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Ativan is a popular prescription benzodiazepine used as a short-term drug to manage anxiety. With lorazepam as its main ingredient, Ativan is generally safe for use as long as an individual uses it as per a doctor’s instructions. Despite the high safety profile, the drug has a substantial risk of misuse, which can eventually lead to physical dependence and addiction. People who have been using it for a long time and are concerned about Ativan addiction must know that help is available to stop their drug use and regain control of their lives.
A Summary of Ativan Use
Ativan is a brand label for lorazepam, a prescription medication belonging to the category of benzodiazepines. The FDA has approved it in tablet and injectable forms for the short-term management of anxiety disorders. The drug is also beneficial for many off-label uses, such as managing panic disorders and alcohol withdrawals.
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Like other benzodiazepines, lorazepam is a depressant of the central nervous system. This means it works by calming down an over-excited nervous system, leading to effects like sedation, drowsiness, and relaxation. The DEA has classified lorazepam as a Schedule IV substance which means that it has an accepted medical use with a lower potential for abuse than drugs in higher Schedules.
Due to its high efficacy and low potential for abuse, lorazepam remains the favorite drug of choice for many medical health professionals. Due to its easy availability, it is also one of the top 5 most prescribed and most found benzodiazepines in the illegal market for drugs. While lorazepam is generally safe as long as you are using it as prescribed, there is always a potential for misuse and addiction, especially in people taking it for more than 4 months or consuming it in very high doses. Although lorazepam or Ativan dependence is not so dangerous, it can quickly progress to addiction and may carry a very high risk of overdose and death.
Can You Get Addicted to Ativan?
Many people are curious to know about the Ativan addiction potential and how easy it is to become dependent on it. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ativan is one of the most important members on its list of most commonly abused drugs. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States has categorized it as a Schedule IV drug. This means that while it is not as addictive as heroin or opioids, Ativan does carry a risk for abuse.
Given this risk, using Ativan without supervision by a doctor can increase the risk of experiencing addiction and dependence. A doctor’s oversight is significant for people using this drug because they may carefully consider the factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. Some of these factors include the following:
- A personal history of substance use disorder or alcoholism
- A family history of substance abuse as it leads to exposure to drugs at a very early age
- Method of misuse (for example, nasal inhalation is more likely to lead to addiction than intended oral use)
- Polysubstance use (Mixing Ativan with other substances and alcohol)
- The presence of any co-occurring mental health illness, such as depression and anxiety
If a doctor detects one or more of the risk factors mentioned above, they may not prescribe Ativan and go for an alternative with lesser risks and more benefits.
Identifying Ativan Addiction Symptoms
Experts make use of several diagnostic criteria to diagnose Ativan dependence and addiction. Though it is best to seek professional advice regarding such life-changing diagnoses, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs suggestive of Ativan addiction to take timely action.
Some common Ativan addiction symptoms include the following:
Spending a lot of time to acquire, use, and recover from Ativan effects
An individual addicted to Ativan may try to fake the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety to make a healthcare professional prescribe Ativan to them. Moreover, they may also secure prescriptions from different doctors at a time or forge prescriptions to get a steady supply. Some of them also search for this medicine in the black market and spend a considerable amount of time using the medicine and enjoying its effects.
Irresponsible behavior toward personal and professional obligations
A person always on Ativan may not be able to think clearly or sleep properly. With these altered habits, they may not be able to fulfill their personal and professional duties. Such people often miss work and remain absent from important family events.
Increasing tolerance of Ativan use
As an addict’s body acclimatizes to the consistent presence of Ativan in the body, they may require more significant amounts of the drug to feel the desired effects. This phenomenon is called tolerance, and it often forces escalating patterns of use, which easily kickstarts a cycle of dependence.
Perhaps the most critical sign of Ativan addiction is that any attempt to stop consuming it triggers a set of uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms are known as withdrawal symptoms and can be highly unpleasant and dangerous.
How Addictive is Ativan? The Common Drug Combinations that Increase Dependence
Ativan on its own does not lead to a considerable level of euphoria. Hence, many people combine it with other drugs to increase its effects which only increases its addiction potential. Some common drugs that people combine with Ativan include the following:
Ativan counteracts the stimulating effects of cocaine; hence, helping users relax and calm down from its high
Amphetamines possess similar effects as cocaine, so many users combine Ativan with them to control the high associated with them.
