Ativan (lorazepam) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It’s used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and grand mal seizures. Benzos are central nervous system depressants that produce calming and sedating effects in the body. Unfortunately, Ativan carries a risk for tolerance and dependence that can lead to addiction.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan is the brand name for the generic drug lorazepam, which is a benzodiazepine. These drugs act as sedatives or tranquilizers. Benzodiazepines bind to GABA receptors in the brain, producing a calming effect. However, these prescriptions should be only for short-term use. Benzodiazepines, sometimes known as benzos, are essentially tranquilizers widely prescribed to treat anxiety, muscle tension, and insomnia. Benzos also help people relax before surgery or medical procedures. Benzos work on the central nervous systems and the neurotransmitter GABA to calm nerve impulses, which eventually helps calm anxiety. Generally, they produce a calming, well-being state that makes them addictive.
Tolerance to a drug can lead to addiction. At this point, someone will experience a compulsive need to seek and use the drug to function. Signs of Ativan addiction include:
- Irritability, restlessness, or depression when they can’t use the drug.
- Obsession over getting and using more of the drug despite consequences.
- A loss of control over how much Ativan they’re using at any given time.
- Isolation from friends and family members due to drug use.
- A deterioration in the quality of their work or school performance.
- A decline in physical appearance, hygiene, and grooming habits.
- Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
Side Effects of Ativan
Ativan has tranquilizing effects. Most users report feeling calm, serene, and relaxed. In some cases, it can cause sleepiness or drowsiness as side effects. By sowing brain and nerve activity, Ativan also affects your body’s functions and responses. Some side effects include:
- Loss of coordination
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision
- Change in appetite
Some infrequent side effects can occur, including:
- Vision changes
- Thoughts of suicide
- Unusual weakness
- Memory problems
- Signs of infections
- Trouble walking
If you notice any of these rare side effects in yourself or a loved one, call 911 immediately. These symptoms will often occur with yellowing eyes or skin, seizures, and shallow breathing.
How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?
Ativan is metabolized by the liver and eliminated from the body through urine. However, tests for Ativan can track the substance even nine days after the last dose. Here’s how long Ativan stays in your system:
- Blood—It appears in blood tests six hours after use. However, the detection window can go as long as three days after the last use, sometimes even longer.
- Urine—Because it is eliminated through urine, Ativan remains in the body for up to six weeks after last use. In this case, dosage and length of use play determining factors.
- Saliva—It can be detected in saliva samples, most of the time up to eight hours after the last use. However, saliva tests are not commonly used to check for benzodiazepines.
- Hair—Lorazepam can be detected in hair samples for much longer than other methods. Overall, hair tests can detect Ativan up to 30 days after the last use.
Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
You don’t need to be an addict to experience these symptoms. People taking Ativan daily for a few weeks can experience some withdrawal symptoms. Ativan withdrawal is uncomfortable. People taking Ativan under their doctor’s supervision for years don’t realize they’re dependent on the drug. When they want to lower their doses or quit Ativan altogether, they’ll experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Initially, benzodiazepines like Ativan were for short-term use. But, long-term use of Ativan for anxiety and insomnia became the norm. Taking Ativan for as little as three to six weeks, even at therapeutic doses, can cause physical dependence and mild withdrawal symptoms. People feel on edge for several weeks. Initial symptoms of anxiety can return, making the process more difficult. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Intense headaches
- Hand tremors
- Muscle aches
- Memory problems
- Difficulty to concentrate
- Panic attacks
PROTRACTED WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
In addition, anywhere from 10 to 25% of long-term Ativan users will experience protracted withdrawal. Also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), this involves milder symptoms that come and go for several months. Sometimes PAWS can occur for over a year. The most common symptoms include:
- Intense and persistent anxiety
- Difficulty performing complex tasks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of sex drive
Can You Overdose on Ativan?
While Ativan overdose is possible, it’s not a fatal overdose. Toxic levels of lorazepam usually don’t cause a deadly overdose. However, not addressing overdose symptoms like respiratory depression can cause death. Most people experience lethargy, uncoordinated behavior, and profuse sweating. Unfortunately, some people may combine Ativan with other substances.
Taking lorazepam while you drink alcohol increases the risk of respiratory depression. This could lead to coma and death. If any of these symptoms develop, call 911. The overdosing person must get treatment immediately. In addition, drug interactions may change how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. Some products that interact with lorazepam include:
- Sodium oxybate or GHB
- Opioid medications
- Other prescription drugs for sleep
- Muscle relaxants
Check the labels of all your medicines to verify any ingredients that cause drowsiness. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how to use these products safely.
Ativan Abuse Treatment Options
While Ativan misuse can lead to addiction, treatment is available. Because cutting cold turkey can be dangerous, it’s best to start with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and a benzo detox process to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Other treatment options include:
- Benzo Medical Detox—A clinically supervised detox process ensures the patient’s safety and makes the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible.
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment—Most people start taking Ativan for a mental health illness, such as depression or addiction. A dual diagnosis program helps address addiction and mental health disorders simultaneously to ensure a higher chance of recovery.
- Inpatient Program—The most intensive level of drug rehab. Patients remain living at the rehab facility and get the most hours of treatment throughout the week.
- Intensive Outpatient Programs—A form of drug rehab that offers more flexibility to patients seeking addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving.
- Outpatient Program—An excellent choice for patients with a dependence on the drug but not an addiction. At this level of care, patients visit the center to receive about nine hours of therapy per week.
Break Ativan Addiction at Lighthouse Recovery Institute
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, please know there’s treatment available. Remember, quitting potent drugs like benzos alone can be life-threatening. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side.
Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute at 866.308.2090 today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs. We look at each program on a case-by-case basis to cater to your needs to get better and walk towards recovery.