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Ativan Addiction and Abuse

Ativan is a fast-acting benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety. Its addictive potential makes it unsafe for consumption at any dosage after a certain length of time.

Ativan Addiction

Ativan Ativan is a highly addictive prescription drug. Taking higher doses of Ativan for an extended period of time can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

Addiction can even occur in those with a prescription to Ativan.

People with a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse or personality disorders are at a greater risk for developing an Ativan addiction.

Those who are addicted to Ativan may experience cravings and continue to use despite any problems it may cause in their life, such as:

  • Issues with family or friends
  • Failing to follow through with work, school or home obligations
  • Getting into dangerous situations
  • Losing interest in what used to matter
  • Social isolation
  • Financial issues

“I was basically locked in my room and the only time I would go out was to hook up with my connection. I spent at least… $400 a day on pills.”

Heidi D., in recovery from addiction to Ativan and other drugs

A habitual user will eventually need more Ativan to produce the same effects. This is known as having a tolerance to the drug.

Often times, people who are addicted to Ativan are aware they have a problem and may even desire to quit, but they are unable to. Withdrawal symptoms can make quitting even more difficult.

Rehab, therapy and/or medically assisted detox can help those struggling with an Ativan addiction overcome their habit as safely and successfully as possible.

Understanding Ativan (Lorazepam)

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication also prescribed to treat other ailments ranging from insomnia to epilepsy. It is classified as an “intermediate-duration drug” and is rarely prescribed for longer than four months at a time due to its high potency. Occasionally, Ativan is prescribed during alcohol detoxification to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Although used to treat panic attacks and other short-term anxiety or depression symptoms, Ativan’s long-term effectiveness has not been confirmed.

Ativan belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or “benzos.” These drugs block the brain’s select neurotransmitters to slow hyperactive mental processes. The substance is sold as a quick-dissolve tablet or concentrated, colorless liquid. When used as prescribed, Ativan is consumed orally or administered intravenously via IV drip by a healthcare professional.

After taking Ativan, it takes about two hours to feel the drug’s full effects. It typically takes 10 to 20 hours for the drug to leave a person’s system.

How Long Do Benzos Stay in the Body?
Length of ActionShort-actingIntermediateLong-acting
Time2-4 hours10-20 hours20-70 hours

Slang terms for Ativan include goofballs, heavenly blues, stupefy or simply benzos.

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Ativan Effects and Abuse

Because Ativan is legal to use with a prescription, some people may not realize they’re abusing the drug. Taking larger amounts of Ativan than prescribed, taking the drug more often than prescribed and taking the drug for longer than prescribed are considered abuse. Using Ativan without a prescription to achieve a high is also abuse.

Ativan helps balance chemicals in the brain that can cause anxiety. When taken in especially large doses, Ativan binds to special receptors in the brain to produce a fleeting, intense high, followed by a prolonged state of calm. The effects of Ativan include:

  • A euphoric high
  • A sense of calm
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Drowsiness

When combined with other substances, like alcohol, the relaxing effects of Ativan are even stronger.

Because Ativan is very potent and can seem harmless as a prescription drug, it is a prime candidate for both accidental and intentional abuse, as well as accidental overdose. Most commonly, overdoses occur when Ativan is taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

Signs of an Ativan overdose can include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of control of body movements
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Coma

Severe cases of Ativan overdose, especially when the drug was used in combination with other drugs, can be fatal.

Common Ativan Drug Combinations

Ativan is often abused alongside other drugs to enhance its sedative effects. Ativan may be combined with other drugs to either enhance or counteract its effects.

Common drug combinations with Ativan include:

  • Cocaine — Ativan can counteract the stimulant effects of cocaine, helping users come down from the high
  • Amphetamines — Amphetamines are “uppers” like cocaine, so Ativan may be used alongside them for the same reason
  • Methadone — Many people will take Ativan to boost the effects of painkiller methadone
  • Alcohol — When combined, Ativan and alcohol produce a quick, potent high. Mixing the two increases central nervous system depression, which can lead to over-sedation.

Taking Ativan in combination with other drugs is very dangerous as it increases the risk of overdose. In some cases, excessive sedation from mixing drugs can lead to unconsciousness, coma or death.

Ativan Abuse Statistics


Number of people who ended up in the emergency room in 2011 due to lorazepam (Ativan) complications.


Of patients admitted to the hospital for benzodiazepine abuse were also abusing another substance.


More than 27 million prescriptions for Ativan were written in 2011.

Depending on your situation and needs, seeking out a support group and additional, individual counseling can provide the necessary tools to stay sober. If you or someone you love is struggling with an Ativan addiction, get in touch with us now to get help finding treatment.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: April 11, 2016

  1. (2014). Ativan: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from:
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from:
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine (2014). Ativan (Lorazepam) Tablet. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from:
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