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Ativan Overdose: Symptoms, Dangers & Treatment

Ativan, also known by the generic name lorazepam, is a prescription short-acting benzodiazepine medication that may be used to treat specific anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and seizure disorders.1 Although it has accepted medical uses, Ativan can be misused for its sedating and relaxing effects and if misused long enough, it has the potential to cause dependence potentially resulting in addiction.1,2

If you or someone you care about uses Ativan, you may want to learn more about the risks associated with use including Ativan overdose, and how you can get help if you suspect that you or your loved one might be misusing or struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) involving Ativan.

Can You Overdose on Ativan?

Taking too much Ativan, or other benzodiazepines, with alcohol, opioids, or other CNS depressant drugs, known as polysubstance use, may lead to significant and even potentially life-threatening respiratory depression which is characterized by slow breathing and can potentially lead to stopped breathing.3 An individual is more at risk of an Ativan overdose when other CNS depressants are used in combination with Ativan.3 Mixing Ativan with other depressants is a dangerous practice that can result in damage to the brain and other organs, overdose, and death.4

Ativan Overdose Symptoms

Everyone is different, so generally speaking, the signs and symptoms associated with an Ativan overdose can vary based on several factors, such as your weight and whether you use other substances.5

However, it’s important to be able to recognize the typical signs of overdose so that you can get help sooner rather than later; this could potentially save your (or someone else’s) life.

As with other benzodiazepines, Ativan overdose symptoms can range from mild to severe.6

Some potential signs of benzodiazepine overdose, including Ativan overdose, may include:2,6

  • Unusual dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Altered mental status
  • Ataxia (poor muscle control)
  • Respiratory depression (dangerously slowed breathing) or difficulty breathing
  • Stupor
  • Coma

An overdose is a medical emergency.2 Respiratory depression is one of the most serious effects of an overdose because it can lead to coma and death.7 Benzodiazepine overdose can be dangerous if a person doesn’t receive prompt treatment, so it’s important to act quickly and seek immediate medical attention.

Risk Factors for Lorazepam Overdose

It’s important to keep in mind that if you use street or illicit drugs, you can’t know for sure what substance you’re taking. Drugs that you purchase on the street are often mixed or cut with other substances, like fentanyl, so you could be using other substances without your knowledge, and this can increase your risk of overdose.4

Everyone is different, and not everyone will respond the same way to a medication or drug. As with other benzodiazepines, an Ativan overdose may be impacted by individual factors, such as:4-6

  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Your level of tolerance
  • The dose you use
  • Whether you use Ativan with other substances
  • Whether you have a history of trauma
  • Whether you have co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Whether you have stable housing
  • Whether you’ve had previous overdoses

Doctors take into account different considerations (such as intended purpose, your health, and other individual factors) to determine the correct therapeutic dosage for a person’s needs, so the amount of Ativan that it would take to cause an overdose in a specific person could also be affected by these same unique factors.1,8

Lorazepam Overdose Treatment

An Ativan overdose can be treated with prompt medical support and, in some cases, medication, depending on a person’s specific needs and situation.6

Treatment for Ativan overdose typically involves supportive care from medical professionals, which can involve breathing support via endotracheal intubation, if necessary, as well as administration of flumazenil, an overdose antidote that can reverse the effects of Ativan sedation.6

If you think someone is overdosing, even if you’re not sure it’s an overdose, you should treat it like it is, because you could potentially save the person’s life. In the event of an Ativan overdose, you should:4

  • Stay calm and contact 911 immediately.
  • Keep the person awake and breathing.
  • Place them on their side so they don’t choke.
  • Remain with them until emergency services arrive.

Getting Help

The best way to prevent overdose is to only take medication as prescribed, avoid polysubstance use, and be careful of any potential drug interactions if you take other medications or use other substances. If you take other substances, including other prescription medications, make sure to discuss your medication and substance use with your doctor.

If you or someone you care about is misusing Ativan, you should consider seeking professional help. This can not only potentially help prevent overdose, but it can also help you get your life back on track and allow you to begin the road to recovery. Addiction treatment is available and entering an Ativan rehab that uses research-based treatments can be an effective way to stop the cycle of substance misuse and take control of your health and wellbeing.11

Treatment can look different for everyone, and a treatment plan should be specifically customized for you.11 Ativan addiction can affect your entire life, so an effective treatment plan should take into account any of your specific medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs and concerns.11 In general, treatment may involve one or more of the following, such as:13,14

  • Detox, this can be the first step in the recovery process. It is designed to help you safely and comfortably withdraw from Ativan and other substances, help you become medically stable, and prepare you for further treatment.12 During detox from benzodiazepines, patients may receive a medication taper either from their current benzodiazepine or an alternative benzodiazepine with a longer half-life. Since Ativan is short-acting, you may receive a slow taper with a longer-acting benzo like chlordiazepoxide or clonazepam.
  • Inpatient or outpatient rehab, which can help you focus on recovery and provide education, support, counseling, and different therapies to help you attain and maintain sobriety.
  • Behavioral therapies, which are designed to address underlying issues and teach or improve skills that may help prevent substance misuse and relapse.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Continuing care, also known as aftercare, which may help prevent relapse and allow you to continue working on underlying issues that contributed to the addiction.

Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Ativan Addiction Detox

American Addiction Centers can help people recover from Ativan misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs). To find out if your insurance covers treatment at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.

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