Ativan Addiction—Abuse And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on November 12, 2020

Ativan (lorazepam) abuse can result in addiction or physical dependence and may lead to overdose. Ativan addiction treatment programs work to reverse damaging health effects, safely treat withdrawal, and teach individuals ways to cope in recovery.

Ativan Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

A growing health risk in the United States is addiction to benzodiazepines like Ativan. In fact, a large percent of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines.

Abuse of Ativan is dangerous in that it can lead to addiction, which greatly increases the risk of overdose.

Ativan addiction treatment can help individuals slowly and safely taper off use of the drug, while treating withdrawal symptoms. The most effective rehab programs for Ativan abuse involve counseling, behavioral therapy, and onsite support.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication. Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic drugs which typically treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

Ativan produces feelings of deep relaxation, calm, and sedation, which is why the medication can be effective at treating mental health disorders. Ativan is available as a tablet or liquid concentrate to be taken two or three times per day.

Ativan Methods Of Abuse

Individuals who abuse Ativan may crush the tablet and snort the powder for faster effects or dissolve in water to inject. Ativan is not intended for long-term use and abuse of the drug can rapidly result in tolerance.

Once a person becomes tolerant to Ativan, they no longer feel the effects when they take their regular dose and may take more. Taking a larger dose, more frequent doses, or taking someone else’s medication are all methods of abuse.

People may also abuse Ativan with other drugs to enhance its effects, especially other central nervous system depressants.

However, Ativan is a powerful benzodiazepine and should never be mixed with other medications or drugs due to the dangerous interactions which can occur.

Signs And Symptoms Of An Ativan Addiction

Ativan addiction occurs when a person abuses Ativan and develops a mental reliance on the drug. When a person is abusing Ativan, they will experience side effects similar to alcohol intoxication.

Ativan is a central nervous system depressant, which is why it is so effective at treating people with mental health disorders, such as anxiety.

Signs of Ativan abuse may be the first signs of addiction and include:

  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • euphoria
  • extreme drowsiness
  • headaches
  • lack of appetite
  • hallucinations
  • nausea and vomiting
  • speech troubles

Continued Ativan abuse can lead to addiction in as little as a few months. As addiction forms, all areas of a person’s life can be affected.

Additional signs of an Ativan addiction may include:

  • loss of control over Ativan use
  • strong cravings
  • withdrawal symptoms when not using Ativan
  • tolerance or needing to use more Ativan to get the same effects
  • becoming secretive or lying about Ativan use
  • distancing from family and friends
  • lack of interest in usual activities
  • shirking responsibilities
  • financial struggles
  • trouble sleeping
  • poor performance at work or school

Can Ativan Abuse Cause Withdrawal?

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan are highly powerful drugs and addiction to Ativan can lead to physical dependence. Once a person is physically dependent on Ativan, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.

In fact, Ativan withdrawal can be not only uncomfortable but may be harmful or even fatal if left untreated. Anyone experiencing withdrawal from Ativan should seek medical help right away.

Initial Ativan withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • anxiety
  • cravings
  • confusion
  • increased heart rate
  • muscle pain
  • mood swings
  • panic attacks
  • stomach cramps
  • sweating
  • trouble concentrating
  • weight loss

It is important that individuals get the help they need when experiencing Ativan withdrawal both to prevent severe symptoms, such as hallucinations and seizures, and to safeguard against long-term withdrawal symptoms.

Rebound anxiety is one of the greatest long-term withdrawal symptoms. This condition occurs when a person experiences anxiety, the condition Ativan was prescribed to treat, more intensely once they stop taking the medication.

Other long-term Ativan withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • anxiety
  • constant fatigue
  • feelings of depression
  • lack of energy
  • lack of interest in usual activities
  • restlessness
  • sleep issues
  • strong cravings
  • trouble with memory
  • trouble concentrating

Ativan Overdose Signs And Symptoms

Individuals can and do overdose on Ativan. While overdose is possible, Ativan alone is not as likely as other drugs of abuse to cause a fatal result.

Mixing Ativan with other drugs, especially other central nervous system depressants such as opioids or alcohol, greatly increases the chance of overdose.

Because benzodiazepines work to slow body functions, the most common Ativan overdose symptom is depressed breathing. This alone can be dangerous without adequate treatment, as not getting enough oxygen can eventually lead to brain damage or other issues.

Learn about how to safely detox from Ativan

Other signs and symptoms of an Ativan overdose may include:

  • lethargy: it is common for individuals taking or abusing Ativan to feel lethargic as the drug works as a sedative. Excessive or continuous lethargy may be a sign of something more.
  • fatigue: while Ativan results in drowsiness, constant fatigue is not a common side effect.
  • lack of coordination: similar to being extremely intoxicated, a person overdosing on Ativan may appear drunk, uncoordinated, may fall, or may not have use of limbs at all.
  • extreme sweating
  • memory loss

When mixed with other drugs, unpredictable overdose signs may also occur.

Ativan And Polysubstance Abuse

Taking Ativan with other drugs is known as polysubstance abuse and can have deadly consequences on the user. Mixing alcohol or other substance with Ativan can intensify the effects of both drugs and increase the risk of a deadly overdose.

Common effects of mixing Ativan with other drugs include:

  • hallucinations
  • high blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • sweating
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • extreme muscle fatigue

Commonly abuse Ativan drug combinations include:

Treatment For Ativan Abuse And Addiction

Treatment for Ativan abuse and addiction involves several areas of healing, including:

  • treating the physical symptoms (dependence and withdrawal)
  • treating the psychological symptoms (cravings, destructive thoughts)
  • modifying behavior, as habits of abuse become addiction
  • finding alternative methods to treat the condition Ativan was used to treat

While this may seem like a tall order, all of these recovery goals are possible with the right rehab program. Inpatient, or residential, treatment is especially effective for treating addiction to benzodiazepines like Ativan.

Within inpatient rehab programs, individuals can access medically supervised detox support, find therapy and counseling, learn how to alter their behaviors, and implement coping strategies to avoid relapse.

To learn more about treatment for Ativan abuse or addiction, speak to one of our addiction treatment specialists today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on November 12, 2020

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