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Ativan Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 9, 2024

Table of Contents

The improper use of Ativan (lorazepam), like other benzodiazepines, carries significant risks that can have serious and lasting impacts. Being informed about the dangers of Ativan abuse is crucial for safeguarding yourself or a loved one prescribed this medication. This guide to Ativan and addiction explores the dangers of misusing this benzo and shows you how to connect with evidence-based treatment if you have developed benzodiazepine use disorder.

Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan, a branded formulation of lorazepam, is a medication with a high potential for addiction.

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FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) reports that 20% of the 92 million prescriptions for benzos written by U.S. physicians in 2019 involved Ativan. Resultantly, FDA has mandated a boxed warning due to the risks of Ativan dependence and addiction.

Not everyone who takes the medication will become addicted to Ativan, but misuse can set a dangerous precedent. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite adverse outcomes. Ativan addiction side effects typically include the neglect of responsibilities at work, school, or home.

One of the first Ativan abuse signs is the development of tolerance. When tolerance forms, more Ativan is required to deliver the initial effects. This tolerance can quickly escalate into physical dependence.

Dependence on Ativan can manifest both physically and psychologically. When the body starts to rely on the drug to function normally, the absence of the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Addressing an addiction to Ativan involves a multidimensional approach, often starting with a medically-managed detox process followed by therapy and ongoing support. The aim is to manage withdrawal symptoms safely, unravel the roots of addictive behaviors, and equip people with the tools needed for sustained recovery.

Ativan Addiction Signs

Ativan side effects associated with addiction can be categorized as follows:

Behavioral changes

Some people using the medication may exhibit alterations in behavior, such as withdrawing from social interactions, neglecting responsibilities, or engaging in secretive activities related to obtaining and using Ativan.

Physical signs

Noticeable signs may include slurred speech, coordination issues, or a physical slowing down, all indicative of Ativan’s sedative effects.

Psychological symptoms

Changes in mood, increased irritability, or the emergence of anxiety when Ativan is not available can be signs of psychological dependence on the medication.

Impact on daily life

An increasing focus on Ativan, to the detriment of work, relationships, and hobbies, often signals an addictive pattern developing.

Financial or legal issues

Addiction can lead to unusual financial problems or legal issues, including obtaining Ativan through illegal means or doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions.

Changes in health

Physical health may decline, including disrupted sleep patterns, weight changes, or a lack of attention to personal hygiene.

Risk-taking behaviors

Engaging in risky behaviors, especially to acquire the drug, such as driving under the influence or unsafe sexual practices, can be a red flag for addiction.

Denial or defensiveness

When confronted about their Ativan use, some people might become defensive or deny that there is a problem, other may try to rationalize their drug use.

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Ativan Addiction Symptoms

Diagnosing an addiction to lorazepa is a task for mental health or medical professionals. They utilize the criteria outlined in DSM-5-TR, American Psychiatric Association’s manual for mental disorders, to identify a substance use disorder involving lorazepam.

For a diagnosis to be made, at least two of the following criteria should be met within a year:

  1. Usage of lorazepam in quantities or durations beyond what was intended.
  2. A persistent wish to cut down on lorazepam coupled with unsuccessful efforts to do so.
  3. Significant time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from lorazepam.
  4. Intense cravings or urges to consume lorazepam.
  5. Failing to perform essential roles at work, home, or school due to lorazepam consumption.
  6. Persisting in lorazepam use despite the onset of social or interpersonal issues caused by the drug.
  7. Sacrificing significant social, occupational, or leisure activities in favor of using lorazepam.
  8. Using lorazepam in hazardous situations, like driving or operating machinery.
  9. Continuing lorazepam use despite being aware of ongoing or recurrent physical or psychological difficulties likely caused by the drug.
  10. Developing tolerance, meaning that more of the medication is required to deliver the initial effects.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, which can be both physical and psychological.

Ativan Addiction Treatment

Ativan addiction treatment should be customized to address the person’s unique circumstances and needs. Self-detox from lorazepam or similar benzodiazepines is not advisable due to potentially life-threatening risks. Medical detox is recommended to manage withdrawal symptoms safely and comfortably.

Following detoxification, the recovery journey continues with either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. Inpatient rehab is intensive, offering around-the-clock care and is suitable for those with severe addictions, co-occurring mental health disorders, or lacking a stable living environment. Outpatient rehab, on the other hand, enables people to live at home while attending regular treatment sessions, ideal for those with less severe addictions,  supportive home settings, and reliable transport.

Treatment typically combines medication management for withdrawal with behavioral therapies such as:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): CBT helps identify stressors and teaches healthier thought and behavior patterns.
  • CM (contingency management): CM provides incentives for meeting recovery milestones.
  • MI (motivational interviewing): MI addresses ambivalence toward treatment to enhance engagement with recovery.
  • Relapse prevention: Relapse prevention equips people with skills to recognize and avoid triggers and emphasizes personal accountability in recovery.

Since misuse often involves multiple substances, treatment plans are designed to tackle all facets of a person’s substance use. If you or someone you care about is grappling with Ativan misuse or addiction, effective treatment is available and can avert further complications.

FAQs

Is Ativan an opioid?

No, Ativan is not an opioid. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which act on the central nervous system to produce calming effects.

Can you become addicted to Ativan quickly?

While Ativan is not typically considered as addictive as opioids, it can trigger the development of physical and psychological dependence if used for an extended period or in high doses. Addiction can develop relatively quickly, especially when Ativan is taken in ways other than prescribed.

How addictive is Ativan?

The potential for addiction to Ativan varies from person to person. It is generally considered to have a moderate risk of addiction, and the likelihood of becoming addicted depends on factors such as dosage, duration of use, and individual susceptibility. Use Ativan strictly as prescribed by a healthcare professional and under their guidance to minimize the risk of addiction.

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Get Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you have developed an addiction to prescription medications like Ativan, we offer a variety of detox and treatment services at Renaissance Recovery in Southern California.

Not everyone wants or needs the intensity of residential rehab when addressing addictive behaviors. Our outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment programs allow you to fulfill your everyday obligations while engaging with evidence-based addiction treatment at our beachside facility in Huntington Beach, CA.

All treatment programs allow you to access therapies that include:

When you are committed to imitating a sustained recovery from addiction, call 866.330.9449 for immediate assistance.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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