Ativan Side Effects

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The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that approximately 40 million adults across America, or 18 percent of the population, suffer from some type of anxiety. Many of these individuals seek help from anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. These benzodiazepines, for example, Ativan, have many benefits but can also bear the risk of side effects. Educating yourself about these side effects, understanding the warnings associated with this medication, and knowing what a medical emergency may look like are imperative to ensure the safety of anyone using Ativan.

What is the Possibility of Ativan Side Effects?

Most medications, such as Ativan, can cause varying side effects, typically mild to severe. These side effects also vary and may or may not occur in everyone taking it. While it is impossible to predict the risk of these side effects in every individual, certain factors can help experts get an idea. These factors may include the following:

  • The dosage of Ativan a person is taking
  • The form of medication being consumed
  • Other medications or substances being used simultaneously
  • Current and past medical history
  • Age and gender
  • Current health status

What Does Ativan Do to the Body?

By slowing down the brain and neural activity, Ativan can also lead to various physical side effects. As a tranquilizer, this medication may make a user physically relaxed and calm while stopping painful muscular spasms and life-threatening seizures. These benefits are prominent as long as someone takes Ativan as prescribed. However, such people may still be at risk of certain side effects, such as the following:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Chills
  • Low energy levels
  • Blurry vision
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Stomach pain
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Weight loss
  • Pale, cool skin
  • Involuntary movements, such as shakiness or tremors

Because of its potential to cause drowsiness, clumsiness, and disorientation, Ativan can increase the risk of engaging in dangerous accidents and injuries. These medications have been known to cause symptoms that resemble alcohol intoxication. These symptoms may include slurry speech, loss of motor coordination, blurry vision, and other visual disturbances. Driving under the influence of Ativan or performing other activities that require quick reflexes and precise hand-eye coordination can become dangerous under the influence of Ativan, especially if a person has taken it with other sedatives.

What Does Ativan Do to the Brain?

Ativan can induce powerful effects on the brain and associated nerves. One of the most common ones is the rebound side effects, also known as paradoxical symptoms which indicate worsening symptoms for which a person has been taking Ativan. [1] In particular, the drug can cause rebound anxiety, abnormal body movements, agitation, and sleep issues. Following are some other side effects of Ativan on the brain:

  • Restlessness
  • Learning difficulties
  • Depression
  • Loss of pleasure in day-to-day experiences
  • Memory problem

The chemical structure of Ativan can reduce the excitability levels in the nervous system while dampening the emotional responses that trigger restlessness and anxiety. At the same time, the medication can also flatten the emotional responses in users, blunting their everyday experiences. Such people may also complain of losing interest in everyday activities and skipping responsibilities more often than usual. Lastly, Ativan can also slow down brain processing and make a person mentally exhausted.

Ativan Toxicity and Overdose: Is it Possible?

Experts consider Ativan a safe drug as long as a person uses it as prescribed in a limited dose. However, some people may start enjoying the sedative effects of this medication and begin abusing it, putting themselves at risk of an overdose. [2] According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of deaths related to overdose due to prescription benzodiazepines has increased by four times since 2001. A few years later, in 2007, up to 7000 cases related to benzodiazepine overdose were reported across the United States. But what makes Ativan overdose so dangerous?

Ativan is a central nervous system depressant that can slow down the neural activity in the nerves and brain cells. When taken correctly, it rarely causes unconsciousness or coma. However, having too much of it in the system can suppress brain activity and other vital organs, especially when Ativan is combined with other drugs. Many overdoses, including deliberate or accidental, involve using Ativan with alcohol or other pain relief or anti-anxiety medications.

Keep the following signs of an Ativan overdose in mind to potentially save a life:

  • Over-sedation or drowsiness
  • Pale, bluish skin or lips
  • Shallow, slow breathing
  • Stumbling gait
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Remember that an Ativan overdose is a medical emergency that may lead to death if immediate medical attention is unavailable. People who overdosed on Ativan must never be left alone to recover, particularly if they have been using multiple substances together.

Is Ativan Dangerous in the Long Run? The Risk of Ativan Addiction and Withdrawal

Developing an addiction is one of the most serious side effects of using Ativan, especially in the long run. This side effect is particularly common in people taking the drug in high doses for recreation without any legitimate medical reason. Additionally, people who mix Ativan with other tranquilizers, such as sleep aids, prescription painkillers, and alcohol, can also develop an addiction.

After taking Ativan constantly for two to three weeks, the brain and the rest of the nervous system may become accustomed to the medication’s effects. As a result, they may require higher doses of Ativan to feel euphoria or rest of the effects. This condition is known as tolerance and can quickly progress to dependence. Dependence is when a person develops a psychological or physical reliance on Ativan and needs to use it to feel normal. Dependence can force an individual to keep abusing the medication until they become addicted.

