Ativan Addiction

Ativan Addiction

Ativan Addiction, Symptoms, Withdrawal & Treatment

Ativan (lorazepam) is an anxiety medication often prescribed to help people feel calmer and relaxed. Lorazepam is part of a class of substances known as benzodiazepines, which affect the central nervous system, that includes the brain and nerves. If an individual takes Ativan for a long period of time, the  potential for misuse increases. Ativan is strong and fast-acting, and long term misuse could result in building a tolerance and dependence to it. Ativan Addiction is a very serious disorder. It is designed to help people with the symptoms of short-term anxiety and is not necessarily meant for long-term use because it has the potential to be habit-forming.

According to the piece ‘Ativan (lorazepam) Addiction and Abuse’, [1] benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs and they are used primarily in the treatment of anxiety but may also be used to treat panic disorders, seizures, insomnia and trouble sleeping. In some cases, benzodiazepines can also be used for anesthesia, sedation before surgery or medical procedures, muscle relaxation, withdrawal from alcohol and drugs, nausea, vomiting and depression. As stated by Medlineplus.gov, [2] this drug is also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy and side effects from cancer treatment. Ativan is extremely addictive, and because of how habit-forming it can be, as well as how potent and fast-acting it is, it’s not often prescribed for use for more than a few months at a time. The maximum period it’s prescribed to patients for use is about four months.

Ativan Addiction
Ativan is extremely addictive, and because of how habit-forming it can be, as well as how potent and fast-acting it is, it’s not often prescribed for use for more than a few months at a time.

Causes of Ativan Addiction

Ativan is very potent, even when compared to other benzodiazepines, which is why individuals who are taking it, even when it’s prescribed, have a higher likelihood of quickly developing a tolerance to it , which is one of the contributing factors to its high addiction potential. Because of that potency, withdrawal from Ativan can lead to intense withdrawal cravings compared to when people quit taking other benzodiazepines.

Individuals may think that if they take a very small does of Ativan, such as 0.5 mg, they don’t have the same potential of becoming addicted as someone who is prescribed a larger dose — but this isn’t necessarily true. Everyone’s body is different and because the substance is so potent, there is the possibility of Ativan addiction developing even while prescribed a smaller dose. [1]

Ativan Addiction Symptoms

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), in order for a person to receive a diagnosis of a Sedative Use Disorder, at least two of 11 symptoms must emerge within the same 12-month period. The criteria represent the physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of addiction. The following are the 11 DSM-5 elements as they would be applied to Ativan use: [3]

  • Despite initial intentions, the person takes too much Ativan or takes it for a longer period of time than expected
  • The person senses that there is a need to stop using or to cut down on Ativan use but is not able to do so
  • The person spends a disproportionate amount of time using Ativan, getting Ativan, or recovering after using Ativan
  • The person has cravings to use Ativan (or other benzodiazepine drugs)
  • Due to Ativan abuse, the person is not able to perform to the necessary standard at work, school, or home
  • The person continues to use the drug even though doing so is causing interpersonal problems
  • The person doesn’t partake in important work activities, hobbies, or social events due to the Ativan abuse
  • The person repeatedly uses Ativan even when doing so puts them in danger or at risk for a host of troubles (e.g., drugged driving)
  • The person continues to use Ativan even though it is causing or exacerbating an existing psychological or physical problem
  • The person develops a tolerance for Ativan. Tolerance is a natural process that requires a person to take more of a drug as time passes
  • The person goes into withdrawal when they stop using Ativan. Withdrawal is a natural process that occurs when a person stops using the drug or reduces the familiar amount of the drug used

Understanding the symptoms of a clinical diagnosis of a sedative use disorder is helpful, but it’s also necessary to know about the short-term side effects of Ativan or other benzodiazepine abuse. Side effects are essentially symptoms of Ativan use or abuse. As The American Addiction Centers [4] points out, in the piece ‘Ativan Addiction Symptoms’,  the following are symptoms that may be experienced if a person takes too much Ativan in a short time period or experiences an overdose:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Having a hard time breathing
  • Coma

Ativan Addiction Withdrawal

Over time, as people use an addiction-forming drug, the body habituates to it. This process of acclimation involves the biological processes known as tolerance and withdrawal. As people use a drug of abuse over time, they will need to consume a greater amount of the drug to achieve the familiar high. If or when a person stops using the drug of abuse, or significantly reduces the familiar amount, the body will go into withdrawal and different symptoms can emerge.

