Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

What are the Dangers of Ativan Addiction and How is It Treated?

Key Takeaways

What is Ativan?

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam and is a prescription medication that belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. It enhances the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which slows down brain activity and produces a calming effect.

This makes it a helpful tranquilizer and sedative drug for managing anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions.

Physicians typically prescribe Ativan for short-term use only. Taking the drug over an extended period can result in addiction. It can also cause various negative side effects.

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Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan is a highly addictive drug, and some people use it recreationally. They might crush and snort pills or mix the drug with alcohol to amplify its effects.

In larger doses, Ativan causes a high similar to that of alcohol. It can lead to intense relaxation, euphoria, and sedation.

Is Ativan a Controlled Substance?

Yes, Ativan is a controlled substance. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies all benzodiazepines, including Ativan, as Schedule IV drugs.

Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse. However, they can lead to psychological or physical dependence when you use them over an extended period. Other examples of controlled substances in this category include Valium and Xanax.

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Physical and Behavioral Signs of Ativan Abuse

People who misuse Ativan may exhibit physical and behavioral signs. If you notice any of these physical and behavioral indications, addressing them and seeking help is essential. Early intervention can prevent further damage due to Ativan use.

These signs include:

Physical Signs 

Symptoms of Ativan abuse vary from person to person. However, you can look for these common signs if you suspect someone of abusing the drug:

  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination or motor skills
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Changes in appetite or weight loss/gain
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Slowed breathing rate

Behavioral Signs

People who start abusing drugs often behave differently. Some behavioral signs of Ativan abuse include:

  • Slowed response time
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Neglecting responsibilities or interests
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Taking higher doses of Ativan or taking it frequently
  • Taking the drug to cope with stress
  • Combining the drug with other substances like alcohol

Who Is at Risk for Ativan Addiction?

Anyone can develop an addiction to Ativan. However, there are some factors that increase your risk.

These risk factors include:

  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Family history of substance use disorder
  • Mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Taking high doses or using them for extended periods

People with a severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, may be more at risk of developing Ativan addiction. This is because they often experience heightened emotional distress and may turn to drugs and medications for relief.

What are the Risks of Ativan Abuse?

Ativan is relatively safe when used correctly. However, you increase the following risks when you take this drug and drink alcohol simultaneously:

  • Breathing problems and respiratory failure
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Sedation
  • Memory problems
  • Coma

Ativan can also trigger side effects when you mix it with other drugs. Consult your doctor to confirm what you can and can’t take with your Ativan treatment.

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What are the Long-Term Risks of Ativan Dependence?

Long-term drug abuse can lead to symptoms similar to those any drug-dependent person would experience. Some of the potential long-term implications of Ativan dependence include:

  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Changes in appetite and weight gain/loss
  • Cardiovascular problems such as low blood pressure and heart attack
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Memory loss and cognitive decline
  • Strained relationships with family and friends due to behavioral changes caused by drug abuse
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Financial problems due to spending money on obtaining and using Ativan

How Do You Safely Stop Using Ativan?

It’s essential to seek medical supervision when stopping the use of Ativan. Stopping abruptly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and potentially life-threatening complications like seizures.

A doctor may gradually decrease the dosage over several weeks or months to minimize withdrawal effects. They may also prescribe other medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

It’s crucial to follow a doctor’s instructions and not to try quitting without medical supervision. Otherwise, you may face severe withdrawal symptoms and potential relapse.

What Are the Treatment Options for Ativan Abuse?

There are no FDA-approved medications for treating an addiction to benzodiazepines like Ativan. However, therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and group therapy are effective in treating Ativan abuse.

In severe cases, detoxification under medical supervision may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psychotherapy technique that identifies and changes negative thoughts and behaviors of drug abuse. It aims to help you develop healthier coping mechanisms and address underlying issues that may contribute to substance abuse.

CBT can help you manage drug cravings and prevent relapse by teaching you the following skills:

  • Stress management
  • Problem-solving
  • Developing a support network
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a treatment approach that involves talking to a therapist about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can help you address mental health issues contributing to Ativan abuse or addiction.

Individual psychotherapy sessions allow for personalized treatment based on your needs and goals. Some forms of psychotherapy used to treat Ativan abuse include:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a treatment approach that involves attending sessions with other people also seeking treatment for Ativan abuse. It allows you to receive support from others in similar situations and provides a sense of community.

Group therapy can also help you develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve social skills. It’s best suited for those comfortable sharing their experiences with others and participating in group discussions.

Detoxification

In cases of severe Ativan dependence, detoxification may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. This process involves gradually reducing the dosage of Ativan until it’s no longer required under medical supervision.

Detoxification can take several days to weeks, depending on the severity and duration of Ativan use. It’s essential to undergo detoxification under medical supervision to manage any potential complications that may arise, such as seizures.

12-Step Programs

12-step programs are support groups that use a spiritual approach to help you overcome drug addiction. They’re based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and provide a structured program for recovery.

Some well-known 12-step programs for addiction to benzodiazepines include:

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Pills Anonymous (PA)
  • Co-dependents of Narcotics Anonymous (CoDA)

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are treatment options that follow primary rehabilitation for Ativan abuse. They provide ongoing support and assistance to prevent relapse and help you maintain long-term sobriety.

Some common aftercare programs include:

  • Sober living houses
  • Support groups, such as SMART Recovery or Women for Sobriety (WFS)
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Outpatient treatment programs

Alternative Therapies

Aside from traditional treatment options, alternative therapies and approaches can help manage anxiety and insomnia without medication. These include:

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback therapy

These non-pharmacological therapeutic approaches can relieve and improve your overall well-being. They can also complement traditional treatment methods and techniques for Ativan abuse, providing a holistic approach to recovery.

Additional Resources for Ativan Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with Ativan abuse or addiction, resources are available to help you recover. Some organizations you can look up include:

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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