Experts define addiction as a progressive disease that gives rise to a compulsive need always to use a drug. Following are some red flags that a person has developed an addiction to Ativan:

  • Restlessness, depression, or irritability when a person cannot get the drug
  • Losing control over how much Ativan a person takes at any given time
  • Always trying to obsessively use Ativan despite acknowledging its harmful effects on health and relationships
  • Isolation from family, friends, or social events secondary to drug use
  • Declining physical appearance and poor self-hygiene
  • Deteriorating quality of life in terms of personal, professional, and academic growth
  • Experiencing psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing Ativan or lowering its dose

Remember that withdrawal due to benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, can be extremely dangerous and may include side effects like hallucinations, agitation, and seizures. The body may also experience nausea, vomiting, headache, sweating, sleeping issues, and restlessness as it craves the drug. The best way to avoid these side effects is by consulting a professional and slowly tapering off the medication under strict supervision.

Ativan Adverse Effects: Warnings to Keep in Mind

People recently diagnosed with anxiety and starting medication but are worried about the potential Ativan side effects must remember the following warnings. These warnings will help you understand the potentially serious risks that may occur with the use of Ativan so that they can identify and take care of them at once:

Risk of injury or death when used with opioids

Many people abusing Ativan are polysubstance users, meaning they take different drugs together for a greater high. Combining Ativan with these drugs, such as opioids, can lead to severe side effects, such as extreme sleepiness and respiratory depression, which may slow down breathing to a dangerously low level.

Risk of acute narrow-angle glaucoma

Before starting treatment with Ativan, it is better to inform a medical professional if you have previously been diagnosed with narrow-angle glaucoma. [3] One of the potential Ativan side effects includes increased pressure inside the eyes which may exacerbate glaucoma and its symptoms. People with this eye condition may need to switch to a safer alternative.

Risk of breathing issues

Always inform your healthcare provider if you have a history of breathing issues, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sleep apnea. Ativan can lead to respiratory depression, which leads to weaker or slow breathing, which may prove potentially fatal for people with breathing issues.

Risk of worsening depression

Let your doctor know before you consider adding Ativan to your daily life with a history of depression. This step is especially important if you are not seeking any active treatment for depression or if the condition remains poorly managed. Using Ativan in such people can worsen the symptoms of the depressive disorder, decreasing the overall quality of life.

Risk of kidney problems

People with a history of kidney issues must be careful when choosing the right medications. Ativan is one of the medications you need to be worried about if you have ongoing kidney issues, as your kidneys may not be as efficient in breaking down and removing this drug from the body. As a result, the drug may keep piling up in the body and may cause a worsening of the existing lorazepam side effects. A doctor can note your renal history and consider lowering the daily dose of Ativan so the body can efficiently remove it from the body.

Risk of liver problems

Before you start using Ativan for anxiety management or any other issue, discuss your pre-existing liver issues with your doctor, if any. The liver is one of the primary organs responsible for breaking down Ativan so that the kidneys can remove it. In the case of a poorly working liver, the body may keep accumulating this drug in the bloodstream, exacerbating the side effects. Ativan can also worsen certain liver issues, for example, hepatic encephalopathy. A doctor may keep checking the liver function tests of every patient taking Ativan to ensure that the medication is not messing with the organ.

Risk of allergic reactions

A person who has experienced an allergic reaction to Ativan or any other product with lorazepam must avoid using this medication. There is a very high risk of getting an allergic reaction once again for such people, which can quickly progress to become life-threatening.

Risk of side effects in the newborn

Doctors advise extreme caution while using Ativan during pregnancy as it can cause cleft palate and cleft lip in the developing baby if used during the first trimester. Alternatively, the baby may develop withdrawal symptoms if Ativan is used during the last trimester. [4]


Can I take Ativan if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant must inform their doctor if they are using Ativan or considering it. Using this drug during pregnancy can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby, which may require medical treatment for weeks. Similarly, a woman currently breastfeeding her child must ideally not use Ativan. If no alternative is available, caution must be practiced, and a doctor must be notified if such mothers experience feeding problems, slower weight gain, or drowsiness in their nursing baby.

What drugs and activities should I avoid while taking Ativan?

Avoid taking Ativan with alcohol, as the effects can potentially lead to life-threatening side effects. Similarly, do not engage in any hazardous activity or drive under Ativan’s influence, as it is a strong tranquilizer and may affect judgment, leading to accidents, falls, or severe injuries.

Can you overdose on Ativan?

It is entirely possible to overdose on Ativan. Some may do it deliberately to feel a strong euphoria, while others do it accidentally without intention. The common symptoms of Ativan overdose are described below and require urgent medical attention to save a life potentially.

  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Sluggish reflexes
  • Respiratory depression
  • Poor muscle coordination

Can Ativan cause anxiety?

While Ativan is a powerful drug to cure anxiety, it can sometimes cause a rebound effect, worsening anxiety symptoms. Some people have also reported Ativan agitation and insomnia as side effects of this medication, further exacerbating the underlying anxiety.


[1] Ghiasi N, Bhansali RK, Marwaha R. Lorazepam. InStatPearls [Internet] 2022 Nov 27. StatPearls Publishing.

[2] Kang M, Galuska MA, Ghassemzadeh S. Benzodiazepine toxicity.

[3] Naso AR. Optimizing patient safety by preventing combined use of intramuscular olanzapine and parenteral benzodiazepines. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2008 Jun 15;65(12):1180-3.

[4] Rundio A. Ativan (Lorazepam). Journal of Addictions Nursing. 2012 May 1;23(2):141-2.

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