Some people abuse Ativan for the calming effect it produces, but then become mentally and physically addicted to the drug. Sometimes an addiction treatment is necessary to overcome that addiction, and return to a normal, healthy lifestyle. Choosing an individualized treatment program can be difficult, but there are people who can help with that.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan (lorazepam) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that belongs to the drug class benzodiazepines. The central nervous system is made of up of the brain and nerves, so as a person uses the benzodiazepine, it produces a calming effect by enhancing the effects produced by GABA. GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is a natural chemical in the body that works as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system; it’s key responsibilities are limiting nerve transmission, and slowing down nervous activity in the brain.
In essence, Ativan makes a person feel calm. Actually, while Ativan is going to work on a person’s nervous system, it causes a slight euphoria as well. This slight euphoria opens up a new world of risks for the drug, and can actually cause a person to want to abuse the drug. Especially those who already have an issue with substance abuse.
Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the United States. Even though they have been a growing concern, there’s an increasing number of benzodiazepines being prescribed. There were 27.6 million prescriptions written for lorazepam in 2011, at the time, it was the second most frequently used benzodiazepine in the United States.
Other than Ativan, the most commonly abused benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Restoril. Medical uses for Ativan and some other benzodiazepines are as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorders and insomnia, but some of the other potential uses may include treatment of:
- bipolar disorder
- muscle spasms
- irritable bowel syndrome
- alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- psychosis from alcohol withdrawal
- nausea and vomiting as a result of cancer treatments and chemotherapy
Treatment For Ativan Addiction And Dependence
The active drug in Ativan is lorazepam, which can be habit-forming, especially when taken longer than four months. Ativan is also more likely to lead to problems when taken in larger doses, or more frequently than what’s been advised by a doctor. Using Ativan for a recreational high is also more likely to result in tolerance and dependence.
Ativan dependence is characterized by tolerance, or need for increased dose sizes, and withdrawal symptoms, which can happen when a person stops. Tolerance means that a person needs more of a drug for the same effects, and it can actually deem the drug less effective. As a person’s tolerance to Ativan increases, so does the risk margin, and the more severe the withdrawal symptoms will be.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is often called a drug rebound effect—where the discontinuation of a prescription drug causes the very symptoms that it was meant to treat. So the rebound of Ativan includes insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety. Some of the other common withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines include:
- panic attacks
The seizures during benzodiazepine withdrawal can be severe and even life-threatening. Most inpatient rehab centers offer a medical detoxification to help people though the worst of these symptoms.
Along with tapering off Ativan, a detoxification will include professional monitoring of food, vitamin, sleep, and fluid intake. But benzodiazepine addiction also has psychological components, so in addition to detox, it’s suggested that clients receive treatment for the mental addiction of benzodiazepines as well. Benzodiazepine addiction can stem from unhealthy behaviors, environments, or coping mechanisms; to help a client overcome their mental obsession, there are behavioral therapies.
To better understand benzodiazepine addiction, research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has revealed that “benzodiazepines cause addiction in a way similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and the club drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).” To elaborate—part of the reason that these mood-altering drugs are addictive in the first place is because of a surge of dopamine they cause to enter into the brain.
This was considered by Dr. Christian Lüscher and colleagues at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, when they discovered that “benzodiazepines weaken the influence of a group of cells, called inhibitory interneurons, in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA).”
“These neurons normally help prevent excessive dopamine levels by downregulating the firing rates of dopamine-producing neurons. Two negatives make a positive, so when benzodiazepines limit the interneurons’ restraining influence, the dopamine-producing neurons release more dopamine,” (NIDA).
Some people are more prone to develop an addiction to benzodiazepines. According to the National Library of Medicine, adults over 64 “are (also) at risk of developing dependence on sedatives prescribed for insomnia or anxiety… patients with a history of a substance use disorder or psychiatric comorbidity are at higher risk of abusing these medications.”
What Are The Signs Of Ativan Abuse?
If you’re uncertain as to whether someone is abusing Ativan, it can be helpful to know what substance abuse is and what it looks like. First of all, not everyone intentionally abuses Ativan; and even normal use can lead to abuse. Prescription drug abuse essentially means using it for anything other than it’s legitimate medical purpose.
