Lorazepam, otherwise known as Ativan, is among the top 100 most popular prescription drugs. Since so many medical professionals make use of the drug, someone may doubt if there are any risks associated with its use.
If you are wondering about Ativan addiction and the ways of treatment, this blog may help you understand the substance and how to handle it a bit better.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan/lorazepam belongs to a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines and is used to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures. It is also used as medicine right before a person undergoes anesthesia.
Properties of Benzodiazepines Like Ativan
Around 30.5 million people used benzodiazepines in the United States in 2016. What makes them so popular? Benzodiazepines share common properties which make them popular in the use for anxiety disorder, seizures, and insomnia. These properties include the following:
- They cause inhibition in behavior
- They oppose epileptic activity that is chemically induced, making them anticonvulsants
- They are sedative, meaning that they are hypnotic and can decrease spontaneous behavior
- They impair motor activity, making them muscle relaxants
How Does Ativan Work?
A neurotransmitter known as GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is responsible for sending relaxing messages from the brain to the body. It can reduce activities in areas of the brain that enable things like emotion, memory, breathing, or reasoning.
Benzodiazepines like Ativan are central nervous system depressants. They attach to GABA and heighten their effects, relaxing a person’s muscles or making someone feel sleepy or less anxious.
Usually, anxiety occurs with overstimulation in the brain. Taking Ativan will cause the brain to send opposing messages to the overstimulation.
What are the possible side effects of Ativan?
Taking Ativan may cause side effects that include but are not limited to the following:
- Unusual changes in mood
- Confusion, restlessness, and aggression
- Vision changes
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Lack of balance
- Memory problems
- Stomach pain
Ativan Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
You or a loved one may be prescribed lorazepam for anxiety. But can an Ativan addiction start? How much Ativan can cause addiction?
It is very common for people who use drugs according to their prescribed dosage to be unaware that they can become addicted. In the case of Ativan use, tolerance – taking it over a long time and in greater doses to achieve the same effect – is one cause of physical and psychological Ativan dependence.
This can easily cause Ativan abuse, where someone may obtain multiple prescriptions from many doctors to gain more of it or engage in other addiction-driven behavior. The misuse of prescription drugs is very common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 4.8 million people misused benzodiazepines from 2019 to 2020.
Is 1mg of Ativan a day addictive?
Most prescription drugs are considered safe when not taken in excessive doses.
Ativan is designed to treat anxiety usually in a dosage between one and four milligrams. It is unlikely for an Ativan addiction to develop when taking small doses over a short amount of time. However, if someone has underlying substance abuse and mental health issues, addiction or abusing Ativan could still come about.
One milligram a day may be a small prescribed dosage, but if taken for a long time it may cause a person to develop tolerance and hence take more Ativan than their original dose. It is always best to reach out to addiction treatment services if you are unsure about addiction.
Is it OK to take Ativan every day or for long-term use?
Ativan and other benzodiazepines are considered unsafe if they are not taken for a short period of time. It is therefore not recommended to take Ativan for long-term use. A benzodiazepine like Ativan can produce addiction even when used as prescribed.
A standard dose will usually have effects that last between ten and twenty hours, classified as an intermediate-duration drug with high potency. This is why it is not prescribed for use for over four months.
Using it every day for more than two weeks can already cause physical dependence, and people who abuse benzodiazepines will have a greater risk for painful withdrawal symptoms when stopping it.
Warning signs of Ativan addiction take various forms. The symptoms of addiction vary depending on the amount of substance use, the length of time they have taken it, and how the substance use takes place.
Prescription drug abuse can result in many dangerous side effects that can be life-threatening.
