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Ativan Addiction

Your nervous system is a powerful force in your body. When there is an imbalance in your brain chemistry that causes your nervous system to become overactive, it can lead to several conditions and disorders including anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy. In fact, sleep disorders and anxiety are among the most common ailments in the United States, affecting millions of Americans. To combat these issues, doctors and researchers have developed a wide variety of medications that act as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, allowing you to relax and rest.

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are among the most common prescription medications because of their ability to facilitate sleep, ease anxiety, and relax muscles. They also can be used to treat conditions that cause seizures like epilepsy. One such benzo is called Ativan, and it’s often used to treat all of these conditions. However, benzodiazepines also come with a moderate-to-high risk of dependence and addiction. If you use the drug longer than recommended or if you abuse it recreationally, your body may become used to Ativan. It can also cause a dangerous overdose, especially when mixed with other drugs.

If you have been prescribed Ativan, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of dependence and what can be done if you do become addicted. Addiction is a serious disease, one that is both complex and chronic. But it can be treated. Learn more about Ativan addiction and what to do if you spot the signs.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is the generic name for lorazepam, a medication used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Lorazepam also can be used to treat epilepsy and seizures. In some cases, the drug is used to treat nausea and vomiting that is often associated with chemotherapy. Ativan is fast-acting and can begin working within five minutes with intravenous injections and 15 minutes in pill form. It also has a long duration of action, which means it can work for between 12 hours and 24 hours. This unique combination allows Ativan users to get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer, whereas many other sleep aids only help users get to sleep but doesn’t prevent waking in the middle of the night.

As a benzodiazepine, Ativan is a central nervous system depressant like alcohol and barbiturates. Drugs in this category suppress brain activity by binding to specific receptors in the nervous system and increasing the efficiency of a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). When this chemical binds to its receptor, it can activate anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), hypnotic, sedative, and muscle-relaxing effects. People with anxiety or sleep disorders may have a chemical imbalance that makes GABA less efficient or otherwise increases your nervous system’s excitability. Therapeutic use of a drug like Ativan can help correct that.

However, using benzodiazepines consistently for more than four weeks can cause you to become physically dependent on the drug. Dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be deadly without medical help. Ativan is particularly dangerous when it’s abused or combined with other drugs. Using high doses of the drug or mixing it with other substances that suppress the central nervous system can cause a dangerous overdose to occur.

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What Are the Signs of Ativan Addiction?

Ativan addiction is a chronic disease, but it is one that comes with apparent signs. First, you will begin to experience a growing tolerance to Ativan because your body is getting used to the drug. Tolerance may turn into dependence, which will feel like a need to continue using to maintain normalcy and avoid uncomfortable symptoms. Finally, addiction is characterized by the continued use of a drug despite clear consequences. If you lose a job, struggle in a relationship, or experience financial hardship because of Ativan and you continue to use, you may be addicted.

Addiction has various behavioral signs that friends and family members may be able to notice, including:

  • Lying about drug use
  • Doctor shopping to get more drugs
  • Isolating yourself
  • Loss of control
  • Loss of interest in normal hobbies and activities
  • Hiding drugs around the house

What Is Involved in Ativan Addiction Treatment?

Ativan dependence and addiction are both treatable, and even if you are diagnosed with a substance use disorder, you can still live a full life outside of active addiction. Through evidence-based therapies and treatment from experienced medical and clinical professionals, you can achieve long-lasting sobriety. Substance use disorders involving benzodiazepines often start at the highest level of care, medically managed intensive inpatient services or medical detox.

Ativan spilling out of a prescription bottle

In medical detox, your immediate medical needs will be treated. This will include medication to manage the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Your team of medical professionals will also monitor your health and avoid any life-threatening symptoms. Medical detox can also help you address other pressing medical issues whether or not they are directly related to your addiction. In detox, you will also work with clinicians that can help direct you to the next level of care you need after you complete detox.

There are three major levels of care after detox, including residential inpatient services, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services. The most common next step after detox is an intensive outpatient program where you will receive more than nine hours of intensive services every week. If you need more medical monitoring after detox, you may be placed in a residential program that can continue to provide 24 hours of care. Outpatient treatment represents the lowest level of care, but it can be a valuable step in helping clients reacclimate to normal independent life after treatment.

In addiction treatment, you receive a variety of therapy options based on your specific needs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment needs to be personalized to be effective. When you enter a treatment program, you should have an opportunity to sit down with your therapist to formulate a customized treatment plan.

How Dangerous Is Ativan?

Because Ativan is a prescription drug with a variety of medical uses, some may assume it’s safe to use in all circumstances. However, overuse can lead to dangerous side effects. It’s recommended to avoid using Ativan for more than four weeks at a time. However, it can cause dependence in shorter periods for people who are older.

 It also can cause a fatal overdose if it is abused in high doses or if it’s mixed with opioids, alcohol, or other depressants. During an overdose, Ativan can cause your breathing to slow down to the point of causing brain damage, coma, or death.

Benzodiazepines like Ativan can also cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If you have become dependent on benzos and stop using suddenly, you increase your risk of experiencing severe symptoms like seizures. In some cases, a condition called delirium tremens can come on suddenly and can be fatal without medical intervention.

Ativan Abuse Statistics

  • 30% of opioid overdose deaths involved benzodiazepines.
  • Benzo overdose deaths accounted for nearly 9,000 deaths in 2015.
  • Between 2005 and 2011, nearly 1 million emergency room visits involved overdose.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, September 15). Overdose Death Rates. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of Effective Treatment. from

Storrs, C. (2016, February 18). Benzodiazepine overdose deaths soared in recent years, study finds. from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2007, March). Ativan. from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2007, March). Ativan. from

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