An article published by The National Library of Medicine, called ‘The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome’, [5] highlights the many symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. As the article notes, research shows that withdrawal from benzodiazepines tends to be more severe among people who either abuse high doses or short-acting variants.

Ativan Addiction
As people use a drug of abuse over time, they will need to consume a greater amount of the drug to achieve the familiar high.

As Ativan is a short-acting benzodiazepine, it is especially important to understand the possible symptoms that can emerge during withdrawal as well as the relevant timeline along which these symptoms may appear. In some instances, it may be challenging to differentiate between withdrawal symptoms and the symptoms associated with anxiety (the very condition for which people take Ativan).

When a benzodiazepine is short-acting, symptoms can appear quickly. The following are the most commonly reported symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal according to The American Addiction Centers: [4]

  • Panic attacks
  • Palpitations
  • Hand tremors
  • Dry retching
  • Nausea
  • Changes in perception
  • Headache
  • Muscle stiffness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Increased anxiety
  • Problems concentrating
  • Moderate weight loss

Typically, these symptoms emerge within 1-4 days of stopping benzodiazepine abuse. However, in some instances, a person may have a more prolonged withdrawal experience, which can last 10 – 14 days. In yet other instances, a person may experience such acute anxiety that this condition needs to be medically treated. Of those individuals who have a history of abuse of high doses of benzodiazepines, some may develop seizures or psychosis.

Ativan Addiction Treatment

The treatment for a person who suffers from an addiction must be personalized depending on the case, each individual has a different organism and a distinct way to respond to drugs. In the same way, every type of drug has its own issues. For example, a person with an addiction to Ativan (lorazepam) or another type of benzodiazepine isn’t going to have the same experiences or needs of someone who’s dependent on alcohol or opioids. 

Ativan Addiction
Group therapy sessions are a part of the inpatient treatment program for Ativan Addiction

When someone comes to a rehab facility with an addiction to Ativan, the first step is to assess them and determine whether or not they require a medical detox, and if so, what their levels of care will be during that detox. Medically supervised detox is a critical component of treating an Ativan addiction because, without it, the results can be dangerous or deadly. Withdrawal from Ativan can lead to symptoms that range from headaches and nausea to seizures and psychosis, which is why medical supervision is essential. This also provides the foundation on which the rest of treatment will be built, and many of the initial steps of recovery can begin during the medical detox phase. [1]

Once a detox program is completed clients can then move to other programs, which in many  cases involving severe addiction problems is to the residential inpatient treatment program. Some of the elements of Ativan (lorazepam) dependency treatment that may occur in a residential inpatient program include:

  • In-depth evaluation and treatment planning tailored to the individual
  • Constant supervision from the nursing staff
  • Meeting with a psychiatric care provider at least once a week
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Continual review of treatment and objectives
  • Individual therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Speciality group therapy with focuses like substance misuse, the 12-step program, and grief and loss
  • Aftercare and discharge planning

Reclaim your life from Ativan Addiction

Ativan Addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Ativan Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

Sources: 

[1] ‘Ativan (lorazepam) Addiction and Abuse’ – Therecoveryvillage.com

[2] ‘Lorazepam’ – Medlineplus.gov

[3] The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5)

[4] ‘What to Know About Treatment & Addiction to Ativan’ – Americanaddictioncenters.org

[5] ‘The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome’ – The National Library of Medicine (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)