Ativan (Lorazepam) Misuse and Addiction

Misuse of Ativan (lorazepam) and other benzodiazepines can be dangerous and life-altering. If you or a loved one are struggling with Ativan abuse knowing the risks can help protect you from harm. This page will explore what Ativan is, how it affects a person, the dangers of misuse, and how to get help if you need it.

What is Ativan and What is It Used For?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a fast-acting member of the benzodiazepine family of prescription drugs. Benzodiazepines are CNS depressants and are also known as sedative-hypnotics. Although overdose from benzodiazepines alone is rare, when mixed with other CNS depressants such as opioids or alcohol, overdose is much more common.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is very dangerous and, as a result, most benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term use for very specific purposes.1 Ativan is FDA-approved for outpatient use as a short-term prescriptions medication for anxiety disorders and anxiety symptoms including insomnia.1 As off-label use, Ativan is used in the hospital setting for:1

  • Anesthesia.
  • Treatment of ongoing seizures.
  • Relief of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, delirium, and other conditions.

Long and Short-Term Effects of Ativan Use

Despite its medical use, Ativan use can have unwanted side effects. Some effects may be felt immediately with the onset of the drug, but others may follow after years of chronic use. Some of the most common short-term effects of Ativan use are: 1

  • Sedation or fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness
  • Loss of balance or coordination.
  • Dangerously slowed breathing.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Constipation and urinary retention.
  • Overdose.

Long-term side effects of Ativan include a potential for physical dependence or addiction. If a person develops physical dependence, abrupt discontinuation or rapid dose reduction of Ativan use can cause dangerous and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

How Addictive is Ativan?

Of people aged 12 and older, 4.8 million U.S. residents (1.7%) misused benzodiazepines in 2020.4 Among those who misused benzodiazepines and other sedatives or tranquilizers in 2020, 1.2 million people had a diagnosis of a prescription tranquilizer or sedative use disorder.4 However, the majority (80%) of people who misuse benzodiazepines receive them from people they know instead of through a doctor’s prescription.5

A person’s risk for addiction to Ativan increases with:6

  • A personal or family history of substance use disorder.
  • Taking prescription opioids at the same time.
  • Taking high doses of Ativan and over a long period of time.

Signs of Ativan Addiction

Even though a diagnosis of addiction can only be made by a qualified healthcare professional, knowing the signs of Ativan addiction can be useful. If you recognize any of the signs or symptoms in your life or a loved one’s, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs of Ativan addiction (sedative or anxiolytic use disorder) include:6

  • Taking more Ativan or taking Ativan for a longer time than originally intended.
  • Being unable to cut down or control your Ativan use despite multiple efforts and an ongoing desire to quit.
  • Spending increasing amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from Ativan use.
  • Having cravings or very strong desires to use Ativan.
  • Continuing to have work, school, or home failures due to Ativan use.
  • Using Ativan despite the knowledge that it persistently causes or worsens relational or social problems.
  • Giving up activities you previously valued due to Ativan use.
  • Repeated Ativan use in physically dangerous situations.
  • Continuing to use Ativan despite knowing that it causes or worsens personal physical or psychological problems.
  • Developing tolerance to Ativan (requiring more Ativan to achieve the same effect as before, or having a lessened effect with the same amount of Ativan).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Ativan Withdrawal and Detox

If your body has developed a physical dependence upon Ativan, abruptly quitting or suddenly reducing your dose may cause withdrawal symptoms.3

Because Ativan is a short-acting benzodiazepine, acute withdrawal symptoms may begin as quickly as 6–8 hours after your last dose.6 Symptoms peak within two-to-three days, on average, and improve within a week. However, some people with Ativan dependence may experience an additional protracted withdrawal syndrome.3,7 Protracted withdrawal may continue 4–6 weeks after the acute withdrawal stage and can last more than 12 months.7

Acute Ativan withdrawal symptoms can include:3

  • Anxiety.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Feelings of depersonalization or derealization.
  • Depression.
  • Dizziness.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Digestive tract issues (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, change in appetite).
  • Headache.
  • Hypersensitivity to light or sound.
  • Insomnia.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Seizures.
  • Psychotic symptoms (delirium, hallucinations).
  • Mania.
  • Increase in suicidality.

Protracted withdrawal syndrome may include:7

  • Anxiety.
  • Impaired cognition.
  • Ongoing depression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sensory hallucinations.
  • Weakness, tremors, or twitches.
  • Ringing ears.

To minimize both acute and protracted withdrawal, medical detox is recommended for both safety and comfort.8 Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can be life-threatening.3

How to Quit Using Ativan: Treatment Options

If you or someone you love is struggling with Ativan addiction, Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas could be the place to start your recovery. With individualized treatment plans, Desert Hope offers many types of addiction treatment, such as:

  • Inpatient treatment: People who need more intensive care for their addiction may begin in an inpatient program. Desert Hope offers housing and healing through inpatient rehab in Las Vegas. Inpatient treatment can be helpful to cut ties to previous substance use triggers and start fresh.
  • Partial hospitalization program: Patients in our partial hospitalization program in Las Vegas, attend treatment at least five days a week, for up to six hours at a time. This more intensive form of outpatient treatment enables individuals to participate in a full range of therapy, peer support, and psychoeducation, while being able to return home at the end of the day.
  • Intensive outpatient program. Our intensive outpatient program in Las Vegas is part of the full continuum of care that Desert Hope offers. Individuals in this program can spend between 6 and 30 hours per week in treatment, three times per week. The flexibility of this program helps people maintain family and work commitments while still receiving robust care.
  • Outpatient treatment: Desert Hope’s outpatient program offers flexible treatment in a less intensive environment. People in this program can receive individual or group therapy, family therapy, and peer support, but in an outpatient setting.

Get Help for Ativan Addiction

It can be hard to take the first step toward recovery, but there is effective treatment that can support you on your journey. Call our admissions navigators at 928-238-3339 today for more information about our treatment program or additional resources for getting help. They are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about rehab admissions, handling the cost of rehab, using insurance to pay for rehab, and the process of enrollment.

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Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from most locations in the Southwest. We offer a full continuum of care that spans from inpatient medical detox and rehab to outpatient services and sober living. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Vegas or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.