Ativan, also known as lorazepam, belongs in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the United States, and there are more than 15 different types that exist.
The intended purpose of benzodiazepines is to treat common ailments such as anxiety and sleep disorders that plague millions of Americans each year. The drugs work by slowing down an overactive nervous system, allowing you to rest and relax. Ativan is classified as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, and it can also be used to treat more severe conditions such as epilepsy.
As mentioned above, these are the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States based on their ability to aid with sleep, ease anxiety, and relax tense muscles. The one problem with benzodiazepines such as Ativan is the risk of dependence that could ultimately lead to addiction. If the drug is used for longer than prescribed or taken in higher doses than intended through recreational use, your body could become tolerant of Ativan. Using Ativan along with other drugs could make the medication even more dangerous.
If you’re currently prescribed Ativan, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dependence of the drug, and what needs to be done if you suspect you’ve become addicted. Addiction is a deadly and complex disorder, but it can be treated with the right care.
Ativan is the brand name for the generic drug known as lorazepam. It is used in the treatment of anxiety, sleep disorders, epilepsy, and seizures. In some events, it has been used to alleviate some of the worst symptoms associated with chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting. It is a fast-acting medication that can take effect in as little as five minutes through intravenous injection and as quick as 15 minutes when consumed orally. A benefit for medical professionals is its long duration, which can last anywhere from 12 hours to 24 hours. The combination of fast acting and long lasting allows those prescribed Ativan not just to sleep easier but to sleep longer as well.
Due to its status as a benzodiazepine, Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant; this puts it in the same class as alcohol and barbiturates.
These types of drugs suppress brain activity and bind to specific receptors in the nervous system by increasing the efficiency of the chemical gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Once it attaches to the receptor, it activates anxiolytic or anti-anxiety effects as well as hypnotic, sedative, and muscle relaxing effects. Those who suffer from such disorders are said to have a deficiency of GABA in their brain. When used for its intended purpose, drugs such as Ativan can balance this.
On a different perspective, however, continuous use of Ativan for more than four weeks gives you a greater chance of becoming physically dependent on the drug. Upon becoming dependent, this is when withdrawal symptoms will be present if use is stopped, which can cause catastrophic results if not met with medical intervention. Another cause for concern is that when Ativan is used with other drugs, it can lead to a deadly outcome. Since it suppresses the central nervous system, it can lead to an overdose when combined with other depressants.
While some drugs do not have any outward signs of addiction until it’s too late, Ativan is not one of them. There are signs and symptoms that can signal dependence or addiction. First, a tolerance will begin to develop as your body gets used to the drug. This tolerance can lead to a dependence, which will be the urge to continue using to maintain normalcy.
Once this has all been established, the final step is addiction, which can be characterized by proceeding to use despite the consequences that are attributed to taking the drug. If your Ativan use interrupts your everyday routine, and you continue to use, this is a sign you are addicted.
While there is no single cure for addiction, Ativan dependence is treatable. If a medical professional diagnoses you with a substance use disorder, you will be able to carry on normal functions throughout life while managing the addiction. With the guidance of evidence-based therapies and treatments implemented by medical and clinical professionals, long-term sobriety is achievable. When dealing with such powerful drugs that work with a crucial part of the body, it is common to begin treatment at the highest level of care, which is a medically managed inpatient service, or a medical detox.
Medical detox will treat the immediate needs and begin tapering you off the drugs. Upon entry into detox, you will establish and review a medical plan with a group of therapists and health care professionals that illustrates the next few months of your life. They will determine the most suitable course of action for your specific needs and proceed from there. You are not locked into this plan as it can be changed to fit your needs if you are not responding as anticipated.
The team will monitor your health and safely wean you off the drugs to avoid any life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. You also will be administered medication to help ease the uncomfortable symptoms that may be attributed to the withdrawal. Your medical plan will include the next step of care that is best for your condition.
Following detox, there are three significant levels of care that you could receive based on what’s recommended for you. They are residential inpatient services, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services. Depending on the situation, you may be placed in a residential program, where you will live on-site at a treatment center for a period up to 90 days (three months), unless your situation requires more time. This placement is dependent on what the medical team recommends.
There are various therapies to work with, and the medical staff will establish the ones that are most beneficial for your condition. The National Institute on Drug Abuse publishes that treatment needs to be personalized for it to be effective. The first step you should take when entering treatment is to take a moment with the therapist and devise a treatment plan tailored specifically to your expectations.
It’s a common misconception that when a doctor prescribes a medication, or if it comes directly from a pharmacy, it is essentially harmless. On the contrary, however, is the fact that abusing any drug can be deadly.
Alcohol is a substance that anyone over age 21 can legally purchase, but when abused, it is one of the most dangerous intoxicants known to our planet. With that said, because of Ativan’s strength and the area of the brain it affects, this can be an extremely dangerous medication to abuse.
It has been strongly advised to cease use after four weeks of consumption to avoid dependence. If used with opioids or alcohol in unsafe doses, it can cause a fatal overdose by suppressing the nervous system to the point where you can’t breathe on your own. This could result in death.
All drugs under the umbrella of benzodiazepines can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If you become dependent on benzos and suddenly stop using, you increase the likelihood of having a seizure, and in even more severe cases developing a condition called delirium tremens (DTs) that can come on suddenly, resulting in death.
Benzodiazepines | CESAR. (n.d.). Retrieved from from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment