Ativan (lorazepam) is a short-acting benzodiazepine that works by increasing the bioavailability of the neurochemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA reduces or depresses activity in the CNS (central nervous system) and induces a sedating effect on the mind and body. An overdose of Ativan can occur if an individual uses too much of the medication, abuses it by altering its form and the method of administration, or using it in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol.
Ativan is commonly used to treat symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, agitation, and restlessness. It can also be prescribed to treat muscle spasms, seizures, insomnia, or alcohol withdrawal.
Signs of Ativan Overdose
Ativan is considered a relatively safe medication when used as prescribed by a doctor. Still, when taken in excessive doses, it can place a user at risk of an overdose, which may result in coma and death. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that drug overdose deaths involving benzos increased from 1,135 in 1999 to more than 11,500 in 2017.
When taken alone and used as directed, Ativan rarely leads to serious complications such as unconsciousness, coma, or death. However, excessive doses can be lethal, especially when used in combination with other substances that also depress CNS activity. Whether accidental or intentional, many overdoses have been linked to the concurrent use of alcohol, prescription painkillers, other anti-anxiety drugs, or other sedatives.
Signs of an Ativan overdose may include the following:
- Pale, bluish skin or lips
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Oversedation or drowsiness
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Impaired memory
- Loss of consciousness
An overdose on Ativan or other benzodiazepines is a medical emergency that may lead to death if the individual doesn’t receive prompt medical attention. A person who has overdosed on Ativan should never be left alone under the assumption they will recover, and emergency medical help should be sought immediately.
Side Effects of Ativan
By decreasing activity in the CNS, Ativan also affects physical responses and functions. Other potential side effects include the following:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Low energy levels
- Loss of pleasure in daily life
- Learning challenges
- Memory loss
- Stomach pain
- Blood in stool or urine
- Weight loss
- Involuntary movements
Addiction and Withdrawal
One of the most dangerous side effects of Ativan use is the potential for developing an addiction. Ativan addiction is most common among those who use excessive amounts of the drug, abuse it for recreational purposes, or take it with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol, sleep aids, and prescription painkillers.
After using Ativan for more than a few weeks, the CNS grows accustomed to the effects of the drug. Chronic users will begin to require increasingly higher doses to experience Ativan’s therapeutic benefits. This condition is referred to as tolerance, and it may also contribute to the development of physical dependence. If the person continues to misuse Ativan, or the dosage is not reduced, these two factors can lead to addiction. Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease also hallmarked by a compulsion to seek and use a substance despite the incurrence of adverse effects.
Characteristics of Ativan addiction may include the following:
- Irritability, restlessness, or depression if the drug becomes unattainable
- An obsessive interest in obtaining the drug
- A loss of control over how much Ativan is used at a given time
- Withdrawal from loved ones as a result of drug use
- A noticeable decline in the quality of a person’s performance on the job or at school
- Neglectfulness in physical appearance, hygiene, and grooming
- The onset of withdrawal symptoms when drug use is discontinued
Benzo withdrawal can result in severe symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations, and extreme agitation. When a person is suddenly deprived of the drug, they may also experience headaches, nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances, restlessness, and excessive sweating.
A drug taper is typically recommended for most benzo-dependent people to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. During this process, a healthcare professional gradually reduces Ativan’s dose over an extended period, until the medication can be safely stopped without compromising the individual’s health.
Seeking Help for Ativan Abuse
Many people falsely believe that prescription medications, including Ativan, are less dangerous or habit-forming than illegal drugs, such as heroin, meth, or cocaine. However, this is not necessarily the case, especially in situations where an individual is abusing more than one substance. Also, individuals who become dependent on Ativan may be more likely to experience mental health disorders that can get worse if the medication is misused.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers are specialized treatment facilities that offer integrated programs that treat addiction concurrently with other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Our programs feature clinically proven services essential for the recovery process, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group therapy, aftercare planning, and much more.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to Ativan, other drugs, or alcohol, we urge you to call us today. Discover how we help people break free from the cycle of addiction for life!