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Ativan Misuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Help

Ativan is a widely used prescription sedative/anxiolytic that, as with other drugs in the benzodiazepine class, unfortunately has some misuse liability, and such misuse can increase the risk of addiction.

This page will provide more insight into Ativan, its addictive nature, its effects, signs of Ativan addiction, how Ativan addiction is treated, and whether you can use your insurance plan to obtain Ativan addiction treatment and rehab.

What is Ativan?

Ativan, a brand name for lorazepam, is a benzodiazepine prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders and anxiety related to other mental health disorders, such as depression. It can also be used to treat status epilepticus (continuous seizures), to manage alcohol withdrawal, and as a preprocedural/preanesthetic sedative.1-3

Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine, and like other benzodiazepines it works to increase inhibitory signaling throughout the central nervous system. In other words, Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, meaning that it has a sedative effect that diminishes anxiety by slowing certain brain processes.3 While Ativan is a legally prescribed drug, it can pose risks for individuals who do not use the drug as prescribed.

What is Ativan Addiction?

Drug addiction is the continued, compulsive use of drugs, including medications like Ativan, despite serious negative consequences, such as health, work, school, and relationship problems.4 Addiction is a treatable medical illness that affects the brain and changes behaviors such as self-control.4

The misuse of benzodiazepines, including lorazepam, is a prevalent public health issue. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.8 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused prescription benzodiazepines in the past year.5

Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan is a Schedule IV controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act.6 Though Schedule IV drugs have a relatively lower potential for abuse and dependence than certain other drugs like opioids, these risks should not be overlooked.6

Though it may not be considered as addictive as some opioid painkillers or illicit drugs, Ativan does have a potential for abuse and is not recommended for long-term use due to its ability to cause significant physical and psychological dependence. Higher doses and longer-term use increase the risk of Ativan dependence, as does a history of drug abuse or alcoholism in patients.1

Non-medical misuse of Ativan—such as taking it in excess of prescribed dosing guidelines— can accelerate the cycle of dependence, compulsive use, and, eventually, addiction. Such misuse can increase the risk of adverse side effects, as well. Benzodiazepines like Ativan are particularly dangerous when mixed with opioids or other drugs that depress vital physiological functions, such as breathing.1

Is Ativan addictive? Though it may not be considered as addictive as some opioid painkillers or illicit drugs, it does have a potential for misuse and is not recommended for long-term use due to its ability to cause significant physical and psychological dependence. Make sure to seek help for yourself or a loved one for whom lorazepam abuse and benzo addiction has become a problem.

Ativan Addiction Symptoms & Warning Signs

As the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder involving benzodiazepine misuse, some signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes that medical professionals may look for to evaluate for Ativan addiction include:7

  • Taking Ativan for a longer time or in higher doses than originally intended.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop or cut down on Ativan use, despite a strong desire to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time and energy trying to obtain Ativan.
  • Feeling a strong desire or cravings to use the drug.
  • Failing to meet obligations at work, school, or home due to Ativan use.
  • Continuing to use Ativan despite the negative interpersonal or social problems caused by drug use.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed activities in order to use Ativan.
  • Repeatedly using Ativan in physically dangerous situations, such as while driving or operating machinery.
  • Continuing to use despite knowing that you have a physical or psychological problem that is caused or made worse by Ativan use.
  • Developing tolerance to the effects of Ativan.
  • Experiencing Ativan withdrawal symptoms when use slows or stops.

Potential Adverse Effects of Ativan Use

Ativan is associated with a variety of side effects, which vary depending on the user and dosage. Misuse of a drug like Ativan can increase the risk for and severity of these effects, including:1-3,8

  • Over-sedation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Slowed breathing, which can turn dangerous or fatal in cases of overdose.

In addition to these potential side effects of use, Ativan misuse can lead to significant physiological dependence and the onset of a potentially severe withdrawal syndrome when use of the drug stops.

In cases of significant physical dependence, should an individual suddenly reduce or altogether stop taking the drug, Ativan withdrawal symptoms may include:1-3

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Depression and dysphoria.
  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and other stimuli.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Agitation.
  • Tremor.
  • Seizures.

Checking Your Insurance Benefits 

If you are looking for lorazepam addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.

Overdose Risks with Ativan Misuse

Another potential health risk with the misuse of lorazepam, both alone and in combination with drugs like opioids, alcohol, or other CNS depressants, is overdose toxicity, pronounced respiratory depression, and death.

The signs and symptoms of a benzodiazepine overdose may include:1-3

  • Marked over-sedation or drowsiness.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Loss of motor coordination.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Lethargy.
  • Hypotension.
  • Cardiovascular depression.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Many deaths from misuse of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam result from combining those drugs with other drugs, including an opioid or alcohol.9 Predominantly, Ativan overdose occurs when it is combined with alcohol and other drugs.1

Getting Help

While it can be difficult to struggle with an addiction to Ativan, recovery is possible.10,11 There may not be just one treatment approach, facility, or program that is suitable for everyone.10 Addiction treatment should address both your substance abuse and the various ways it has negatively impacted your life, including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.10,11

There are various types of treatment options available to address the wide range of needs that people experience.11 Programs typically provide an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs. They often use a combination of different techniques to address your addiction to lorazepam and how it has affected you.11

These can include:10,11

  • Inpatient or residential treatment, where you live at a facility, and receive care and/or support around the clock. This is a structured setting with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions.
  • Outpatient treatment settings provide a similar (though often less time-intensive) range of therapeutic interventions, including group and individual counseling; however, you live at home (or other sober residence) outside of treatment hours. Should this be an appropriate level of care, this type of treatment may allow some more flexibility for you to work, attend school, and participate in daily life while learning how to adjust to stressors and receiving the support of peers and staff.
  • Behavioral therapy in a group, individual, and/or family settings is a cornerstone of addiction recovery. These techniques can help you learn how to stay sober, improve your relationships with others, cope with stress in healthy ways, and participate in positive activities.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders, which addresses mental health issues such as anxiety at the same time as a substance use disorder, may improve treatment outcomes. Therapy, medications, and other supportive services are commonly utilized in this type of treatment.

If you are seeking Ativan treatment in the United States, you have a wide array of options including private rehab facilities, state-run treatment facilities, and local treatment programs. There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bond, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.

Where Can I Learn More about Treating Ativan Addiction?

For more information about Ativan abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for Ativan abuse treatment.

There are various programs and strategies available for Ativan addiction treatment, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. Ativan misuse or addiction will likely only worsen over time, so don’t wait to get the help you or your loved one needs to begin on a path toward recovery.

Ativan Misuse and Addiction FAQs

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