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By We Level Up NJ Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: December 8, 2022

What Are The Side Effects Of Ativan?

Ativan can cause mild or serious side effects. The following list contains some of the key Ativan side effects that may occur while taking Ativan. This list doesn’t include all possible Ativan side effects. For more information on the possible Ativan side effects, or tips on how to deal with a troubling side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

More common Ativan side effects

The more common Ativan side effects:

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

Some people may also experience less frequent Ativan side effects such as:

  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in libido (sex drive)
  • Memory problems

In people who receive the Ativan injection, redness or deepening of skin color and pain at the injection site can commonly occur.

Some of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Ativan side effects

Serious side effects from Ativan aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have any serious Ativan side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious Ativan side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory failure, which is rare
  • Low blood pressure, may be severe enough to cause fainting or falls.
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Uncontrollable, sudden movements in your arms or legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Stiff muscles
  • Staring spells
  • Paradoxical reactions (reactions that cause effects opposite to those expected with the drug), such as aggression, hostility, agitation, or rage.
  • Dependence, misuse, and addiction are more likely in people who take higher doses of Ativan or use it long-term, or those who misuse alcohol or drugs.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription tranquilizing drug. You might also know it as a sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic medication. Ativan is used for anxiety treatment [1]. It is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow for relaxation. Many have succumbed to Ativan addiction and require Ativan detox to function normally again and avoid Ativan side effects that bring health risks.

Ativan is the brand name available in the US for lorazepam. Loraz, another brand name for lorazepam, has been terminated in the US. Ativan is obtainable in generic form; however, you need a prescript from your doctor. Despite its legitimate medical uses, Ativan has known addictive and drug dependence liabilities.

This is one of the reasons why Ativan is prescribed for relatively short-term use. However, people should be careful to adhere to prescription guidelines. If not, if an individual exceeds the recommended dosage, it may increase the likelihood of drug addiction development.

Ativan is a DEA-controlled drug. The active ingredient lorazepam is a DEA Schedule IV controlled substance. Given that, substances in the DEA Schedule IV have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III. The DEA also classifies Ativan as a Depressant. Moreover, the street names for Benzodiazepines, including Ativan, are Benzos, Downers, Nerve Pills, and Tranks. [2] 

Since Ativan is legal to use with a prescription, some people may not realize they’re abusing the drug. 
Since Ativan is legal to use with a prescription, some people may not realize they’re abusing the drug. 

Ativan Addiction Statistics

The national statistics are never a complete picture of addiction rates. What you should know is that according to statistics on Ativan addiction, benzodiazepine use is consistently high.


27 million

With more than 27 million prescriptions written as of 2011, Ativan ranked fifth among the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines (and the number has continued to rise).

Source: NIH

75%

Approximately 75% of people who sought medical attention for benzodiazepine overdoses also abused opioid painkillers, usually for fun.

Source: NIH

20%

An extended hospital stay or death occurs in about 20% of all emergency room visits for benzodiazepine-related distress.

Source: NIH


Ativan Uses

This drug is prescribed to relieve anxiety. Lorazepam belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines which act on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to have a calming effect. Ativan works by boosting the effects of a specific natural molecule in the body.

How To Use Ativan

As prescribed by your doctor, take this medication by mouth with or without food. The dosage is determined by your age, health status, and treatment response.

Use this medication as prescribed by your doctor to get the most benefit from it. Use it at the same time(s) every day to help you remember.

Although it benefits a lot of people, this medication occasionally leads to addiction. If you have a substance use disorder, such as excessive or compulsive drug or alcohol use, your risk may be higher. To lessen the possibility of addiction, take this medication exactly as directed. To learn more, consult your physician or pharmacist.

Do not abruptly stop taking this medication without first talking to your doctor. When this medication is abruptly stopped, certain conditions could get worse. It might be necessary to gradually reduce your dosage.

Long-term use of this medication may cause it to lose some of its effectiveness. If this medication stops working as well, consult your doctor.

If your condition persists or gets worse, let your doctor know.

Ativan Precautions

Inform your doctor or pharmacist before taking lorazepam if you have any allergies to it, other benzodiazepines (like alprazolam, clonazepam, or diazepam), or other substances. Inactive ingredients in this product have the potential to trigger allergic reactions or other issues. To learn more, speak with your pharmacist.

Inform your doctor or pharmacist about your medical history before taking this medication, especially if it includes any of the following conditions: kidney disease, liver disease, glaucoma, lung/breathing issues (such as sleep apnea), mental/mood disorders (such as depression, psychosis), or a personal or family history of a substance use disorder (such as excessive or addiction to drugs or alcohol).

This drug may cause you to feel groggy, sleepy, or have blurred vision. You may become more woozy or sleepy after consuming alcohol or marijuana (cannabis). Until you can do something safely, avoid operating machinery, driving, or doing anything else that requires alertness or sharp vision. Avoid drinking alcohol. Consult your physician if you use marijuana (cannabis).

Inform your surgeon or dentist of all the products you use prior to surgery (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).

