Ativan Abuse & Addiction | Ativan Use In Ohio

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 10, 2022

Ativan is a strong prescription drug used to treat anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, Ativan is only recommended for limited periods of use, as it is habit-forming and highly prone to abuse, addiction, and physical dependence.

Benzodiazepines, including Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam), are a commonly prescribed class of drugs with a variety of medical applications. 

However, they are also notorious for being overprescribed, abused, and misused, which can lead to severe physical dependence, addiction, and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Ativan, a brand name benzodiazepine drug also sold in generic form as lorazepam, is a short-acting benzo drug that shares these serious risks.

If you or a loved one are experiencing struggles with Ativan misuse or addiction, it’s important that you seek help from an approved substance abuse treatment program like Ohio Recovery Center.

How Ativan Works

Ativan acts as a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows activity throughout the brain and body after a person takes the medication. Ativan does this by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.

This slowing-down of a person’s nervous system can be helpful for those experiencing mental illnesses like anxiety disorders, panic attacks, or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

It can also help those with insomnia fall asleep, prevent or treat dangerous seizure activity, and help moderate some of the worst symptoms of alcohol withdrawal for those participating in medical detox programs.

Ativan Abuse Potential

The feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being that come with Ativan use can make it an attractive option for drug abuse. And in higher doses, the drug can also cause a euphoric intoxication similar to heavy drinking.

Ativan is also sometimes used along with other drugs of abuse, as it can potentially increase the euphoric effects of opioid drugs and counteract some of the unwanted side-effects of stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine, though this is an exceedingly high-risk practice.

In the United States, Ativan is currently classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the FDA and DEA and is only available with a prescription from a licensed medical provider.

Ativan Addiction Warning Signs

The pleasurable effects of Ativan can be highly addictive if the drug is misused, resulting in drug cravings, behavioral changes, and other effects collectively known as substance use disorder.

Warning signs that a person is slipping into drug addiction involving Ativan may include:

  • pulling away from friends and family members to spend time alone
  • developing tolerance to a drug and needing larger and larger doses to get high on Ativan
  • disengaging from responsibilities or priorities at work, home, or school
  • doctor shopping, which involves visiting multiple physicians in search of prescriptions, or attempting to order drugs from illicit pharmacies online
  • being unable to stop taking the drug, even if they try
  • experiencing uncomfortable and distressing withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have access to the drug

Effects Of Ativan Abuse

Abusing Ativan can also cause a variety of short- and long-term effects.

Increased Side-Effects

The most common side-effects of Ativan use are:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle weakness
  • memory problems
  • nausea
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • frequent urination or trouble urinating 
  • blurred vision
  • changes in sexual drive or function

Ativan Overdose

In high doses, or in combination with other drugs, use of Ativan can provoke serious or, rarely, life-threatening overdose effects.

Symptoms of an Ativan overdose can include:

  • sedation/drowsiness
  • slow or shallow breathing
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • low blood pressure
  • slurred speech
  • impaired reflexes and coordination
  • Coma

Ativan Dependence

Typically, medical professionals will only prescribe Ativan for very short periods of time, usually two to four weeks maximum, or for occasional use in response to seizures or panic attacks.

This limited pattern of use can help prevent the development of physical dependence and the withdrawal symptoms that come with it as the body adjusts to and then comes to rely on the drug’s effects.

Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

If a person stops taking Ativan after a period of long-term use, they will likely experience a physical and psychological response known as Ativan withdrawal, which can include a variety of withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feelings things that aren’t there)
  • paranoia
  • tremors
  • seizures

Healthcare providers strongly urge that individuals contemplating the Ativan withdrawal process work with a doctor to develop a tapering program to help them wean off from the drug slowly and safely over time.

Other Long-Term Effects

Addiction comes with consequences, and abusing Ativan, a potent CNS depressant, can cause escalating long-term physical and mental health effects. These can include:

  • memory problems
  • mental impairment
  • tremors
  • increasingly severe mental health issues
  • learning difficulties
  • sleep problems
  • kidney problems
  • movement problems and injuries

Ativan Addiction Treatment

Recovery programs for Ativan addiction generally involve treatment options that include:

  • tapering/detox services
  • inpatient or outpatient drug rehab
  • behavioral therapy to address the factors underlying a person’s drug use and build up healthy copying frameworks
  • dual-diagnosis care for other contributing mental health disorders
  • aftercare to help support a successful long-term recovery

At Ohio Recovery Center, we are proud to offer evidence-based inpatient treatment services for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. To learn more, please contact us today.

  1. American Family Physician — Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness — Benzodiazepine-Associated Risks
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness — Lorazepam (Ativan)
  4. Neurology International — Benzodiazepines: Uses, Dangers, and Clinical Considerations

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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