Ativan Addiction and Abuse: One of the Country's Most Highly Prescribed Nightmare Drugs

Ativan is one of the most widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications on the market today. But with its soaring popularity among those looking for relief from an overactive mind also comes a higher risk of abuse.

In fact, Ativan has even gained national attention as one drug that's contributing to a surge in benzodiazepine overdose deaths in recent years. And when combined with a variety of other central nervous system depressants (as it often is), this drug can be especially deadly.

Knowing the ins and outs of Ativan addiction and abuse, then, is essential to preventing eventual dependency and getting the necessary help when it's called for.

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The Proper Use of Ativan

Ativan, the brand name for the chemical compound lorazepam, is used to treat a variety of conditions.

It belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines.

These substances interact with a certain neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. This chemical is responsible for slowing down your brain's natural processes, thereby relieving you from the effects of over-excited neurons like anxiety or panic attacks.

When used properly, Ativan and other benzodiazepines can be a literal lifesaver for some people. However, this class of drugs can be especially addictive, even when taken under medical supervision.

As such, many physicians recommend using medications like lorazepam for short periods of time rather than on a continual basis.

The administration info included below is from Drugs.com and is for educational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed physician before determining your lorazepam dosage.

There are three main forms in which lorazepam can be used properly in the medical field: oral, liquid, and injection.

Oral tablets come primarily in three different strengths: 0.5mg, 1mg, and 2mgs. In general, Ativan dosages start out at 2-3mg per day and are divided evenly throughout the day as well.

With the liquid administration, those taking lorazepam for insomnia will likely be prescribed 2-4mg taken right before bedtime. If taken for anxiety, the dosage will likely be around 2-3mg per day administered 2-3 times per day.

And finally, if used as an injection, the doses will likely be 0.05mg/kg for light anesthesia and 0.1mg/kg for status epilepticus (a single epileptic seizure lasting more than 5 minutes).

When it comes to illicit use of Ativan, most abusers find taking the drug orally to be the most effective method. It's not commonly smoked or snorted.

According to Healthline, it's primarily used as an anti-anxiety medication. However, some physicians have used it to also treat:

  • Insomnia
  • Epilepsy
  • Agitation from alcohol withdrawals
  • Nausea from certain cancer treatments
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The Risks of Lorazepam Addiction

There are a variety of risks that come with using lorazepam, even when done properly according to your doctor's prescription. When you turn Ativan into a substance of abuse, those risks are increased even further.

Using Ativan on a regular basis according to your prescription can come with a host of side effects according to MedlinePlus, including:

  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in libido or sexual performance

What's more, long-term exposure to lorazepam on a regular basis, especially when it's being abused, may also contribute to a variety of health ailments in the future like sexual dysfunction, muscle weakness, a compromised immune system, and essential organ damage and failure.


Brain Damage from Abusing Ativan Long-Term

Some of the most frightening effects of long-term lorazepam abuse, though, are the ones that this drug can have on your cognitive functioning.

A variety of studies have found that prolonged benzodiazepine use has contributed to numerous diminished cognitive abilities like:

  • Motor control/performance
  • Working memory
  • Verbal reasoning
  • General intelligence
  • Verbal memory
  • Speed of processing
  • Attention/concentration
  • Problem solving
  • Visuospatial reasoning
  • Nonverbal memory
  • Sensory processing
  • Psychomotor speed

When combined with the short-term effects described above, it's clear that benzodiazepines like Ativan are more detrimental to healthy functioning than many people realize.

As a result, it's absolutely essential that you do not abuse lorazepam and that you try to find other reasonable alternatives to staying on drugs like Ativan for long periods of time.

Like all other benzodiazepines, it is possible to overdose on Ativan and doing so can absolutely be fatal. As such, learning how to spot the signs of a lorazepam overdose will help you get the lifesaving help you or someone you care about needs.

The most notable symptoms of an Ativan overdose include:

  • Nightmares
  • Shakiness and an uncoordinated walk
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased sweating
  • Changes in patterns and rhythms of speech
  • Problems with muscle control or coordination like trembling
  • Unusual paleness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Excitement, nervousness, irritability, or restlessness
  • Trouble speaking

What's more, taking any benzodiazepines with alcohol, opioids, or any other CNS depressant can lead to severely diminished respiration and may result in complete respiratory failure.

If you recognize these signs of overdose then, seek emergency help immediately.

When it comes to what the Ativan "high" really feels like, it's similar to most other benzodiazepines in that users report more of a sedative effect than euphoria per se.

"It's not really a high," one Bluelight (an online drug forum and support group) user said. "More like a total loss of anxiety and inhibitions and just relaxing care-free."

However, many people will often use lorazepam with other drugs or alcohol to intensify their effects. As a result, these combinations can produce a variety of symptoms including:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Blackouts
  • Nausea
  • Lack of coordination
  • Diminished cognitive function
  • Poor judgement

It is important to recognize that mixing any substances with Ativan or any other benzodiazepine can be incredibly dangerous and even potentially fatal.

