What Is Ativan?
This medication is a short-acting brand-name prescription drug (also known by its generic name lorazepam).
Ativan is often taken for anxiety. It is commonly referred to as an anxiolytic, sedative, or tranquilizer. It is in the benzodiazepine class of medication, and it can be abused via prescription or recreationally.
As a matter of fact, many individuals are introduced to benzodiazepines (Ativan in particular) without ever having had a prescription for this medication. Ativan and other benzodiazepines are often used in conjunction with alcohol and other drugs.
Under normal circumstances, Ativan is utilized before surgical procedures, in cases of specific types of seizures (epileptic), to treat insomnia, or for acute agitation.
Ativan can be taken by tablet, via intramuscular injection, or intravenous injection. When used as an injection, it is generally injected prior to surgery to relieve anxiety. Most people who take Ativan use the tablet form.
Signs & Symptoms of Ativan Abuse
Ativan is often abused due to its powerful sedative effects. It is often misused with alcohol and other drugs in social situations, such as at parties, instead of as prescribed by a medical professional.
Ativan and other benzos can result in both physical and emotional dependence, which both fall under the umbrella of addiction.
Signs and symptoms of Ativan abuse include the following:
- Consistent lethargy or drowsiness
- Muscle pain
- Joint stiffness
- Respiratory issues
- Drug-seeking behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Inability to keep personal and professional obligations
- Using Ativan in combination with alcohol or other drugs
- “Swapping” Ativan out for other benzodiazepines, such as Xanax
In extreme cases, Ativan abuse can result in seizures, coma, or even death via fatal overdose.
Ativan vs. Xanax
Since they are both benzodiazepines, Ativan is often substituted for Xanax. Both medications are FDA approved and used for the treatment of anxiety. Both are equal in strength, and both medications exhibit similar symptoms in individuals who are engaging in misuse and abuse.
The main differences between Ativan and Xanax are duration and action. While Ativan’s duration lasts about eight hours, Xanax’s effects have a quicker onset and last about four to six hours. Xanax is more commonly known, especially among younger demographic groups, when compared to Ativan.
Although both medications are used to treat muscle pain, insomnia, seizures, and anxiety, it is rare that Ativan and Xanax are prescribed together.
Ativan interacts with many different drugs, including alcohol, aspirin, Ambien, Prozac, tramadol, Tylenol, and Zoloft, among others.
Ativan and other benzodiazepines are often abused with alcohol, which is not recommended. Symptoms of both substances can be intensified when they are taken together, including respiratory depression, drowsiness, blackouts, and coma.
Taking Ativan with alcohol can also result in overdose and death.
Other Drug Interactions
Ativan interacts with other sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and opioids. All of these drugs can cause elevated intoxication and either alleviate or exacerbate Ativan’s side effects.
Supplements & Herbal Remedy Interactions
Ativan can interact with dietary supplements and vitamins. Ativan also interacts with melatonin, causing intense sleepiness.
Certain herbs like chamomile, lavender, and valerian root interact with Ativan, also triggering excessive sleepiness.
Ativan can cause physical dependence in a short period of time (in as little as seven days). Only take Ativan as prescribed. Follow your doctor’s instructions when stopping use of the medication to reduce the likelihood that you’ll experience withdrawal.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Suicidal ideation
- Panic attacks
It’s important to only undergo Ativan withdrawal under medical supervision. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some circumstances. If you’ve been abusing Ativan or any benzo, talk to a professional before you suddenly stop using it.
Most individuals will process Ativan through their bodily systems in around five days. Metabolites used to break down the drug may stay in the body longer than a week.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be reduced by engaging in medically assisted detox. In some cases, medication is given during detox. In most cases, medical professionals will recommend a tapered approach to withdrawal, wherein the dose of the drug is slowly lowered to gradually wean off the medication.
Melatonin may be used to promote restful sleep during the detox process.
Ativan Abuse Treatment
Treatment for Ativan abuse should be multidimensional, consisting of medically assisted detoxification, an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, psychiatric care, and support groups. Ativan abuse generally necessitates long-term treatment solutions.
After detox, it is recommended that individuals who have abused Ativan or any substance engage in a comprehensive rehabilitation program. Treatment duration will vary from individual to individual, but NIDA recommends that it lasts a minimum of 90 days. Oftentimes, initial treatment is more intensive, and the level of care tapers as an individual gains a stronger footing in recovery.
Psychiatric care will also be based on individual needs. Most often, clients engage in both individual and group therapy to pinpoint underlying issues that led to substance abuse.
Any co-occurring disorders should be addressed simultaneously while seeking treatment for Ativan abuse. If other mental health disorders are present, you’ll want to ensure the program you choose is equipped to treat dual diagnoses.
Many drug rehab centers provide a variety of psycho-behavioral therapies, which include the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Contingency management interventions
- Alternative therapies, such as art therapy or adventure therapy
Support groups can be a critical component of ongoing aftercare in addiction recovery. Some 12-step groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Pills Anonymous, can be a continuous source of support for people in recovery. Group members have the opportunity to share their struggles with drug abuse and learn from the experiences of others.
In addition, lifestyle changes can support a healthy recovery from Ativan abuse. Engaging in a regular exercise regime, taking up healthy habits, exploring personal interests, and practicing meditation and mindfulness can all help to support your journey in recovery.
Building a well-rounded life in recovery with a solid support structure in place can decrease the likelihood of relapse following addiction treatment.
- Lorazepam. (February 2022). StatPearls.
- Efficacy of Combination Haloperidol, Lorazepam, and Diphenhydramine vs. Combination Haloperidol and Lorazepam in the Treatment of Acute Agitation: A Multicenter Retrospective Cohort Study. (March 2022). Pharmacology in Emergency Medicine.
- Benzodiazepines: Uses, Dangers, and Clinical Considerations. (September 2021). Neurology International.
- Characterizing and Identifying the Prevalence of Web-Based Misinformation Relating to Medication for Opioid Use Disorder: Machine Learning Approach. (December 2021). Journal of Medical Internet Research.
- Lack of Direct Involvement of a Diazepam Long-Term Treatment in the Occurrence of Irreversible Cognitive Impairment: A Pre-Clinical Approach. (December 2021). Translational Psychology.
- Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). (January 2014). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Benzodiazepine Use, Misuse, and Abuse: A Review. (June 2016). The Mental Health Clinician.
- Benzodiazepine Use and Misuse Among Adults in the United States. (December 2018). Psychiatric Services.