Some of the signs of Ativan abuse include:
- experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop using Ativan
- changes in behavior: such as mood swings, or increased anxiety
- spending a lot of time alone
- neglecting work, school, or relationship responsibilities
- stops caring about activities that they were once passionate about
- taking Ativan for illegitimate (unprescribed) reasons
- doctor shopping for Ativan
- purchasing Ativan from an illegal source
- seeming drunk or intoxicated
The high from Ativan is described as being relatively similar to alcohol, so while high on Ativan, a person may seem drunk, and slur their words, or stumble when they walk. Some people mix Ativan it with alcohol or other drugs to increase the effects produced by each. So when someone mixes Ativan with alcohol, they may seem super-drunk even if they’ve had very little to drink. This mixture of CNS depressants can be a fatal combination.
When someone’s abuse of Ativan becomes severe, they may experience problems with health, relationships, work, or school—these are some of the main indicators of a substance use disorder. In many cases of benzodiazepine abuse, a person will develop a co-occurring disorder as well— this is when a substance use disorder occurs at the same time as a mental disorder. Some examples of mental disorders that may occur with an Ativan use disorder include:
- depression disorder
- anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- insomnia disorder
- epileptic disorder
- phobia disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
Mental disorders don’t always usher in a substance use disorder, and the two types can occur in either placement. When a person is suffering from a co-occurring disorder, they need to be treated for both the mental and physical symptoms that come with. Failure to treat both maladies can result in continued drug use, more severe withdrawal symptoms, and even irreversible brain injuries.
Ativan isn’t a classified as narcotic, but it’s still considered a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and is categorized as a Schedule IV drug. This means that the drug is believed to have a low potential for abuse relative to drugs like heroin, cocaine, or MDMA. But just because Ativan has a lower for risk for abuse than heroin, and carries a legitimate medical purpose, there’s still potential for abuse and the risks that come with it.
What Are The Side-Effects Of Ativan?
When a person uses a prescription drug, there is almost always a list of potential side-effects. These are the reaction that the body and mind have to the chemicals in a drug. Side-effects that occur from Ativan may include:
- dry mouth
- changes in appetite
- restlessness or excitement
- difficulty urinating
- frequent urination
- blurred vision
- changes in sex drive or ability
- shuffling walk
- persistent, fine tremor or inability to sit still
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- severe skin rash
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- irregular heartbeat
Is There A Right Way To Treat Ativan Addiction?
No matter where a person seeks treatment for Ativan addiction, it’s vital that the treatment will address every problem that a person may have with substance abuse. Detoxification may be necessary for benzodiazepine treatment, because of the danger involved, and a behavioral therapy is often required to avoid relapse. In every case, treatment is a building block for sobriety, but recovery is something that will last a lifetime.
There are a lot of different evidence-based treatment options that can help one overcome Ativan addiction; and though not every option will work for each person, there is one that will work for most everyone. People come from different environments and backgrounds. It’s for this reason that an individualized treatment is the basis of a good addiction treatment.
An individualized treatment refers to an option that will treat someone based on their personal needs. Some people require treatment for 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days. Others may need to go to treatment for a year or longer. The point is to treat the full problem, and build a strong foundation for recovery.
Even though the treatments, and people will vary, one thing stands true—though addiction is not curable, it’s treatable. Some of the treatment options to help replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones can include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Mindfulness and Stress Management Practices
- Medication-Assisted Therapy
- Holistic Treatment
- Religious or Nonreligious Treatment
- Motivational Interviewing
Find The Best Ativan Treatment Program
Reach out to the caring treatment specialists at DrugRehab.org, if you or a person you care about is struggling with an addiction to Ativan. There is a rehab treatment right for you, that can help you overcome addiction, and learn how to live a normal life again. Contact us today.
For More Information Related to “Ativan Addiction and Treatment Options” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Oxycodone
- The Most Addictive Prescription Sedatives
- Serax (Oxazepam) Withdrawal and Detoxification
- Signs of Librium Abuse
- Temazepam (Restoril) Withdrawal and Detoxification
Drug Enforcement Administration – Controlled Substances
Drug Enforcement Administration – Benzodiazepines
National Institute on Drug Abuse – Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties
U.S. National Library of Medicine – Prescription Sedative Misuse and Abuse
U.S. National Library of Medicine – Lorazepam