A lot of people take Ativan with Methadone to boost their effects. Both drugs are depressants of the central nervous system, so using them together can significantly increase the risk of a fatal overdose and respiratory failure.
When combined with alcohol, Ativan leads to a quicker and more potent high. Because both depress the central nervous system, the combination can lead to over-sedation, coma, and even death.
Using Ativan with other medicines or drugs can be extremely dangerous as it increases the risk of a potential overdose. Hence, it is imperative not to combine it with any medicine and consult an expert about it.
Withdrawing from Ativan: What it Looks Like?
People with Ativan addiction must never stop using the drug cold turkey, as doing so can trigger extremely uncomfortable withdrawal. The common symptoms of these withdrawals include the following:
- Psychomotor agitation
- Hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system, indicated by an increased heart rate, fever, tremulousness, and sweating
Those using Ativan as prescribed by their doctor’s instructions are also likely to experience these withdrawal symptoms if they stop the use or decrease the drug dose. However, the intensity of these withdrawal symptoms is not as high as those who have been misusing Ativan in very high doses.
The length and severity of the withdrawal symptoms depend on several factors, such as:
- How long has a person been abusing Ativan for
- How much Ativan were they taking
- The rate of tapering attempts, if any
- Their current mental and physical health status
- Whether or not they were using Ativan with alcohol or other drugs
- The method of consumption
Withdrawal is a big hurdle for people who are trying to quit their Ativan use and regain control of their lives. Gradually weaning off the supply is advisable but can become a test of resistance and endurance to the excruciating cravings. Hence, the majority of addicts prefer taking help from a professional treatment center.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
In many cases, the risk of complications related to Ativan withdrawal warrants professional help and intensive intervention. To be on the safe side, it is important to taper off the medication gradually rather than quitting it suddenly. This tapering usually occurs in a medical detox process, which occurs in a hospital or a similar clinical setting where doctors and nurses are available to manage the withdrawal symptoms appropriately. The aim of a medical detox is to make sure that every participant is safe and comfortable as they learn to get Ativan out of their system.
The detox process may include a tapered schedule of Ativan through which the users gradually decrease the quantities of the drug they are using over weeks or months. In some cases, experts replace Ativan with another benzodiazepine with longer-lasting effects, such as clonazepam or diazepam, before they initiate the tapering process.
Once the detox process concludes, most patients transition towards behavioral treatment, which includes a combination of various evidence-based therapies. This psychological component of treatment is crucial for recovery as it helps the addicts recognize their addiction triggers and work on them to ensure that they do not interfere with their sobriety in the future. The insights these patients gain through behavioral treatment can also help them in real-world situations and support them in getting through stressful times without taking help from Ativan.
Regardless of the program you choose or the treatment center you join, keep in mind that Ativan addiction recovery is achievable. The process may take considerable effort and time but is worth investing in.
My loved one is addicted to Ativan but not willing to seek help. What can I do?
If someone you know has been struggling with Ativan addiction for a long time but is unwilling to admit that they have a problem or seek help, you may consider seeking help from an intervention program. An intervention is a process that helps people in denial identify their problem, accept it, and seek help for it with the aim of healing and recovery. The process takes place under the supervision of a professional interventionist who has discussions with the loved ones of an addict and helps them plan the session in advance so that they can make the most out of it. The interventionist also makes the loved ones rehearse beforehand so that they are prepared for everything in advance.
Are the side effects of Ativan abuse reversible?
Most memory issues related to Ativan abuse vanish as soon as an individual stops using this drug. However, some develop permanent cognitive impairment even after stopping the medication. This risk of long-term cognitive damage is more prevalent in older age groups. In addition to this, long-term use of Ativan can also lead to cognitive decline in older patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
What is the withdrawal timeline for Ativan addiction?
Withdrawal symptoms for Ativan can begin within 24 hours following the last dose. Most of the physical withdrawal symptoms continue to last for 10 to 14 days, after which they begin to subside. On the other hand, the psychological effects may last longer, sometimes for months or even years, in the form of cognitive decline.