Ativan Addiction Rehab Guide
In 2019, 3% of the US population aged 12 and older (or 8.3 million people) had at least one illicit drug use disorder in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).1 An illicit drug use disorder means addiction to prescription drugs like Ativan as well as other highly addictive and illegal drugs such as heroin. Although addiction to Ativan, generically known as lorazepam, is on the decline, it remains a serious problem in the United States. The NSDUH reported that the number of people aged 12 or older who misused prescription benzodiazepines decreased from 2.1% (or 5.5 million people) in 2015 to 1.8% (or 4.8 million people) in 2019. 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 states that “approximately 3.57% of Nevada residents 12 years and older had used illicit drugs in the past month, compared to 3.42% nationally.” Furthermore, a higher proportion of Nevada residents aged 12 – 17 years old reported the use of illicit drugs (4.07%) compared to the national rate (2.71%).2
This article will explain what is Ativan, what type of drug is Ativan, what is Ativan used to treat, and the effects of Ativan. It will also help you understand why Ativan misuse is dangerous and provide information on how you (or someone you care about) can seek treatment for Ativan drug abuse.
What is Ativan Prescribed For?
What is Ativan used for and is Ativan a benzodiazepine? Yes, Ativan classification is as a benzodiazepine, a type of sedative that also includes medications such as Valium (diazepam), clonazepam (Klonopin), and Xanax (alprazolam).3,6 It works by slowing brain activity, which can lead to increased feelings of relaxation.4
What is Ativan prescribed for? Ativan is primarily prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, and seizures. It is also often used to ease symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.5
There are different types of anxiety disorders, but many people commonly take Ativan to treat symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition that causes excessive worry, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleep disturbances.5
Ativan is also approved to treat social phobia and panic disorder, which are specific anxiety disorders. However, it is not meant to be an ongoing treatment, as Ativan is intended for short-term use only. People who feel that they need to take it for more than 4 months should discuss this with their physicians, because Ativan can cause dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using it.4
The Effects of Ativan
What are the effects of Ativan? Similar to other drugs in its class, Ativan has numerous short-term and long-term effects, some of which can be severe. Keep in mind that if you experience severe side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately.
According to MedlinePlus, some of the less serious short-term effects of Ativan can include:4
- Feeling tired or weak.
- Dry mouth.
- Feeling restless.
- Needing to urinate more than usual.
- Loss of libido.
Severe side effects may include:4 side effects
- Persistent tremors.
- Feeling unable to sit still.
- Shuffling walk.
- Problems breathing.
- Difficulties with swallowing.
- Severe skin rash.
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin.
- Irregular heartbeat.
When used for longer periods of time, Ativan can cause dependence. This means that your body adapts to the presence of the drug and needs it to feel normal; if you stop using it, you can experience withdrawal. Long-term Ativan abuse can also lead to tolerance, which means you need higher amounts of Ativan to experience previous effects. Tolerance and dependence can fuel the cycle of addiction because you need to use higher amounts of the drug to feel the desired effects and you have to keep using it so you can function and avoid going into withdrawal. In addition to these effects, long-term Ativan use can cause other symptoms and problems, such as:6
- Impaired thinking.
- Memory loss.
- Increased anxiety.
- Problems sleeping.
- Disturbing dreams.
- Weight gain.
Withdrawal symptoms typically occur if you abruptly stop taking Ativan after long-term use. Keep in mind that abrupt cessation of Ativan can cause seizures, so it is very important to taper off your dosage under a doctor’s supervision. Withdrawal symptoms can vary by person but often include:6 withdrawal
- Muscle pain.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Altered perceptions.
- Delusions (believing something that isn’t true).
- Hallucinations (seeing, feeling, hearing, or smelling things that aren’t there).