If you are looking for signs of recent lorazepam use in someone else, keep an eye out for these symptoms provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Slurred speech
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of coordination
  • Euphoria
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Slowed breathing and reduced blood pressure
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Drowsiness
  • Involuntary eye movements (nystagmus)

If you recognize most of these signs, it's likely that the individual has recently used or abused Ativan.


Can You Get Addicted to .5mg Ativan?

There is a common misconception that if you are only taking the lowest dosage, then it's impossible to become addicted to lorazepam.

What's more, many people also believe that you can't develop an Ativan addiction as long as you stick to the prescription.

The frightening reality, however, is that both of these are not necessarily true. In the first place, when you're abusing Ativan, even at its lowest dosage, you're actually abusing a drug that's much more potent than you may know.

For example, just 1mg of Ativan is equivalent to 10mg of Valium in terms of potency. If you're prescribed 3mg per day of lorazepam for anxiety then, that's equivalent to around 3 times as high as the highest recommended Valium dosage for the same condition.

What's more, not every addiction starts with purposefully abusing a substance. Even if you do follow your doctor's prescription exactly, you may still be at risk for developing a physical dependency. Addiction can, in fact, be accidental.

Am I Addicted to Ativan? 7 Signs to Look For

Knowing how to spot the signs of addiction to Ativan can be incredibly important in the battle for sobriety.

In fact, one of the most difficult steps on the road to recovery is the first one: admitting you have a problem.

Below, we take a quick look at 7 of the most noticeable signs of a lorazepam use disorder. For a more detailed look, be sure to check out the article, Seven Signs Addiction is a BIG Problem in Your Life.

  • You experience regular, powerful, and sometimes debilitating cravings to take more Ativan.
  • You've noticed that you have to take more lorazepam than you needed to before (tolerance) and you experience uncomfortable symptoms when you don't use (withdrawals).
  • You use Ativan (outside of your doctor's orders) to escape from unpleasant emotions or feelings like depression, stress, or anxiety.
  • You take a lot of unnecessary risks when it comes to using Ativan (e.g. operating heavy machinery, lying, stealing, mixing with other substances).
  • You've begun neglecting your other obligations like work, school, and family.
  • Your Ativan abuse is putting a strain on your close relationships or leading you to develop unhealthy ones.
  • You've noticed your physical or psychological health has suffered due to abusing lorazepam, but you continue to use it anyway.

If these examples hit a bit too close to home, you may be dealing with a serious Ativan substance use disorder.

The Unbearable Lorazepam Withdrawals

For many, detoxing from an Ativan addiction can be absolutely excruciating

Lorazepam abusers have described the process as "hellish" and a "daily nightmare." Part of this is due to the fact that symptoms of Ativan withdrawal can last for weeks, months, and even years on end.

The other contributing factor, of course, is the painfulness of the symptoms themselves which many people claim are even more unbearable than those associated with withdrawals from heroin addiction.

The list of withdrawal symptoms for lorazepam is a long one. Here are some of the most common symptoms you're likely to experience if you've developed an Ativan dependency:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depersonalization
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Vomiting
  • Psychosis
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating

While not everyone will experience these symptoms during their withdrawals, the severity and longevity of their addiction has a strong influence on which symptoms are felt as well as how intense they are along the way.

The Potentially Deadly Detox from Lorazepam

Another factor that comes into play that makes Ativan withdrawals especially intense is the fact that this process can actually end up being fatal. Whereas detoxing from other substances may bring about incredibly uncomfortable symptoms, benzodiazepines can actually end your life.

The mechanism of action for lorazepam is to intensify the effects of GABA. As the body acclimates to the consistent and long-term presence of a stronger GABA, it also boosts up the neurotransmitters that do the exact opposite – excite the brain rather than inhibit it.

When Ativan is removed entirely, GABA quickly returns to normal. The other neurotransmitters, on the other hand, don't switch back quite as quickly. The result is overpowered excitatory neurotransmitters with no inhibiting chemicals to hold them back.

Consequently, your brain may be launched into a chaotic flurry of electrical activity which can (and does) bring about a barrage of grand mal seizures which can end up being fatal.

How to Stop Taking Ativan Safely

Overcoming your lorazepam prescription medication addiction may sound tough, but with the right treatment plan in place and the proper knowledge to guide you, it is most assuredly possible.

One technique that addiction specialists will employ is to taper you off of lorazepam slowly, giving your body the time it needs to adjust to a significantly weaker GABA potency.

However, in order for this process to be effective, it needs to be tailored to your body's individual needs and tendencies. As such, it's absolutely essential that you take the steps necessary to find the right kind of help for your addiction to lorazepam.

Not doing so might just end up costing you your life.

Ativan: One Downer You Don't Want to Mess With

Although lorazepam is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the entire country, it belongs to a class of highly addictive and highly dangerous substances. Not only can benzodiazepines like Ativan cause quick and intense addiction, they also carry with them an excruciating withdrawal process that is long, painful, and potentially fatal.

In order to avoid the dangers of abusing this powerful and hazardous substance, it's crucial that you get the help you need to overcome your addiction to Ativan. Contact us today to get started.