Ativan Addiction and Treatment

ativan addiction

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Ativan, the name brand for the drug lorazepam, is a highly addictive, highly potent sedative. It is often prescribed for certain anxiety disorders, as well as other medical conditions.

What is Ativan?

Ativan, of the drug class benzodiazepine, is a strong sedative that is often prescribed for anxiety disorders, some seizure disorders, and it is occasionally used to help calm aggressive or violent tendencies in some individuals. It is relatively fast acting and is highly addictive. Because of this, it is intended to be used short-term and is not recommended for extended use due to its habit forming nature. It blocks the neurotransmitters of the brain from hyperactive mental activities. For example, patients can take the drug orally or inject via IV drip. As a result, benzodiazepine users will feel the effect of Ativan within two hours after intake. Additionally, it will take an average of 10 to 20 hours before the drug leaves the system. It should only be used under the direct supervision of a healthcare professional.

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Table of contents

How is Ativan used?

Ativan (lorazepam) is often prescribed for anxiety disorders, seizures, and other medical conditions. It is also prescribed to people with severe insomnia. Ativan is not intended for long-term use because of its potential for addiction.

What is drug addiction? Any use of Ativan against doctor’s orders, or without a valid prescription, is considered drug abuse. One should never take someone else’s prescription, especially those with a history of drug addiction or preexisting medical conditions.

Effects of Ativan

When used for its intended purposes, Ativan causes feelings of relaxation and calm. It helps to alleviate feelings of anxiety and panic and may loosen tense muscles caused by these conditions, or by another underlying medical condition or injury.

Those taking Ativan may feel drowsy, as the drug can also be given to those with extreme insomnia. It is a highly effective anti-anxiety medication, but due to the risk of addiction, it can only be given for a short length of time. Alternative medications should be explored to replace the Ativan once it is discontinued. Some addicts use Ativan for recreational purposes to get Ativan high effect.

Recreational use of the drug is against the law as it is considered as abuse.

Is Ativan addictive?

Yes, Ativan is an addictive drug. Ativan is a strong and fast-acting sedative used for anxiety and seizure disorders. The use of Ativan without a doctor’s prescription is considered drug abuse.

Long-term effects of Ativan are more troubling and pronounced. These can include:

  • Dependence (users require higher doses to achieve the same effect)
  • Appetite loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Frequent sweating
  • Withdrawal syndrome
  • Addiction
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred Speech
  • Impaired cognitive ability, severe cases of which may not be reversible even when the drug use is discontinued

When a user stops taking Ativan once he or she has become addicted, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and unsettling. They may include behavioral changes, such as aggression, severe anxiety, depression, panic, and seizures (especially in those who have an underlying seizure disorder).

Risk Factors

Anyone can become addicted to a prescription medication, even those with no prior drug use problems. Therefore, anyone who is prescribed Ativan is at risk for addiction. This is one reason why it should only be used carefully and under the direct supervision of a doctor or licensed medical professional.

Ativan addiction and abuse are more common among those with anxiety disorders, as this is what the drug is prescribed for. Although it is often doctor recommended, its effects become weaker with time, and those with severe anxiety may turn to Ativan abuse to keep symptoms at bay. Those in certain groups or situations may be more likely to abuse Ativan. Veterans, for instance, or anyone who has experienced trauma, may attempt to self-medicate to keep symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder under control. Professionals may handle workplace stress by abusing Ativan as well. Teens and college students might also attempt to use Ativan, either in combination with other drugs, or to handle the stresses of college life.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of an Ativan addiction include:

  • Daily intake of the drug, more than what is prescribed
  • Needing the drug to function normally during the day
  • Early symptoms of withdrawal
  • Inability to stop taking the drug
  • Mixing Ativan with other drugs or alcohol

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a person is addicted to a prescription medication like Ativan. There are some tell-tale signs to be aware of, however.

Ways to tell if one is addicted to Ativan:

Aside from the warning Ativan addiction signs above there are other ones:

  • Loses interest in being with friends and family
  • Has lost interest in personal hygiene and appearance
  • Begins getting bad grades or suffering poor performance at work
  • Seems overly tired, disoriented, aggressive, withdrawn, or irritable
  • Appears secretive or like he or she is hiding something
  • Begins using other substances, such as alcohol
  • Seems depressed or talks about self-harm
  • Often appears disoriented, confused, or staggers when he or she walks

Although these signs may not always point toward drug abuse (many of these symptoms can also be common with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety), one should speak to the loved one about potentially getting help for a drug addiction.

Keep in mind that Ativan is used frequently for suicide attempts, so anyone who is known to be taking Ativan and who seems depressed should be given the proper medical attention.

Ativan Statistics

The number of treatment admissions for benzodiazepine addictions tripled between 1998 and 2008.
Nearly 95% of all treatment admissions report the abuse of other substances in addition to Ativan and other benzodiazepines.
In 2009, almost 313,000 individuals using benzodiazepines were admitted to an Emergency Room – approximately 20% were under the influence of benzodiazepines only, and approximately 80% were under the influence of benzodiazepines and another substance.

Treatment for Ativan Addiction

In any case, if a person is suffering from Ativan addiction, the recommended treatment is inpatient or outpatient programs. These programs are designed to solve the addiction problem. Additionally, they will normally cover the detox phase, then, a series of private and group therapies as well as other programs. As a result, it will help the addict learn ways to cope with the cravings and avoid the trigger factors. Aftercare treatment is also given as part of the addiction treatment program. This is to ensure the addict will receive continuous support like counseling and regular therapies.

The treatment requirements for Ativan addiction are similar for other drug addictions. Users may not recognize that they have a problem at first, and no drug therapies will be fully effective until a problem is acknowledged. Once this has been done, there are numerous addiction treatment resources.

Peer support, support groups, and 12-step programs are all available for drug addiction. These groups usually provide peer support and accountability for staying clean. A group leader or counselor is usually available to help direct the group and provide a safe place for healing and sharing experiences while trying to maintain sobriety.

Outpatient therapy is another option which involves users seeing a counselor who has been trained in drug addiction one on one. Sessions usually start off at once a week or more and then slowly lessen until they are infrequent or as-needed.

Inpatient therapy is the most effective option for those with a true addiction. Drug rehabilitation facilities combine the best of peer and counselor support, but in a safe location where access to drugs is prevented. This helps patients truly detox and get intensive counseling every day to help prevent relapse.

View Sources
  1. Ait-Daoud N., Hamby A. S., Sharma S., Blevins D. A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2018; 12(1): 4–10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350.
  2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ativan Label.


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