Ativan–the brand name for the drug lorazepam–is a type of benzodiazepine commonly prescribed to address anxiety, insomnia, or seizures.
Sometimes misspelled as “Adivan” or “Adavan”, Ativan is not a rare prescription–in fact, it was the sixth (6th) most prescribed drug in 2018.
While Ativan has many valid medical applications that help patients overcome troubling conditions, this drug has a high likelihood of chemical dependence–which can cause troublesome withdrawals. Additionally, the side effects of lorazepam often encourage abuse of the drug.
People who abuse Ativan will find themselves facing an uphill battle to break the addiction to it due to uncomfortable lorazepam withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Ativan Prescribed For?
Individuals who suffer from anxiety, insomnia, trouble sleeping from anxiety or stress, or seizures may be prescribed Ativan to treat their condition.
Lorazepam, the generic name for Ativan, is a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines, or “benzos”, are a group of sedative drugs that catalyze receptors in the brain known as gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptors.
The activation of these neurotransmitters produces a calming effect in the brain. People often describe feeling “downer” effects from the drug, like sleepiness and calmed thoughts.
The “calming effect” from the substance means it can be a helpful drug for individuals who suffer from anxious disorders. Ativan can also help insomnia or trouble sleeping because of its tranquilizer-like effects.
Ativan can also make a significant difference in the lives of those that suffer with seizures. However, if Ativan is taken for too long, or for non-medically-prescribed reasons, the side effects can be damaging.
Ativan Side Effects
Common side effects of Ativan generally include:
- Trouble coordinating
- Poor concentration
In rarer circumstances, patients may also experience these side effects:
- Short breath
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble speaking
How Long Does Ativan Last?
Lorazepam’s half-life is about 12-18 hours.
The half-life of a substance measures how long it takes for the body to eliminate half of the substance.
So, approximately every 16 hours, there is half the amount of lorazepam in a patient’s system as there was when it was taken. If a patient were to take a relatively average dose of 4 mg, then, in around 18 hours, there would be 2 mg of Ativan in that patient’s body. This cycle would repeat every 16-18 hours until all of the substance was completely gone.
The relatively short half-life of Ativan, combined with its high potency makes it a prime candidate for a substance use disorder (SUD).
When misuse of the drug leads to dependence, the likelihood of a person experiencing Ativan withdrawal greatly increases. This usually results in an addiction and can even lead to Ativan overdose.
Ativan Abuse And Risks
It is not uncommon for individuals who suffer from an addiction to Ativan to have started off taking the drug with a prescription. They may develop a chemical dependence, where their brain begins to “expect” the substance.
Once this dependence forms, they may experience unpleasant symptoms whenever they stop use. These are the initial signs of Ativan withdrawal.
Many doctors hesitate to prescribe Ativan due to this dynamic, and typically avoid long-term treatment with lorazepam. Ativan withdrawal symptoms can appear quickly, sometimes as little as 24 hours after the last dose.
In many cases, withdrawals come with some nasty side effects. These effects often include:
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
As this short list shows, many of the side effects of Ativan withdrawal are the exact conditions that Ativan works to treat.
Ativan Withdrawal, Tolerance, and Overdose
Insomnia and anxiety are some troubling effects to deal with when trying to stop taking Ativan, but continued abuse of the substance can only worsen or complicate symptoms.
The fact that lorazepam effects peak and wear off quickly means users will progressively need higher doses of the drug to achieve the same initial efficacy.
One study found that the risk of developing a tolerance to a drug is particularly high in lorazepam, when compared to other benzos. This can make an addiction to lorazepam become more threatening the longer it goes on.
When an individual suffering from an addiction to lorazepam begins needing more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect, they may end up taking too much, and experience a lorazepam overdose.
An overdose is never pleasant, and can even lead to death. The telling side effects of a lorazepam overdose generally appear as confusion, poor coordination, slow reflexes or coma.
If you think you or a loved one is experiencing an overdose, call emergency services right away. Overdoses can be fatal, but the side effects can be treated with medical professionals’ help.
Help to Deal With Ativan Withdrawal
While stopping Ativan use without withdrawal symptoms is unlikely, this process should always be done under professional supervision.
Whether you or a loved one is in the throes of an addiction, or simply finding it difficult to taper off Ativan with medical guidance, you may need additional help to ease the symptoms of Ativan withdrawal.
Contact us today to learn more about the myriad of options available to help you get your life back without Ativan addiction or withdrawal.