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Can Ativan Cause Depression?

Although Ativan is a benzodiazepine often used for the treatment of anxiety, as well as anxiety as the result of depression, there is evidence that Ativan can sometimes increase depression. This is not a common effect, but it is possible.

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What Is Ativan?

Ativan (generically known as lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety disorders. Ativan has been shown to provide short-term relief of the symptoms associated with anxiety as well as anxiety that is brought on by depression. 

Ativan is available in the following forms:

  • Tablet
  • Capsule (extended-release form)
  • Solution

The use of Ativan is not recommended for individuals who suffer from primary depressive disorder or other mental health issues, such as psychosis. It is sometimes used to treat anxiety that may result from depression, but it is not used to directly treat depression.

Depression-related symptoms that could occur while taking Ativan include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Body pain
  • Lethargy
  • Poor mental focus
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Nervousness, restlessness, or irritability

It’s important to consult with an experienced medical professional who has knowledge of your medical history prior to taking Ativan. It’s also important to follow prescription guidelines in order to avoid dependency, abuse, and addiction to Ativan.

Breaking Down Ativan & Depression

A doctor will want to know if you have depression before prescribing you Ativan. It’s also important to consult with your doctor if you believe you have depression, and you are not undergoing any sort of treatment. Ativan worsens the effects of depression symptoms, especially in cases of depression that aren’t being successfully managed.

Using Ativan with other substances, especially alcohol, can also worsen depression. Healthcare professionals agree that alcohol use should be avoided when taking Ativan.

Both Ativan and alcohol can contribute to and cause central nervous system (CNS) depression, which alters and slows brain activity. In such scenarios, serious side effects may occur, which include drowsiness, poor mobility, loss of balance, and lack of coordination. The risks of experiencing these sorts of side effects are far higher when combining Ativan with alcohol.

Ativan-related depression is more likely to occur in individuals who use the drug recreationally and those who abuse the drug. Those who use the drug as medically prescribed are less likely to experience depression.

What Factors Can Impact Depression While Taking Ativan?

Sleeping more or less than usual can impact depression as can several additional symptoms associated with taking Ativan. The frequency of use and dosage amount are also major factors in the likelihood of experiencing depression while taking Ativan.

Since Ativan is a central nervous system depressant, it tends to build up in the body’s system over time. If Ativan is taken for prolonged periods of time and/or in higher doses, depression symptoms can often worsen, even resulting in suicidal ideation.

As stated previously, individuals who suffer from depression are generally not good candidates for Ativan. This drug can augment existent symptoms and induce new symptoms of depression.

A doctor may still prescribe Ativan to individuals with depression who are on antidepressants that do not have negative interactions with Ativan. Medications should be managed by a supervising physician to ensure no negative interactions occur. 

How to Properly Taper Off Ativan 

The most common methods for tapering off Ativan include dry tapering, micro tapering, and tapering strips.

Since Ativan is a benzodiazepine, the body may develop a dependency on this drug with extended use. In lieu of quitting cold turkey, Ativan users should taper off the drug. A tapering schedule that is managed by a doctor can ensure safety, reduce cravings, and manage undesirable withdrawal symptoms.

For individuals who have used Ativan for a prolonged period of time and in high dosage amounts, quitting cold turkey could produce intense withdrawal symptoms that require medical treatment. In some cases, these withdrawal symptoms could even be life-threatening.

In addition, tapering off Ativan will significantly reduce the chances of experiencing depression when quitting use of the drug. Do not attempt to taper use on your own. A doctor needs to supervise the tapering dosage to ensure safety.

The most common methods for tapering off Ativan include dry tapering, micro tapering, and tapering strips:

Dry Tapering Method

The dry tapering method entails limiting dosage amounts. This can be achieved by cutting pills into segments with doses getting smaller and smaller until abstinence is achieved. 

One downfall to dry tapering is that not all Ativan tablets are uniform. It is inaccurate to assume that each Ativan pill has the exact same amount of active ingredients per segment. Long-acting Ativan tablets should also not be cut into segments or crushed, as it can alter the effects and efficacy of the drug.


Micro-tapering entails limiting doses in extremely small amounts, often in micrograms. This method is also considered a form of dry tapering. Micro-tapering should not be used with long-acting Ativan tablets.

Tapering Strips

Tapering strips are available and consist of prepackaged doses of Ativan. This method is specifically designed to help people wean from the drug while cutting out the guesswork that comes along with dry tapering.

Are There Safer Alternatives to Taking Ativan?

When considering Ativan alternatives, it’s important to keep in mind why you’re taking the medication in the first place. If you are using Ativan for its anti-seizure properties, a medical professional needs to suggest any potential alternatives for you.

If you’re taking Ativan for anxiety or insomnia, holistic protocols could provide safer and healthier alternatives to taking medication. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet can go a long way in helping you to feel good. 

In therapy, you could learn coping mechanisms to help you deal with anxiety and stress. While it can take time to develop these skills, they can serve you for the rest of your life. 

Always consult with your doctor about your long-term goals regarding any medication use. They can help you develop a plan to wean off the medication and lean on alternative approaches.

Updated March 21, 2024
  1. Lorazepam. (November 2022). StatPearls. 
  2. Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. (October 2015). Australian Prescriber.
  3. Depression and Ways of Coping With Stress: A Preliminary Study. (November 2013). Medical Science Monitor.
  4.  Antidepressants Plus Benzodiazepines for Adults With Major Depression. (June 2019). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
  5. Depression and Sleep: Pathophysiology and Treatment. (June 2006). Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 
  6. Benzodiazepine Use, Misuse, and Abuse: A Review. (May 2016). The Mental Health Clinician.
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