Some Ativan abuse symptoms are close to the side effects of taking Ativan, but others can also include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Stealing or borrowing Ativan from others
- Overconsumption and hence over-sedation
- Co-occurring disorders such as depression, panic attacks, sleep disorder, insomnia, anxiety disorders
- Social withdrawal from events or situations
- Violent behavior
- Impaired judgment
- Doctor shopping (changing doctors in order to gain multiple prescriptions for more Ativan)
- Avoiding addressing financial commitments
Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
Abruptly stopping the use of benzodiazepines like Ativan after using it over a few months can cause a person’s body to react. It will have built up a significant physical dependence as well as a psychological dependence and upon stopping, may present someone with uncomfortable or even painful symptoms.
It will also depend if a person suffers from polydrug abuse, causing their withdrawal symptoms to be much more intense and calling for addiction treatment for both substances. Someone who suffers from alcohol abuse should be very cautious when taking any prescription medication, as they easily run the risk of an overdose.
Symptoms of Ativan or lorazepam withdrawal can appear in the following ways:
- Trouble sleeping
- Body aches and pains
- Convulsions or seizures
- Shortness of breath
- Intensive rage
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood pressure changes
- Rapid heart rate
As benzodiazepine withdrawal can be very severe, it is important that someone does not stop taking lorazepam suddenly or abruptly, but rather gradually over time. It may be better to consider addiction treatment programs than to attempt quitting at home, even if a person used a substance according to prescription dosage.
Does Ativan Cause Permanent Memory Loss?
When used for longer than a few months, benzodiazepines are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. Among elderly populations, Ativan abuse can cause a cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Memory loss is one of the side effects of Ativan abuse, and even though most of the issues related to cognitive ability can be restored when someone stops abusing Ativan, some people may experience a permanent cognitive impairment.
The way in which Ativan/lorazepam is used determines how much risk someone runs for something like dementia or Alzheimer’s to develop. A smaller dose over a shorter duration decreases the risk, while if someone were to abuse Ativan over many months, they have an increased chance of memory impairments.
Does Ativan Cause Rebound Anxiety?
Undergoing benzodiazepine withdrawal includes what is known as rebound effects. This is when physical and psychological symptoms that Ativan use is supposed to treat, return. It often returns in greater intensity.
One of these is anxiety. Someone may have started using Ativan for treating anxiety, and in turn, their anxiety may appear as a temporary side effect. This short-term symptom can intensify and develop into a long-term withdrawal symptom which can continue for many months after the use of Ativan.
A person may then have to deal with an anxiety disorder.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
At present, there is no addiction medicine designed to treat benzodiazepine abuse. However, substance abuse treatment can involve a medical detox whereby some medicines are used.
In a drug rehab facility or a treatment center, a person can undergo withdrawal and battle addiction medically, physically, and psychologically in a safe and supervised space.
A treatment process involves a medically supervised detox. This is the tapering down from a drug. It can mean reducing the amount of Ativan/lorazepam in the system or prescribing a less potent and longer-lasting benzodiazepine so that a person’s body can adjust over time to having less or none of the original drug.
Generally, treatment centers offer great help in substance abuse treatment, offering many solutions for addiction-worried people. This is because the treatment options include mental health services, and hence, a chance for someone to diagnose and address any underlying mental illness or condition that could have started their drug abuse in the first place. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders helps addiction professionals to identify any substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health issues.
In the case of a legitimate prescription and a person suffering addiction and withdrawal even though they took the drug as recommended, treatment centers also offer support. Medically supervised detox can make physical withdrawal symptoms less severe, while a treatment center has addiction experts to help with any psychological dependence you may have developed.
Treatment centers often provide support groups or group therapy, creating a network of people who fight for sobriety and healthy life. Education about drug addiction is also provided. A recovering Ativan addict can fall back on these relationships and education as a means of maintaining health even after stopping treatment.
Where Can I Find Help?
At Cirque Lodge, anyone seeking addiction treatment or recovering from substance abuse can find the professional help they need. We understand addiction and withdrawal are individual and can be severe. Our experienced staff will help you with personalized treatment options for every phase of your recovery to a healthy and happy life.