Ativan Addiction – Ativan is the brand name for the benzodiazepine (benzo) lorazepam that is used to treat several disorders, including anxiety, epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal, and nausea or vomiting due to cancer treatment. Benzodiazepine drugs are commonly used to treat these kinds of disorders because they are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that work by attaching to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain and calming transmission between neurons.
Ativan and other benzodiazepines can also excite the reward system in the brain, which can result in dependence and addiction. Although these substances have a high potential for addiction, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Ativan and other benzodiazepines as Schedule IV substances because they also have several legitimate medical uses.
People who are prescribed Ativan are more likely to become dependent on or addicted to these substances. This is largely due to therapeutic exposure to the medication in combination with existing substance abuse and mental health issues like anxiety.
People who have struggled with substance use disorders in the past are more likely to struggle with abuse of benzos such as Ativan. This is especially true for those who have struggled with alcohol use disorders since benzodiazepines have similar effects on the brain as alcohol and are sometimes prescribed to relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Ativan is a short-acting benzo, and because the euphoric and relaxing effects abate after two hours, people who use this substance may soon become anxious again and feel the need to take another dose. This can result in a cycle of abuse and addiction more rapidly than with long-acting benzos such as Valium (diazepam).
People who use Ativan for recreational purposes rarely take this substance alone to get high. One study found that about 80% of benzo abuse was related to polysubstance abuse, most commonly in conjunction with opioid drugs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that up to 15% of heroin users also took benzodiazepines. Other studies revealed that people who struggled with an alcohol use disorder concurrently abused Ativan and other benzodiazepines. In many cases, this abuse begins as an attempt to mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Because Ativan is a CNS depressant, people who use other CNS depressants, particularly alcohol and opioid drugs such as heroin or oxycodone, might take this benzodiazepine to compound the effects of the other psychoactive substances. This circumstance is very dangerous, however, and can quickly lead to overdose and other severe physical complications.
Ativan Side Effects
Ativan is among the top 100 most prescribed pharmaceuticals in the world. Even when a person uses this benzodiazepine as prescribed, they can encounter side effects. Side effects are more likely to occur, however, or become more intense if the person has become addicted to Ativan and has been taking the drug in increasingly larger doses. Ativan and other benzodiazepines can produce several side effects, on both a short-term and long-term basis.
Side effects of Ativan may include the following:
- Dizziness or unsteadiness
- Excessive drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory depression
- Rebound anxiety or insomnia
People who use Ativan for insomnia may experience parasomnias, which include sleepwalking, eating, driving, or having conversations in one’s sleep.
Signs of Ativan Abuse and Addiction
When a person suffers from an addiction to any drug or alcohol, they will exhibit several symptoms, including changes in behavior and physical effects. When they try to discontinue substance use, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.
The effects of chronic Ativan abuse can include the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Disorientation or confusion
- Cognitive impairments, such as amnesia or memory loss
- Slurred speech or other symptoms that resemble alcohol intoxication
Once tolerance and dependence develop, the person will not feel the desire effects of Ativan, and the person using Ativan may increase their dose, either with or without their doctor’s permission. Withdrawal symptoms can also develop after just a few weeks of abuse and become worse when a person attempts to stop taking their medication “cold turkey.”
Ativan withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Rebound anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Restlessness and tremors
- Confusion and irritability
- Memory loss
- Numbness/tingling in extremities
- Abdominal cramps
- Heart palpitations or tachycardia
If the person stops using Ativan abruptly, the most intense physical withdrawal symptoms can take up to 10 days to subside. Rapid discontinuation of any benzo is dangerous and never recommended, and those who are dependent on them should only attempt to stop using them under medical direction.
Also, the discomfort of withdrawal when combined with cravings for the drug can lead to relapse in an effort to curb the unpleasant symptoms. This dangerous and potentially life-threatening cycle can continue indefinitely. For these reasons, medical detox is always recommended for benzo withdrawal.
Behavioral changes that may indicate an Ativan addiction include the following:
- Intense cravings for Ativan or other benzos
- Obsession with obtaining or using the next dose of Ativan
- Requiring more of the substance to achieve the original effects
- Choosing to use Ativan instead of participating in other important or enjoyable activities, such as school, work, family, or social functions
- Being deceptive about how much Ativan has been used
- Stealing to pay for more Ativan or doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Refilling prescriptions early or too often
- Spending a considerable amount of money acquiring Ativan
- Irritability, agitation, aggression, mood swings, and depression
- Denials that drug use is a problem despite adverse consequences
Symptoms and Signs of Ativan Overdose
An Ativan overdose presents with symptoms characteristic of a generalized overdose on benzodiazepines, which may include the following:
- Slurred speech
- Ataxia (impaired coordination)
- Stumbling or falling
- Hypotonia (decreased muscle tone)
- Respiratory depression
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Increased sedation
Users who have overdosed on Ativan may experience a profoundly decreased breathing rate and shallow breathing, as well as cardiovascular depression that could result in loss of consciousness and coma or death.
Treatment for Ativan Addiction
For people who suffer from an addiction to Ativan, it is vital to get help to overcome this disorder. Long-term physical effects can result in poor health, and behavioral changes can lead to a loss of social support and a variety of adverse life effects.
The best treatment to end an Ativan addiction is to taper the dose under medical direction until the body is no longer dependent upon the substance. This process should also include participation in a comprehensive rehab program.
Midwood Addiction Treatment employs a well-rounded approach to treatment that considers how factors such as lifestyle, environment, and physical and mental health play various roles in an individual’s addiction to drugs or alcohol.
By cooperating with you and your loved ones throughout the rehab process, we can prepare you for recovery by tailoring a program that features a complete continuum of care. This program will include evidence-based addiction therapy, individualized treatment, and aftercare planning services developed to anticipate the challenges you may face on your journey to long-lasting sobriety and wellness.
Our team of caring addiction specialists is dedicated to providing people with the tools and support they so desperately need to take back their lives from addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, contact us today!