Ativan is a prescription medication frequently given to patients to induce a calming or tranquilizing effect. Classified in a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines, it can be addictive if not properly monitored. If you or a loved one has Ativan dependency, you’ll likely need professional treatment to reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.
Facts About Ativan
Ativan—also referred to by the generic name lorazepam or a street name such as “benzo”—is a short-acting benzodiazepine manufactured by Pfizer often prescribed to help manage conditions such as:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Amnesia induction for uncomfortable procedures
- Controlling seizures
- General anxiety disorder
- Muscle relaxation
- Panic attacks
- Surgical procedures requiring anesthesia
Medical professionals prescribe Ativan in doses of 0.5–6 mg twice daily by tablet or injection.
While some of these applications are FDA-approved, others are considered “off-label.” This means research is inconclusive as to the total effectiveness of Ativan and lorazepam with non-approved conditions. But because some patients have success with the medication for off-label diagnoses, some healthcare providers extend the option.
According to WebMD, benzodiazepines “act on the central nervous system, produce sedation and muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels.” Ativan is helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress because it heightens GABA neurotransmitters to “depress the central nervous system.”
Since the drug is short-acting, the management intent for most conditions is for patients to use it for a period of 1–4 months, depending on the condition. After an evaluation, healthcare providers then assess its effectiveness and perhaps scale up to a different medication.
Ativan Addiction Concerns
If you or someone you love didn’t tell a healthcare provider about addiction history prior to taking Ativan or other benzodiazepines, it’s imperative to do so right away. Ativan, lorazepam, and other sedative-hypnotic benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV prescription drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration because of their immediate effect on the brain. This means they have “an accepted medical use but may also cause physical or psychological dependence and may be abused.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that Ativan and lorazepam are prescribed for short-term use because “benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use.”
Consequently, it’s unlikely that a physician or mental health professional will prescribe Ativan, lorazepam, or other short-acting benzodiazepines to someone with prior drug or alcohol addiction.
Ativan Withdrawal & Side Effects
It’s critical to follow medical guidelines for switching or stopping prescription medication that impacts brain activity, such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines. Think of how slamming on a vehicle’s brakes jolts passengers: suddenly stopping medications designed to alter neurotransmitter response has a similarly dramatic effect on your brain.
Medical News Today (MNT) advises individuals to follow a medically-supervised plan to gradually taper off Ativan or lorazepam, especially if they took it for a long time or at higher doses. This helps minimize the effects of Ativan withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Excessive sweating
- Memory problems
- Trouble sleeping
Depression is another Ativan withdrawal symptom, whether diagnosed or possibly pre-existing. Additionally, a syndrome known as a “rebound effect” may occur with conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and other health concerns the medication was intended to treat. On The Fix, an individual shares her Ativan dependency story.
Some withdrawal symptoms present in as little as 24 hours and last approximately two weeks. MNT also cautions that individuals might experience aspects of Ativan withdrawal for up to a few months. A graduated release plan designed by your healthcare professional often allows for a period of several weeks to reduce dependency and the impact of symptoms.
MNT indicates that people with more severe Ativan dependence experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms, especially if they abruptly stop taking the medication. They include:
- Panic attacks
Illicit or long-term use also notably intensifies withdrawal effects, as will mixing Ativan or lorazepam with alcohol and other drugs.
Ativan Treatment at Willingway
Professional treatment for prescription medication dependency is often advisable to help alleviate most of the medical concerns safely and to develop transitional ease from one stage of being to another.
In more severe cases—especially if there’s a history of previous substance or alcohol use disorder or illicit use—inpatient rehabilitation treatment might be necessary. This ensures that an individual will not only have medically-supervised detox, but also learn behavioral changes associated with their condition and other potential drug-free techniques, if possible, as customized and long-term management solutions.
If someone’s Ativan dependency isn’t too complex but they would still benefit from professional care, outpatient treatment might be a viable solution. This option often allows individuals to continue living at home and maintaining employment but still receive the same attentive continuum of care that forges a new path of well-being.
We encourage you to speak with one of Willingway’s admissions specialists to learn what road to wellness is best for you.