Ativan Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms

At Mount Regis Center, we offer an intensive, evidence-based approach to Ativan addiction treatment. We offer a variety of therapeutic interventions that help our clients build a strong foundation for long-term recovery.

Understanding Ativan

Learn about Ativan addiction and substance use disorder

Ativan, also known as lorazepam is a highly-potent, immediate-acting and strong sedative that is often used to treat anxiety disorders and associated symptoms. Ativan can also be used to manage insomnia, acute seizures, and occasionally used for sedation of aggressive individuals. This benzodiazepine produces therapeutic effects via the interaction of the benzodiazepine binding cells located in the GABA receptors of the central nervous system. Although helpful for management of anxiety, this medication is not intended for long-term use as it’s both highly addictive and habit-forming. Since this medication is so addictive it should only be used by those who have a prescription and should be used directly as prescribed.

Long-term usage of Ativan include tolerance, dependence, addiction, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, cognitive impairments (that may not be reversible after usage is discontinued), which is why it is only recommended for treatment for two to four weeks. Some individuals pair Ativan with alcohol to intensify the relaxation effects of the drug, which can lead to harmful consequences such as respiratory depression. Others use it to mute some of the less pleasant effects of stimulant abuse, creating a more intense high. Polysubstance abuse can cause many potentially negative health effects such as coma and death.

It is the euphoric feeling and the overall sense of relaxation that causes many individuals to continue using Ativan. As the pleasant calming effects of Ativan begin to wear off it can cause an individual to become irritable, angry, or even depressed. To get rid of these unpleasant side feelings more Ativan is taken which can eventually lead to an addiction problem as the individual becomes physically and psychologically dependent on this substance.

Ativan is one of the three most commonly abused benzodiazepines in the United States, in large part due to ease of availability. Additionally, Ativan has been directly linked to many pharmaceutical drug assisted suicide attempts. The nonmedical usage of prescription drugs is a growing problem in the United States.

Proper drug rehab is essential for anyone who is addicted to Ativan as this drug should never be discontinued abruptly. Abrupt cessation of Ativan can lead to very dangerous health-related consequences so detox from Ativan should always occur under the trained eyes of medical professionals.


Ativan addiction statistics

Ativan addiction has become a serious problem for many individuals. Ativan has one of the highest risks for physical and psychological addiction in the benzodiazepine class of substances. While exact statistics for Ativan addiction aren’t as clear as recent research has shown that 60,200 people getting drug abuse treatment were addicted to benzodiazepines.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for Ativan addiction

While the exact cause of an Ativan addiction is not known, some of the contributing factors may include:

Genetic: Individuals who have family members who struggle with addiction problems -especially if they are first degree relatives, such as a parent – are twice as likely to develop an addiction to Ativan.

Brain Chemistry: Benzodiazepines like Ativan affects the central nervous system causing the activation of the brain’s reward system. One theory is that individuals who become addicted to Ativan lack a certain amount of brain chemicals necessary to produce natural feelings of pleasure. In order to make up for this lack in brain chemicals they continue to take this drug because of the associated pleasurable feelings.

Environmental: Certain environmental stressors can lead to an individual to turn to the use of certain substances in an attempted to control unwanted emotions. When individuals begin to use Ativan to cope with life events, they learn to depend on that substance to get them through the day. Additionally, individuals growing up in households where drug addiction was rampant inadvertently taught these children that substance abuse is an appropriate way to cope with problems.

Psychological: Many individuals who become hooked on Ativan are struggling to treat the symptoms of an improperly managed mental illness. Long-term Ativan abuse can lead to worsening of mental illnesses and overall well-being.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Ativan addiction

There are a variety of symptoms that can indicate Ativan abuse and addiction. The symptoms experienced depend upon the individual and the level of addiction. Some symptoms may include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Paradoxical anxiety
  • Mental and mood changes
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hostility

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Violent behaviors
  • Agitation
  • “Doctor shopping” or visiting numerous doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Forging prescriptions for Ativan
  • Borrowing or stealing Ativan from friends and loved ones
  • Social withdrawal
  • Occupational or scholastic dysfunction
  • Job loss
  • Increasing interpersonal problems
  • Inability to fulfill obligations at home
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems

Physical symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Syncope
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Skin rash
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble walking
  • Fever, persistent sore throat
  • Respiratory depression

Psychological symptoms:

  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Light-headedness


Effects of Ativan addiction

The abuse of Ativan can cause a variety of negative effects which can impact every part of an individual’s life. The effects of Ativan addiction may include:

  • Cognitive effects
  • Kidney failure
  • Extreme depression
  • Respiratory failure
  • Red eyes
  • Neglected work and family responsibilities
  • Legal trouble
  • Life begins to revolve around drug

Co-Occurring Disorders

Ativan addiction & co-occurring disorders

Many individuals with addiction disorders, such as Ativan addiction, have a co-occurring disorder. These may include:

  • Other substance abuse disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stimulant abuse
  • Panic disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Seizure disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Ativan withdrawal and overdose

Discontinuing the use of Ativan too quickly or without the supervision of trained medical personnel can result in unpleasant and possibly dangerous side effects. If Ativan has been abused for a prolonged period of time do not attempt to stop using this drug without medical supervision. Through a detoxification and rehab program an individual can quickly and safely cleanse the substance from their body.

Some of the possible side effects that can occur due to Ativan withdrawal include:

  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Intensive rage
  • Seizures
  • Mood swings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors
  • Muscle cramps
  • Convulsions
  • Anxiety
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I could never say enough great things about Mount Regis Center! From admissions to nursing to the phenomenal clinical team, this is the place to go if you want to get better and learn how to stay clean! They saved my life and I will be forever grateful.

– Former Patient
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