What Is Ativan?
Ativan (lorazepam) is a type of benzodiazepine (benzo) typically used to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle pain, and insomnia. Taking this drug for these reasons, following the recommended dosing provided by a medical provider, is considered safe. When it is misused, Ativan, like other benzos, carries a risk of addiction.
The risk of dependence on and addiction to Ativan increases, according to the FDA, when a person is using opioids as well. Complications include long-term dependence, cognitive function decline, and overdose.
How Does Ativan Work?
Ativan slows down the function of the central nervous system by stimulating the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells and the brain. In doing this, Ativan can help to reduce the anxiety a person feels or help calm the brain to allow for sleep. In some situations, it can also relax the muscles and thus relieve muscle pain.
When Does Addiction to Ativan Happen?
How much is too much of this drug? Most often, this drug is prescribed for a short period of time, often under four weeks. Reducing the length of use helps to minimize the development of dependence and addiction. Doctors typically prescribe the lowest dose possible to further reduce these risks.
Yet addiction can happen, and sometimes it can happen to those who are not using the drug to get high. The most common starting point for an addiction is the development of tolerance. Tolerance occurs when the body adapts to the drug and requires more of it to get the same effects. As the dose increases, so does the risk for developing dependence: a state in which the body requires the drug in order to function and will show withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped.
Signs of Ativan Dependence
The first signs of dependence include emotional and physical discomfort when you stop using the drug. You may notice signs such as these:
- Loss of appetite, often leading to weight loss
- Confusion and mood swings
- Feelings of being physically ill
Signs of Ativan Addiction
If a person continues to use the drug heavily after dependence develops, addiction may occur. In addiction, the person is both physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. Over time, the person may withdraw from relationships and activities they once found enjoyable so that they can spend more time being high. They may also start purchasing Ativan illegally or stealing it from others. They may go from one doctor’s office to another to get more prescriptions for the drug.
Once addiction sets in, it can be very difficult for a person to stop using the drug on their own. The body develops intense cravings for the drug and experiences physical pain when the drug is not being used. Willpower alone is just not enough.
The Dangers of Continued Use of Ativan
As tolerance grows and a person begins using these Ativan more than they should, there is an increased risk of health complications. Some side effects of use may occur before addiction and dependence form. This is more common when a person uses Ativan along with alcohol or opioids. Some of the most common side effects and complications from misuse of these drugs include:
- Memory loss
- Cognitive function decline
- Respiratory depression
- Excessive sedation – will not wake up
- Loss of consciousness
In some cases, the risks do not go away even after you stop using the drug. The cognitive function decline some people experience may not fully heal.
What Can You Do About Ativan Addiction?
Do you feel like you need to use Ativan more often than when your doctor prescribes it? Are you looking for ways to access Ativan outside of your prescription? These are signs it’s time to seek out help.
In some situations, drug addiction therapy can be very effective. More severe situations may require detox and residential treatment. Most often, a person with an addiction to Ativan will need some level of professional treatment and support. The team at Safe Harbor Recovery Center can help you understand your options and make the best choice for your future.