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Ativan Abuse and Addiction

Ativan, a brand name for lorazepam, is a benzodiazepine (benzo) 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 insomnia and alcohol withdrawal.1,2 Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that slows brain activity.3 While Ativan is a legally prescribed drug, it can pose risks for individuals who do not use the drug as prescribed.

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


What is Ativan Addiction?

Drug addiction is the continued, compulsive use of drugs, including central nervous system drugs 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, in the United States is a public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.8 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused benzodiazepines in the past year.5


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.


What is Ativan?

Ativan is available by prescription for the treatment of anxiety disorders and anxiety related to other mental health disorders, such as depression.1 Is lorazepam a benzo? Yes, it is, and like other benzodiazepines, Ativan works to increase inhibitory signaling throughout the central nervous system—in other words, it diminishes anxiety by slowing certain brain processes.

Ativan activates the brain’s reward system by causing a rapid and substantial release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.1 Though achieved through somewhat different mechanisms, a similar increase in dopamine activity is associated with development of compulsive misuses of other drugs such as opioids and stimulants.1


Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan is a Schedule IV drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.7 Schedule IV drugs are drugs that have a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.7

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 long-term use of Ativan increases the risk of dependence, as does a history of drug abuse or alcoholism in patients as well as significant personality disorders. Those who are addiction prone should be monitored when taking lorazepam.1

Some individuals who draw therapeutic benefit from Ativan may begin to take it in excess of their prescribed dose, and this misuse can accelerate the cycle of dependence, compulsive use, and, eventually, addiction. Ativan is particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs that depress vital physiological functions, such as breathing.

Typically, benzos like Ativan should only be taken for short periods of time, and continuous long-term use is not recommended. If an individual stops taking lorazepam, withdrawal symptoms may occur.1

Is lorazepam addictive? Though it may not be considered as addictive as some opioid painkillers or illicit drugs, it 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. Make sure to seek help for yourself or a loved one for whom Ativan has become a problem.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ativan Addiction?

People who abuse Ativan for recreational purposes often seek its pleasurable side effects, including euphoria and pronounced feelings of calm and relaxation.1 Some factors that medical professionals may look for to determine if a person is addicted to Ativan include:8

  • 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 strong 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.
  • Experiencing tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms.

Ativan can cause a variety of negative side effects, which vary depending on the user and dosage. Some of these effects may include:1-3,6

  • Over-sedation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent urination, or constipation.
  • Nausea.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Slowed breathing, which can turn dangerous or fatal in cases of overdose.
  • Tremors.

If an individual reduces or stops taking the drug, Ativan withdrawal symptoms may include:1-3

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Unusual movements.
  • Shaking.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • A depressed mood.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea.
  • Blood pressure changes.
  • Memory problems.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Burning or prickling in extremities.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Losing touch with reality.
  • Seizures.

Seeking assistance from a professional rehab or detox center is the best way to help effectively deal with these potentially dangerous symptoms and ensure that you are as safe and comfortable as possible during the withdrawal period.

If taking Ativan as prescribed, individuals should work with their doctors to decrease their lorazepam dose gradually.2 People who experience withdrawal symptoms may start using the drug again just to alleviate their discomfort.


What are the Health Risks of Ativan Abuse?

A major potential health risk of the use of lorazepam, both alone and in combination with other CNS depressants, is fatal respiratory depression. Additionally, pre-existing depression may appear or worsen with the use of Ativan.1

Additional health risks may include:2,3

  • Severe skin rash.
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes.
  • Persistent, fine tremor.
  • Fever.
  • Irregular or increased heartbeat.
  • Lack of interest in life.
  • Thoughts of self-harm.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

There is also a risk of overdose with Ativan. Symptoms of overdose may include:1-3

  • Drowsiness.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Lethargy.
  • Hypotension.
  • Cardiovascular depression.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Hypnotic state.
  • Seizure.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Many deaths from misuse of benzodiazepines, like 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


How Do I Get Treatment for Ativan Addiction?

While it can be difficult to overcome an addiction to Ativan, it can be effectively managed.10,11 There is not one type of 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.12 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 and how it has affected you.12

These can include:10-12

  • 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.
  • Inpatient treatment typically involves a shorter stay at a facility—often around 4 weeks —with around-the-clock monitoring and care, intense group therapy, and individual counseling.
  • Outpatient treatment offers less intensive group and individual counseling while you live at home. This type of care allows 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 highly effective for treating addiction to hallucinogens, dissociative drugs, and other substances. 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 disorders at the same time as a substance use disorder, is generally more effective than treating these issues separately. 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 treatment programs and strategies available for Ativan addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. To learn more about Ativan addiction treatment, click here.


Sources

  1. Federal Drug Administration. (2016). Ativan® C-IV.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021). MedlinePlus: Lorazepam.
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Lorazepam (Ativan).
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly Used Drug Charts: Central Nervous System Depressants.
  7. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Scheduling.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5h ed.).Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Prescription Depressant Medications.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). The National Institute on Drug Abuse media guide.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction.

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