prescribed Ativan risk abusing the drug, as it’s a DEA controlled substance with potential for abuse. Ativan abuse can be dangerous when untreated and may lead to physical and psychological dependence, adverse side effects, and unsafe behaviors.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that work by slowing down activity in the brain and causing relaxation. Due to the relaxing effects of Ativan, it’s generally prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.
Lorazepam is the generic drug found in Ativan, and may also be prescribed to treat insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, and other uncomfortable symptoms caused by cancer treatment and alcohol withdrawal.
Ativan comes in tablet and liquid form and is usually directed to be taken 2-3 times daily. The liquid comes with a specially marked dropper to effectively manage dosage. Taking more Ativan than directed can lead to abuse and addiction.
Ativan abuse occurs when a person takes more than directed, uses someone else’s prescription, or uses it for long periods of time. Taking Ativan for over four months has never been clinically assessed, and likely increases the risk of dependence and addiction.
People may abuse Ativan because of its relaxing effects. As a sedative, Ativan produces feelings of euphoria (feel-good feelings), drowsiness, and calm. The effects of Ativan can be addicting, and a person abusing lorazepam is likely to show various signs and symptoms of Ativan abuse.
Signs And Symptoms Of Ativan Abuse
When a person abuses Ativan, they’ll likely show signs of typical drug-seeking behavior. Ativan may be a person’s top priority, and they may neglect personal hygiene. Their behavior related to Ativan may start to cause problems at home, work, or school, and personal relationships may begin to deteriorate and fall apart.
Other signs of Ativan abuse include compulsively using it, constantly craving it, and continuing to use it despite harm to themselves or others. They may forget their favorite activities, seem more isolated, and focus most of their energy on obtaining and using Ativan.
Taking more Ativan than directed, or abusing it for nonmedical reasons, is likely to increase potential side effects. Side effects of Ativan abuse may include:
- changes in appetite
- changes in sex drive or performance
- dry mouth
Taking large amounts of Ativan over long periods of time may routinely cause fatigue, disorientation, and depression. Long-term Ativan use may also continually lower inhibition or general disregard for social boundaries. A person’s behavior may appear unusual, irregular, or different.
Because of how Ativan affects the brain and body, misusing Ativan is likely to cause adverse physical and psychological effects. Prolonged abuse may increase the dangers of Ativan addiction.
The Dangers Of Ativan Addiction
Ativan may cause adverse side effects. Some serious side effects of Ativan addiction may include:
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- irregular heartbeat
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
If addicted to Ativan, a person may regularly experience amnesia. Amnesia occurs when a person doesn’t remember actual events, meaning a person may engage in activities like driving or having sex with no recollection of the event. This is dangerous because it increases unpredictable behavior, and may put themselves or others at risk.
Overdose is possible from taking too much Ativan. This risk of overdose increases when a person mixes Ativan with alcohol, other CNS depressants, or opioids. Mixing Ativan with any of these substances can lead to respiratory depression (breathing problems), coma, or death.
If a person is overdosing, 9-1-1 should be contacted immediately. Emergency first responders may have certain medications on hand to reverse the effects of an overdose.
Ativan addiction may also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions, like depression.
Although there are many dangers of Ativan addiction, it can be hard for a person to stop use. Using Ativan may lead to psychological and physical dependence, meaning stopping use causes uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
Ativan Withdrawal And Detox
The risk of developing dependence to Ativan increases when a person takes large amounts for long periods of time. A history of substance abuse and mental illness further increases the risk of dependence, making Ativan abuse likely for those suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD).
Dependence means a person’s body and brain have become used to having Ativan in the system. Once a person stops using Ativan, their body and brain need time to adjust and recover. This period of adjustment is called withdrawal, and Ativan dependence may cause intense psychological and physical symptoms similar to withdrawal from other benzodiazepines.
Symptoms of Ativan withdrawal may include:
- a headache
- increased sensitivity to light and sound
- panic attacks
Withdrawal symptoms may cause a person to feel sick, unsatisfied, and out of whack. A person needs a strong support system during withdrawal, and if symptoms are severe, they may require a medically supervised detoxification, or detox.
A medically supervised detox occurs in a hospital or inpatient treatment center, allowing staff to closely monitor a person’s progress, administer medications when necessary, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for the often painful and difficult process of withdrawal.
The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on the individual and how much and how often they took Ativan. Medical supervision during detox ensures a person has the support and comfort they need to make it through withdrawal.
While detox is usually the first step in recovery, it’s not a cure for addiction. Immediately following detox, behavioral therapy and other addiction treatments should occur while the person is drug-free and ready to engage in recovery.
Treatment For Ativan Abuse And Addiction
Effective treatment for addiction usually combines medications and behavioral therapy. Currently, there are no government-approved medications to treat benzodiazepine addiction. However, a method called tapering has been effective for treating Ativan and other benzodiazepine addiction.
Tapering is the process of gradually decreasing dosage of Ativan, or another benzodiazepine, over time to avoid symptoms of withdrawal and lessen physical and psychological dependence. This should always take place under medical supervision and may be combined with behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and aims to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. Addiction is a deeply personal issue, and therapy may help a person understand their struggles with Ativan or other substances, teaching them life skills to learn how to effectively manage stressful situations that lead to further drug use.
Therapy may be most effective at an inpatient rehab facility. Inpatient rehab will likely offer a variety of therapies, as well as access to medications, around the clock medical care, and peer support. Peer support is crucial to recovery because it allows people to practice what they’ve learned in therapy with people who likely understand what they’re going through.
Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab is also effective for treating Ativan addiction because it gives a person a safe and stable environment to grow and heal. Addiction is a life-long disease that requires attention and care, and inpatient treatment provides support from professionals and peers, medications, and a healing community focused on change.
Call now for more information on treating Ativan abuse and addiction.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: For Teens—Prescription Depressants
U.S. Food and Drug Administration—Ativan Label