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Lorazepam (Ativan) Addiction and Treatment

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In 2020, an estimated 6.6% of the U.S. population aged 12 and older (or 18.4 million people) had at least one illicit drug use disorder in the past year.1 An illicit drug use disorder means addiction to prescription drugs like lorazepam (Ativan) as well as other highly addictive and illegal drugs such as heroin. Although lorazepam addiction is on the decline, it remains a serious problem in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the number of people aged 12 or older who misused prescription benzodiazepines decreased from 5.5 million people in 2015 to 4.8 million people in 2020.1

The rates of overall substance abuse appear to be slightly higher in Nevada than in the rest of the country. While there is no specific data on rates of benzodiazepine abuse in Nevada, the most recent available data shows that roughly 17.59% of Nevada residents aged 12 years and older had used illicit drugs in the past month, compared to 13.5% nationally.2

What Is Lorazepam (Ativan)?

Lorazepam is the generic drug name for the prescription drug Ativan. Ativan is a benzodiazepine, a class of sedatives that also include Valium (diazepam), clonazepam (Klonopin), and Xanax (alprazolam).3 Ativan and other benzodiazepines work by slowing brain activity, which can lead to increased feelings of relaxation.3

Ativan is FDA-approved to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep), and seizures. It is also often used to ease symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.5

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but many people commonly take Ativan to treat symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a condition that causes excessive worry, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, and sleep disturbances.4,5

Ativan Side Effects

As with other benzodiazepines, Ativan (lorazepam) can have certain side effects, some of which can be severe. You can have unwanted side effects from lorazepam, even if you take the drug exactly how your doctor told you. Some common short-term effects of Ativan include:4–6

  • Feeling sleepy (drowsy).
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Confusion.
  • Feeling tired or weak.
  • Short-term memory loss (amnesia).
  • Constipation.
  • Feeling restless.
  • Libido changes.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Low blood pressure.

Some more severe Ativan side effects may include:4–6

  • Seizures.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Problems breathing.
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice).
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Thinking and memory problems.

Ativan Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Misusing Ativan or using it for longer periods of time can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.4 Dependence means that your body adapts to the presence of the drug and needs it to feel normal. If you are dependent on lorazepam and suddenly reduce your dose or stop using it, you may go through withdrawal.4 Long-term Ativan abuse can also lead to tolerance, which means you need higher amounts of Ativan to feel the same effects.4

Tolerance and dependence can fuel the cycle of addiction, but don’t always mean a person is addicted.11 Addiction, clinically referred to as “substance use disorder” (SUD), is a chronic disease that involves compulsive drug use no matter the harms it causes.11

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Signs of Ativan Addiction

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that takes over a person’s life. They are unable to control their drug use no matter the harm it causes in all areas of their life. A person who is addicted to Ativan can’t just stop using through willpower alone, no matter how much they may want to quit the drug.

It’s not always easy to tell if someone has a prescription drug addiction. If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with lorazepam abuse, you may notice certain signs and symptoms, such as:8

  • Missing school or work more often.
  • Fighting with others more often.
  • Having legal problems.
  • Using Ativan in high-risk situations, such as while driving.
  • Secretive behavior, such as lying or sneaking around.
  • Asking for money.
  • Mood swings and personality changes.
  • Sudden changes in friends.
  • Seeming fearful or paranoid for no apparent reason.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Rapid weight loss or gain.
  • Poor personal hygiene, such as not bathing often.

Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

As stated, if you are dependent on Ativan and suddenly reduce your dose or stop taking it, you may go through withdrawal. Some lorazepam withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, so it is very important to talk to a doctor before trying to quit on your own.4 Lorazepam withdrawal symptoms can vary by person but often include:4,12

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Memory problems.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Depression.
  • Hallucinations (seeing, feeling, hearing, or smelling things that aren’t there).
  • Seizures.
  • Delirium (sudden, severe confusion).

If you were taking Ativan for anxiety or sleep disorders, symptoms of your anxiety or sleep disorder may return again when you stop using the drug.12 These are called rebound symptoms, and for many people these rebound symptoms are often worse than they were before they started taking lorazepam.12

Treatment for Ativan Addiction

No matter how things may seem right now, there is hope. People can and do recover from lorazepam addiction. Many people choose to start the treatment process with detox. Medical detox helps keep you safe and comfortable during the Ativan withdrawal process.10

While detox is a helpful first step to get through the intense period of substance withdrawal, it doesn’t help you address the underlying issues of your lorazepam abuse.11 After detox, many people transition to an inpatient or outpatient rehab to continue their recovery work and to ensure that they do not relapse (return to drug use after a period of not using).11

Ativan treatment approaches can vary. Common addiction treatment approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you make positive changes to your thoughts and behaviors, and motivational interviewing, which helps increase your motivation to make needed changes to your life.11 Many people also benefit from taking part in self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous.

How to Get Help for Ativan Addiction

In the United States as of 2020, there were more than 16,000 specialized drug treatment centers offering counseling, behavioral therapy, addiction treatment medicines, case management, and other types of services to people with SUDs.13 Nevada has 109 addiction treatment centers.13

Since withdrawal can sometimes be dangerous, getting help for Ativan abuse is important. American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of Ativan addiction treatment in Nevada and nationwide. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff knows what you are going through, as many of them have been there themselves. Don’t put off your recovery from lorazepam addiction any longer. Call our free, confidential 24/7 helpline at today for help finding the right treatment in Nevada (or wherever you may be located in the country).