Anxiety disorders are quite common, but those who turn to medication to relieve their symptoms are often unaware of the potential risk of addiction to popular anti-anxiety prescription drugs such as Ativan. In fact, many people seeking treatment for Ativan addiction began their substance use disorder with a legitimate prescription for the drug.
Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a type of benzodiazepine medication. Benzodiazepines, often simply referred to as benzos, work by attaching to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain to slow down the chemical signals they receive. Ativan is most often prescribed for anxiety and insomnia but can also be used to treat seizures or provide sedation before a medical procedure.
Due to the risk of addiction, the FDA recommends that Ativan not be taken for longer than four weeks. Patients can experience withdrawal symptoms, including rebound insomnia and rebound anxiety, after just seven days of using the drug.
Ativan is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. It is generally considered to be a weaker benzodiazepine than Xanax, but this can vary based on dosage amounts, the time between doses, and a person’s specific brain chemistry. However, since Ativan tends to stay in a person’s system longer than other benzos, it is more likely that a person who abuses the drug will experience strong cravings that can lead to the need for addiction treatment.
Signs of Ativan Addiction
Tolerance and dependence can develop even when Ativan is taken exactly as prescribed, so they are not necessarily signs of a substance use disorder. However, they do indicate that a person’s Ativan usage should be examined closely. Some other potential warning signs of an addiction to Ativan include:
- Taking more Ativan than what was directed by a healthcare provider
- Mixing Ativan with alcohol or other medications to intensify its effects
- Visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to maintain a steady supply of the drug
- Buying the drug illegally without a prescription
- Continuing to use Ativan despite experiencing negative consequences
- Being unable to reduce usage or stop taking Ativan despite a sincere desire to do so
- Frequent cravings for the drug
- Becoming angry or defensive when others express concern about Ativan usage
- Neglecting relationships, responsibilities at work, or hobbies to spend more time using AtivanProlonged abuse of Ativan, especially when it is accompanied by alcohol or other drugs, can lead to poor impulse control. This often results in fighting, shoplifting, reckless driving, unprotected sex, and other types of risky behavior that are out of character for the individual when compared to their previous actions.
Risks of Ativan Addiction
The maximum daily dose of Ativan is considered to be 10 mg per day, but most physicians will not prescribe more than 6 mg per day. Taking more than this can lead to overdose symptoms such as memory loss, profuse sweating, loss of motor skills, lethargy, and fatigue. Difficulty breathing is also a possibility.
An overdose of Ativan is considered a medical emergency. An Ativan overdose can be life-threatening for teenagers, elderly people, and those with preexisting medical conditions. Mixing Ativan with alcohol, other benzos, or additional addictive substances greatly increases the risk of a fatal overdose regardless of other risk factors. One study conducted in 2015 found that nearly one in four opioid overdoses involved someone who had also taken Ativan or other benzos.
In addition to the overdose risk, pregnant women who abuse Ativan can increase the risk of miscarriage and/or fetal birth defects. Babies can also be born dependent on the drug.
It’s a common misconception that people need to experience a “rock bottom” moment like job loss, divorce, legal trouble, or an overdose to seek treatment for substance use disorder. Addiction is a biologically based illness with complex environmental triggers, but it’s easier to treat in the earlier stages. Prompt intervention reduces the risk of long-term harm related to substance abuse.
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s Pennsylvania substance abuse treatment center, treatment for Ativan addiction begins with a personalized evaluation that takes into account an individual’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs to recommend a suitable course of action. Typically, a medically monitored detox is followed by intensive individual, group, and family counseling at our residential treatment center. After completing residential treatment, our clients are encouraged to take advantage of our relapse prevention and continuing care services designed to support the transition back to independent living. If you or your loved one are ready to break free from the burden of addiction, we’re here to help.
Are you or someone you love searching for prescription drug addiction treatment near Altoona, PA? To learn more about SJI Pennsylvania addiction rehab, and our programs, please contact us at (888) 352-3297.