What Is Ativan?
Ativan (lorazepam) is a type of benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety and insomnia, but this drug can be addictive when not used as directed. If you think your loved one might be struggling with an Ativan addiction, learning more about this drug’s effects and the potential dangers can help you determine your next steps.
1. Ativan Is Only Recommended for Short-Term Use
Ativan is a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This puts it in the same class as commonly abused prescriptions such as Ambien (zolpidem), Ultram (tramadol), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Xanax (diazepam). Schedule IV drugs have an accepted medical use and are considered to have a lower risk of addiction than Schedule II or Schedule III drugs and a higher risk of addiction than Schedule V drugs. Prescriptions for Schedule IV drugs cannot be filled or refilled more than five times or more than six months after the date the prescription was issued—whichever happens first. These limits are in place to prevent patients from stockpiling drugs and to help ensure that individuals taking the medications are being properly monitored by their healthcare providers.
Because of the risk of addiction, the FDA recommends Ativan be used for no more than four weeks. Withdrawal symptoms can occur even after just seven days of taking the drug, and many physicians will only prescribe Ativan for two weeks at a time.
2. Addiction Often Begins With a Legitimate Prescription
As with other types of benzos, an addiction to Ativan often begins when someone is prescribed the drug for their anxiety or insomnia. After struggling to manage their mental health, they can find it hard to resist the immediate relief Ativan brings. They may eventually begin to take their medication more often, take a higher dose than what was prescribed, or combine Ativan with other drugs to intensify its effects.
People who abuse Ativan often visit multiple doctors or pharmacies to maintain a steady supply of the drug or buy the drug on the black market without a prescription. They may neglect their responsibilities at work or school, ignore personal relationships, and abandon hobbies or special interests in favor of spending more time abusing the drug.
3. Ativan Addiction Interferes with a Person’s Judgement
Abusing Ativan often leads to poor impulse control—especially when a person is also drinking heavily or mixing Ativan with other drugs. This can cause the individual to engage in actions that would be out of character, such as fighting, reckless driving, or having unprotected sex with multiple partners.
A 2018 study found that these types of inhibitory reactions are most likely to occur in individuals who have been previously diagnosed with learning disabilities or neurological disorders. People under 18 or over 65 have the highest risk. However, addiction doesn’t discriminate. Do not assume that a person isn’t vulnerable because they have no obvious risk factors.
4. An Overdose Is a Medical Emergency
Ativan tablets may contain 0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg of lorazepam. Most doctors will not prescribe a patient more than 6 mg of Ativan per day, and the maximum recommended daily dose is 10 mg per day. An Ativan overdose is considered a medical emergency.
Symptoms of an Ativan overdose include drowsiness, lack of coordination, blurred vision, slurred speech, confusion, and trouble breathing. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Ativan works by slowing down activity in the brain and nerves. At high levels, this can suppress the function of the brain and other vital organs. Overdoses are most likely to be fatal for teenagers, seniors, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. However, taking Ativan with alcohol, opioids, or other benzos increases the risk of a fatal overdose even if no additional risk factors are present.
5. Early Intervention Promotes a Lasting Recovery
If you think someone you love is struggling with an addiction to Ativan, don’t brush your concerns aside for fear of causing conflict in your relationship. Addiction is a serious illness that requires access to medical care. Your loved one will not get better without treatment, and early intervention increases the odds of a positive outcome.
Some people mistakenly believe that a person only needs treatment if they’ve experienced a “rock bottom” moment like getting arrested for a drug-related offense or suffering a near-fatal overdose. While it’s never too late to seek treatment, waiting only increases the risk of long-term negative consequences for a person’s health and well-being.
Waypoint Can Help
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we provide evidence-based care for men and women who have been diagnosed with substance use disorders—including an addiction to Ativan. Clients at our South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction residential treatment center have access to intensive individual, group, and family therapy with holistic support services designed to help build the foundation for a lasting recovery by addressing anxiety and other underlying causes of substance abuse. We believe that recovery is a journey, and we’re here to help our clients harness their strengths in order to reach their full potential free from the burden of addiction.