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Signs of Ativan Use & Abuse

Signs of Ativan use include drowsiness, lethargy, calmness, and relaxation. Signs of Ativan abuse include using Ativan in any way that is not as prescribed, mood swings, odd sleep patterns, and failing to meet obligations due to Ativan use.

Struggling with Ativan Addiction? Get Help Now

Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine medication prescribed to manage anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and status epilepticus (seizures that last longer than five minutes. [1] Although Ativan has legitimate medical use, it also has the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. It’s important to know how to recognize signs of Ativan abuse or misuse so you can help a friend or family member get the help they need. [1],[2]

What is Ativan Abuse?

Ativan abuse or misuse refers to using the medication in a way other than prescribed by a doctor. Examples of Ativan abuse include:

Some Ativan misuse may not be intentional, such as someone accidentally taking two doses. Other forms of Ativan misuse are done to get high and feel the desirable effects like euphoria and relaxation. This form of Ativan abuse is risky because it can cause many mental and physical health effects and also lead to addiction.

Signs of Ativan Abuse

If someone you care about is abusing Ativan, you may notice the following signs:[1],[2], [3]

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired attention and memory
  • Stupor
  • Coordination problems
  • Unsteady gait
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Inability to wake them easily
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inappropriate aggressive or sexual behavior
  • Agitation
  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes)
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Appetite changes
  • Erectile dysfunction

Other signs may be specific to how the person uses Ativan. For example, taking the pills orally has different signs than injecting or snorting.

Signs of Injecting Benzodiazepines

If someone you love is crushing Ativan, absorbing it in liquid, and injecting it, you may notice the following signs: [3]

  • Track lines
  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses
  • Puncture marks
  • Cellulitis
  • Scars

Signs of Snorting Drugs

People who crush and snort Ativan may experience some adverse effects you may notice, such as: [3]

  • Nose bleeds
  • Sinusitis
  • Perforated nasal septum

Other Noticeable Signs of Ativan Misuse

Other signs of Ativan misuse or abuse may include:

  • Doctor shopping, or your loved one seeing many different physicians to get extra prescriptions
  • Empty pill bottles in their room
  • Exhibiting secretive behavior
  • Lying about where they are going or who they are spending time with
  • Becoming defensive if you express concern

Recognizing Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

Another tell-tale sign of Ativan abuse is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when your loved one is unable to obtain Ativan or other benzodiazepines. Either that, or they may be attempting to control or quit their use without telling you. 

But once someone is dependent on this benzodiazepine, quitting Ativan cold turkey can result in painful and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as:[2],[3]

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hand tremors and shakiness
  • Nause and vomiting
  • Rapid, purposeless movements like fidgeting or pacing
  • Hallucinations, delirium, or psychosis
  • Grand mal seizures

These symptoms may last a few hours or a few days, depending on when your loved one is able to obtain more Ativan or benzos. You may also notice a cycle of Ativan intoxication and Ativan withdrawal in which they go back and forth between these two states.

Grand mal seizures can be life-threatening. If you witness your loved one experiencing a seizure, call 911 immediately and stay by their side until first responders arrive.

How to Recognize an Ativan Addiction

Your loved one may be struggling with an Ativan addiction if they exhibit at least two of the following signs and symptoms: [3]

  • Taking higher or more frequent doses than intended
  • Wanting to quit but unable to do so
  • Spending a considerable amount of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of Ativan
  • Experiencing strong cravings for Ativan
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities due to Ativan use
  • Continuing to use Ativan despite interpersonal or social issues caused by use
  • Neglecting hobbies or important activities because of Ativan use
  • Using Ativan in dangerous situations, such as while driving
  • Continuing to use Ativan despite the physical and psychological issues it causes or worsens
  • Experiencing tolerance, meaning they need higher and higher doses to get high
  • Becoming dependent, meaning they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit

How to Help a Loved One Get Ativan Addiction Treatment

When approaching your loved one about their Ativan abuse or addiction, there are a few things to remember:

  • Always be compassionate and nonjudgmental when talking to them about their Ativan misuse
  • Come from a place of care and collaboration, offering to help them find a rehab program
  • Avoid shaming and blaming language
  • Emphasize the ways in which their Ativan use has affected you
  • If they become defensive or angry, don’t press the issue—wait for them to de-escalate
  • Take care of yourself by seeing a therapist and engaging in self-care

If your friend or family member agrees to seek out professional help, here are a few settings to consider:

  • Medical detox: This is the first step on the continuum of care where your loved one can receive professional supervision and treatment during Ativan withdrawal to prevent complications.
  • Inpatient rehab: They will live at the facility for between 30 and 90 days, receiving around-the-clock support and care.
  • Partial hospitalization: They live at home and attend therapy for up to 30 hours per week.
  • Intensive outpatient: They live at home and attend counseling for between 9 and 20 hours per week.
  • Standard outpatient: They live at home and attend a few hours of treatment each week.

The right setting for your loved one depends on their needs, the severity of their Ativan addiction, their insurance coverage, and more.

Ativan Abuse FAQs

Is Ativan addictive?

Yes, Ativan is a very addictive benzodiazepine. Regular misuse and abuse can lead to tolerance, physiological dependence, and addiction.

Can you overdose on Ativan?

Although it is rare to overdose on Ativan by itself, overdose can occur. Ativan overdose is far more likely to occur when mixing Ativan with alcohol or other CNS depressants, especially opioids.

What happens if you take Ativan every day?

Regular use of Ativan or any benzodiazepine can quickly result in physical dependence. If you stop taking it suddenly, withdrawal symptoms will likely occur, and some of these may be very dangerous. Always consult a doctor before stopping use.

How long does it take to get off Ativan?

If tapering off Ativan after regular use, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to fully taper off this benzo. A doctor should supervise your tapering schedule, ensuring you don’t experience withdrawal symptoms along the way and ensuring your overall safety.

What are the signs of Ativan abuse?

The biggest sign of Ativan abuse is using the drug in any way other than as prescribed. This means taking it without a prescription, taking it more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed, mixing it with other substances like alcohol, and taking it in any form or method that is not as prescribed (such as crushing and snorting it).

Is Ativan legal?

Ativan is legal in the United States and has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of anxiety disorders as well as for the short-term relief of anxiety.

Updated March 21, 2024
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