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Ativan Abuse Symptoms and Warning Signs

An addiction to Ativan (lorazepam) can develop even when taking the prescribed dosage. Learn the symptoms and signs to recognize an Ativan addiction in someone you love.

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Signs of Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse

Ativan is one of the most potent benzodiazepines available, and it carries a substantial addiction risk.

Taking Ativan for longer than the prescribed period of time and/or more than the recommended dose increases the likelihood of developing a dependence.

However, some people have become dependent on Ativan even after following a prescription. A person physically dependent on Ativan has developed a tolerance to it and needs it in order to function normally. A dependent user who suddenly stops taking Ativan will begin experiencing physical and emotional discomfort. These symptoms are the first signs of withdrawal.

Patients intoxicated with [Ativan] appear similar to individuals intoxicated with alcohol. Slurred speech, ataxia, and poor physical coordination are prominent.

- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Signs of Ativan abuse might include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • No longer participating in former activities
  • Using Ativan as a coping mechanism
  • Dizziness
  • No longer participating in former activities
  • Legal problems
  • Isolation
  • Lying about Ativan use
  • Passing out
  • Over-sleeping
  • “Doctor shopping” to get additional prescriptions

Dangers of Ativan

Due to its highly addictive nature, Ativan should only be used under the supervision of a doctor and as prescribed. Generally, Ativan is only recommended for short-term use given the risk of physical and psychological dependence.

Most severe side effects associated with Ativan use occur with high doses or when the drug is mixed with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or opioids. Dangerous side effects of Ativan abuse can include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Excessive sedation
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Memory impairment
  • Loss of consciousness

Extended use of Ativan can also cause changes in brain functioning. Studies have shown long-term benzodiazepine use can result in cognitive impairment. While cognitive dysfunction improved in some patients after quitting benzo use, not all patients regained full cognitive functioning.

Recognizing an Ativan Addiction

As is the case with most prescription drugs, it’s not always easy to recognize an Ativan addiction. While many obtain and use this drug illegally, there are some who abuse Ativan with a prescription. The abuse often takes place behind closed doors and can go unnoticed for some time.

To determine if someone’s an Ativan addict, look for signs of physical and psychological dependence.

A physical dependence on Ativan can develop quickly. It can even happen to those with a prescription who take the recommended dosage. Withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and anxiety, are a clear sign of a physical dependence. Those with a physical dependence to Ativan may also develop tolerance, meaning they’ll have to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effects.

Cravings are the hallmark of psychological dependence. A person may experience cravings while still taking Ativan or after a period of not using. Continuing to use Ativan even though it’s causing problems with responsibilities or social relationships is another sign of a potential addiction.

Whenever he would crave something he would obsess about that one thing and nothing else mattered. I always said there were like two of him.

- Anonymous, loved one of a recovering Ativan addict

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) helps addiction professionals diagnose a substance use disorder or addiction. There are 11 criteria that characterize addiction as outlined by the DSM. Depending on how many of those criteria a person meets, they may have a mild, moderate or severe Ativan use disorder. It is critically important for individuals who believe they are suffering from an Ativan addiction to be assessed by an addiction professional to determine their actual needs.

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Intervention for an Ativan Problem

If someone you know is addicted to Ativan, you can help them get on the path to recovery by staging an intervention. While some addicts are aware of their problem, many are in denial. This can make talking about their addiction very difficult and the assistance of a professional may be needed.

An interventionist can educate and guide you through the intervention process.

It’s important to time and plan an intervention carefully. You’ll want to rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand and be prepared for anything. Getting other loved ones to participate may help with convincing the addict it’s time for a change.

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Withdrawal From Ativan and Treatment

Withdrawal symptoms can present quickly in those who take Ativan because it’s so addictive. Even those who follow the recommended dosage as prescribed by a doctor can experience physical withdrawal. Some people experience withdrawal after only one week of taking the prescribed dosage of Ativan. Prolonged abuse of Ativan will undoubtedly cause physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when use is terminated.

Generally, the more Ativan is used and the longer the amount of time it’s used, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms. A treatment program or medically assisted detox can safely reduce the effects of withdrawal and teach the skills needed for a successful recovery.

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Getting Help for an Ativan Addiction

There are currently no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addictions to benzodiazepines like Ativan, but there are other therapies and treatments that can help. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to Ativan, don’t wait any longer; contact a dedicated treatment provider to learn about your treatment options today.

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