Ativan Addiction Treatment

Codeine Addiction and Treatment

What is Ativan?

Ativan is the brand name for the drug lorazepam. This is a medication doctors prescribe to treat anxiety, seizures, and problems sleeping. Ativan belongs to the drug class called benzodiazepines.1

Doctors usually only prescribe Ativan in the short-term to relieve anxiety symptoms or help a person sleep when they are experiencing a period of insomnia. Unfortunately, Ativan is a medication that is subject to abuse and misuse. In addition to taking the medication illegally or excessively, people may abuse it in combination with painkillers or alcohol. These can make for deadly combinations.  Ativan addiction can lead to treatment in a rehab facility.

Ativan Use in the United States

According to a 2018 survey published in U.S. Pharmacist, an estimated 12.6 percent of adults in the United States have used benzodiazepines including Ativan in the past year.2 Of those who reported using the drug, misuse or using without a prescription was highest in those ages 18 to 25 years old. An estimated 5.6 percent of young adults reported misusing benzodiazepines.

Other Names

Street names for Ativan may include:

Benzos

Goofballs

Heavenly blues

Stupefy

However, it’s important to understand that just because a person on the street says a pill is Ativan, this doesn’t mean the pill has the same components as one a pharmaceutical company makes. Illegal laboratories and drug dealers may mix these pills with other substances to increase the amount they can sell.

Use, Abuse, Withdrawal, and Risks

Use

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a person can develop an addiction to Ativan after using it daily for two weeks.

An estimated 30.5 million people in the United States take benzodiazepines (including Ativan) on a regular basis, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).3 This represents about 12.5 percent of adults in the United States. Of these adults, an estimated 2.1 percent misuse benzodiazepines and 0.2 percent met the criteria for benzodiazepine substance abuse disorders.

Ativan Abuse

Of the people who abuse benzodiazepines, they report the most common reason for taking them is to relieve tension or promote a sense of relaxation. Another estimated 11.8 percent reported using benzodiazepines for the express purpose of getting high.

Risks

A person can overdose on Ativan. Symptoms that a person has taken too much Ativan include mental confusion, slow reflexes, and problems moving. A person can slip into a coma and die from taking too much Ativan. According to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, an estimated 30 percent of deaths from pharmaceutical agents resulted when a person had benzodiazepines present in their system.4 Of these, an estimated 75 percent of their deaths were from unintentional overdoses.

In addition to the risks for overdose, taking benzodiazepines can equal a greater risk for falls, especially in older individuals.

Ativan Withdrawal

When a person regularly abuses Ativan, they are at risk for withdrawal symptoms that can closely resemble alcohol withdrawals. A person can have severe symptoms that include hallucinations, psychosis, and severe shaking similar to delirium tremens. As a general rule, a person is more likely to experience this severe syndrome if they have taken sedatives like Ativan for a long time, have other medical illnesses, or are older in age.

If a person has taken Ativan for four weeks or more, they can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking or misusing Ativan. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and potentially life-threatening.

Examples of Ativan withdrawal symptoms include:

Anxiety

Depression

Hypersensitivity to sights, sounds, and smells, around the person

Problems sleeping

Tremors

Serious Side Effects of Untreated Withdrawal

Because there is a risk for a severe withdrawal syndrome, most medical experts will recommend seeking professional medical treatment for Ativan withdrawals. Some people may experience withdrawal symptoms anywhere from four to 48 hours after their last dose of Ativan. Some people may not have symptoms until anywhere from 7 to 10 days after use.

Severe Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Strong cravings for the drug

Because benzodiazepines like Ativan suppress the central nervous system, it’s possible that stopping Ativan can cause a rebound effect. This overstimulates the central nervous system and can potentially lead to effects like seizures and psychosis (where a person loses touch with reality and sees and hears things that aren’t there).

These potential dangers are why many doctors recommend going through Ativan withdrawals at a professional medical facility.

Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Sometimes, doctors may prescribe medications like barbiturates to help reduce the risks of severe withdrawal effects. An example is phenobarbital (Luminal). A doctor may also prescribe anti-seizure medications such as gabapentin or carbamazepine.

Tapering

Other times, a doctor may recommend tapering a person’s Ativan doses gradually. A doctor can work with a person to establish a tapering plan. This may involve taking a half of the typical dose, then one-fourth, then stopping taking the medicine altogether.

Psychotherapy

After navigating the withdrawal period, doctors will often recommend psychotherapy treatments. These may include cognitive-behavioral treatments. These involve helping a person identify how certain triggers could lead them to relapse and learn how to reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Support Groups

A person may also benefit from participation in support groups. These can be a form of relapse prevention and help a person reduce the likelihood they will go back to benzodiazepine abuse. Examples include SMART Recovery and Narcotics Anonymous.

Misconceptions About Ativan

One of the most common misconceptions about Ativan is that because the medication is legal, it doesn’t have the potential to harm. According to NIDA, benzodiazepine misuse can cause symptoms like increased emergency room visits, suicidal thoughts, mental health disorders, and greater rates of substance abuse disorders. For these reasons, it’s very important that a person using benzodiazepines do so only under a physician’s supervision and direction. Self-medicating with Ativan is not safe or healthy.