Signs of Ativan Abuse
Ativan abuse is serious enough on its own, but combining Ativan with other medications can be deadly. An article published on the Nevada Public Radio website points out that combining benzodiazepines with opioids is especially dangerous, with 75% of deaths attributed to benzodiazepines also involving an opioid.7
Addiction is a chronic and debilitating brain disease that takes over a person’s life; they keep using the substance despite the negative impact their drug use has on all areas of their lives and regardless of the effect it has on their wellbeing. A person who is addicted to Ativan cannot just stop using through willpower alone, no matter how much they may want to quit the drug. It’s important to seek addiction treatment so you can safely taper off the substance and learn the skills you’ll need to avoid relapse.
Prescription drug addiction can be insidious, and it’s not always apparent that a person has a problem, especially if the person is a high-functioning addict (meaning they can hold down a job and continue meeting their obligations despite their addiction). If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with Ativan abuse, you may notice specific behavioral and physical signs, such as:8
- Changes in attendance at school or work.
- Fighting with others more often.
- Having legal problems.
- Using Ativan in situations where you can cause harm to yourself or someone else (such as while driving).
- Secretive behavior (such as lying or sneaking around).
- Suddenly needing money for no good reason.
- Mood swings.
- Personality changes.
- Sudden changes in friends.
- Lack of motivation.
- Seeming fearful or paranoid for no apparent reason.
- Red eyes.
- Rapid weight gain.
- Poor physical appearance.
- A lack of attention to proper hygiene practices.
- Using Ativan despite physical, social, financial, psychological, or vocational problems that are probably due to Ativan abuse.
Treatment for Ativan Abuse
As with other benzodiazepines, Ativan abuse is commonly treated with a combination of medication (usually while tapering off Ativan or replacing it with another benzodiazepine) and behavioral therapy. People usually start the treatment process with detox. Although it’s not technically a form of treatment, detox helps a person safely and comfortably withdrawal from the drug. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that “management of benzodiazepine withdrawal is not recommended without medical supervision” due to the risk of medical complications such as seizures.10
After detox, people should transition to an inpatient or outpatient rehab to continue their recovery work and to ensure that they do not relapse. While treatment plans vary based on individual circumstances, studies have shown that most people need at least 90 days of treatment in either an inpatient or outpatient setting for maximum effectiveness.11
Ativan abuse treatment approaches can vary. It usually includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is designed to help you make positive changes to your thoughts and behaviors, and motivational interviewing, which helps increase your motivation to make necessary changes to your life.12 In addition, people usually benefit from participation in self-help groups that offer support and motivation to stay clean and sober, such as Narcotics Anonymous.
How to Get Help for Ativan Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than “14,500 specialized drug treatment facilities that provide counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, case management, and other types of services to persons with substance use disorders” in the United States.13 Nevada has at least 89 substance abuse treatment centers.14
Getting help for Ativan addiction is important. It helps you overcome drug abuse so you can take back control of your life. American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of substance abuse in Nevada and nationwide. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff knows what you are going through. We offer personalized treatment plans that are customized to meet your needs. Don’t put off your recovery from Ativan abuse any longer. Call our free, confidential 24/7 helpline today and speak to an Admissions Navigator who can provide you with advice on finding the best treatment facilities in Nevada (or wherever you may be located in the country).
We can be reached at 702-800-2682.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
- Blin, A. (2017). Addiction and substance abuse in Nevada. In Dmitri N. Shalin, The Social Health of Nevada: Leading Indicators and Quality of Life in the Silver State 1-45. University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
- Neel, A. (2012). Help! My wife is addicted to Ativan.
- (2020). Lorazepam.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Lorazepam (Ativan).
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (2020). Benzodiazepines.
- Schumann, A. (2018). Benzodiazepines: America’s ‘other prescription drug problem’.
- gov. (2019). Mental health and substance use disorders.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 4. Physical detoxification services for withdrawal from specific substances. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
- Soyka, M. (2017). Treatment of benzodiazepine dependence. The New England Journal of Medicine, 376(12), 1147–1157.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition) Drug addiction treatment in the United States.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral health treatment services locator.
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