Ativan, the brand name for Lorazepam, is one of the 5 most prescribed benzodiazepines, which are a class of central nervous system depressant drugs. It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1977 to treat a variety of disorders including anxiety attacks, panic disorder, and insomnia, pre-surgical and surgical anesthesia.
The medication also has numerous off-label uses including, but not limited to, delirium, alcohol withdrawal, panic disorder, and to treat agitated or unruly patients. Due to its’ fast onset (typically 1-3 minutes), Ativan is a popular sedative in the inpatient setting when administered intravenously. When taken as prescribed by a physician, Ativan comes in tablet form, which is the most common method of use.
Benzos enhance the activity of the GABA neurotransmitter, an inhibitory transmitter, which in turn reduces the excitatory signaling brain activity that induces stress and anxiety. There is normally a natural balance between inhibitory and excitatory brain signals, however, for people with certain conditions, such as chronic anxiety and seizures, this balance can be far off.
The general effect of Ativan on the neurotransmitter causes a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Benzodiazepines, including Ativan, are Schedule IV drugs in the US Controlled Substances Act, meaning that while it has medicinal purposes, it can also become physically and psychologically addictive.
One of the ways that Ativan is abused is by snorting it. The pill is crushed into a powder and ingested nasally. Once inhaled, Ativan is absorbed rapidly and a rush of GABA initiates the euphoric “high”. When snorted, Ativan has an expedited transit to the nervous system and receptors in the brain. This makes for high abuse and addiction potential. Regular intranasal use can cause increased tolerance and physical dependence. The withdrawal symptoms once dependence is achieved are extremely unpleasant.
The dangers of abusing Ativan must not be downplayed. According to drugabuse.gov:
A 2010 study found that nearly 30% of deaths caused by pharmaceutical drugs were due to the overuse or overdose of benzodiazepines like Ativan. Furthermore, 75% of overdose deaths caused by benzodiazepines are unintentional. When Ativan is snorted, for instance, it may be easier to misgauge or underestimate the effects of the drug, prompting higher-than-recommended dosing, which can then lead to lethal consequences.
There are many side effects to taking Ativan, including nausea, dry mouth, reduced or increased appetite, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, restlessness, blurry vision. The more serious side effects, which occur more frequently when the drug is abused, include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, shuffling walk, inability to walk in a straight line, or have a normal gait, tremors, irregular heartbeat. In the case of overdose, the central nervous system can be shut down and the user might have pale bluish skin and lips, labored breathing, slurred speech, impaired motor skills, oversedation, and respiratory depression. During an overdose, the respiratory system slows dramatically, the brain and other organs are deprived of oxygen, and the result could be coma or even death.
This is more of a danger when snorting the drug than taking it in pill form as it is more difficult to gauge the amount and rate at which it is entering the system, so the user can take too much unintentionally. A person experiencing an Ativan overdose must be treated immediately, otherwise, they run the risk of brain and nervous system damage. Their respiratory and cardiovascular systems must be stabilized and then they are orally treated with charcoal, binding to the toxic substances and drugs, removing them from the bodily tissues. A person who has overdosed on Ativan must be monitored until their bodily functions return to a normal state.
Ativan Addiction Signs and Symptoms
There are many signs that a person is addicted to Ativan, including confusion, sweating, slurred speech, doctor shopping, breathing difficulties, drowsiness, giving up hobbies and responsibilities, lying, stealing, mood swings, irrational and impulsive behavior, financial woes, and defensiveness when confronted about their abuse of the drug. In addition to these common symptoms of all addicts, those snorting Ativan will most likely show damage to the nasal cavities and sinuses. The addict might sniff excessively, frequently have nosebleeds, have a diminished sense of smell, as well as difficulty swallowing.
Once addicted to Ativan, it is extremely difficult, both physically and mentally, to withdraw from the drug. It is one of the more dangerous substances to withdraw from and must not be done alone and detox should take place at a medical facility if possible. Acute benzodiazepine withdrawal begins with unpleasant symptoms of increased anxiety, nausea, irritability, mood swings, and insomnia, and acute withdrawal symptoms can last 3 to 5 weeks.
We are Here to Help with Ativan Abuse
Once the addict has gone through the initial detox, they will continue to face withdrawal symptoms such as extreme mood swings, panic attacks, depression, confusion, and suicidal thoughts. At Garden State Treatment Center, men and women addicted to Ativan can safely begin their long term recovery. There is lasting damage caused by Ativan, and this should be processed with the guidance of professional therapists and caring staff. The addict faces the daunting task of treating the underlying issues that led to their addiction, and they must learn to deal with these feelings without the help of chemicals.
Garden State Treatment Center has many programs to help the addict stay sober. We educate and assist the addict in returning to society and living a sober life. We provide one on one therapy, group therapy, family and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as relapse prevention programs. We have a partial care rehab program for dual diagnosis conditions like anxiety, trauma, and depression. Our programs are all evidence-based and intended to treat each individual’s underlying issues which are at the core of their addiction.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to Ativan or any other substance, please call and speak with an admissions counselor today. We are open 24/7 and are ready to help you create a path to a healthy and sober life.