The adverse effects of this medication, particularly drowsiness and loss of coordination, may be more noticeable in older adults. Drowsiness and loss of coordination may make falling more likely. Additionally, older adults may experience lorazepam’s typical calming effect in the opposite way.

In children, this medication may have the opposite of its typical calming effect, resulting in restlessness, shaking, or changes in mental state (such as agitation and hallucinations).

If you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant, let your doctor know. Lorazepam usage should not be combined with pregnancy. Consult your doctor as soon as possible about the risks and advantages of this medication if you find out you’re pregnant. An unborn child could suffer harm from lorazepam. If you observe symptoms in your newborn baby, such as slowed breathing, feeding issues, or persistent crying, call the doctor right away. For further information, talk to your doctor.

This medication enters breast milk. Before breastfeeding, speak with your doctor.

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Ativan Effects On The Body

By slowing the activity of the brain and nerves, Ativan also affects physical functions and responses. As a tranquilizer, Ativan can make the user feel calm and physically relaxed. Ativan can also stop painful spasms in muscles, or prevent life-threatening seizures when taken correctly. For patients who take Ativan as directed for legitimate reasons, this medication is generally safe and effective. However, all users must watch out for potential adverse reactions to the drug, such as:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Low energy levels
  • Confusion
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Chills
  • Pale, cool skin
  • Involuntary movements (tremors, shaking)

Since it can cause clumsiness, drowsiness, and disorientation, Ativan increases the risk of accidental injuries. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration cautions that drugs in the benzodiazepine family, like Ativan, can cause symptoms that resemble alcohol intoxication, such as loss of motor coordination, slurred speech, visual disturbances, and blurred vision. Driving under the influence of Ativan, or performing other activities that require hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes, can be extremely dangerous, especially if the user has also consumed alcohol or other sedatives.

Ativan Effects On The Mind

Ativan can have powerful effects on the brain and nerves. However, many users experience “rebound” side effects or worsen the same symptoms that the drug is designed to treat. In particular, Ativan can cause rebound anxiety, sleep disturbances, abnormal body movements, and agitation. Other side effects can include:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of pleasure in day-to-day experiences
  • Depression
  • Memory problem
  • Learning difficulties

The chemical structure of lorazepam is intended to reduce the excitability of the brain and nerves while soothing emotional responses that create anxiety and restlessness. On the negative side, Ativan can flatten users’ emotional responses and blunt their experiences of the world. As a result, individuals who take Ativan may begin to lose interest in their everyday experiences or responsibilities. As a result, they may feel constantly sluggish and tired and have a dazed, exhausted appearance.

How Long Do The Effects Of Ativan Last?

How long do the effects of Ativan last? The amount of time Ativan lasts will depend on both how much you take and your own body, but, in general, Ativan lasts about six to eight hours. It should start working about 20-50 minutes after you take it, and you’ll feel the effects of Ativan most strongly about two hours after taking it.

The Ativan half-life is about 12 hours, which means about half of the Ativan you took will still be in your body at that point. But how long does Ativan last in your system? For most people, Ativan will be out of their system within three days, although if you’ve been on this medication for a long time, such as a few months or more, and developed a high tolerance, Ativan can remain detectable in your body several weeks after you last took it.

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Ativan Drug Interactions

Ativan can interact with several other medications. It can also interact with certain supplements and foods. Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some can interfere with how well a drug works, while others can cause increased side effects.

Some products that may interact with this drug include clozapine, kava, and sodium oxybate (also known as gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB).

The risk of serious side effects (such as slow/shallow breathing, and severe drowsiness/dizziness) may increase if this medication is taken with other products that may cause drowsiness or breathing problems. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other products such as opioid pain or cough relievers (such as codeine, hydrocodone), alcohol, marijuana (cannabis), other drugs for sleep or anxiety (such as alprazolam, diazepam, zolpidem), muscle relaxants (such as carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine), or antihistamines (such as cetirizine, diphenhydramine).

There are no medicines approved by FDA for Ativan addiction treatment, but there are other therapies that can help.
There are no medicines approved by FDA for Ativan addiction treatment, but there are other therapies that can help.

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Ativan and Alcohol Interaction

Even though Ativan is a prescription medication, it can be abused. One of the substances often abused with benzodiazepines such as Ativan is alcohol. This combination is dangerous because Ativan and alcohol both depress the central nervous system and can lead to slowed breathing, extreme drowsiness, coma, and death.

Since Ativan and alcohol have similar effects on the brain and body, ingesting both within the same timeframe can heighten those effects, sometimes with deadly consequences. They both inhibit the central nervous system and can lower heart rate and breathing. The effects of the two combined can be greater than if they were consumed alone. The combination can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems, coma, and death.

Ativan and Klonopin Interactions

Drug interactions are reported among people who take Ativan and Clonazepam (Klonopin). Common interactions include weight decrease among females and depression among males. Using Ativan together with Klonopin may increase side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially the elderly, may also experience impairment in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination. You should avoid or limit the use of alcohol while being treated with these medications.

Ativan and Adderall Drug Interactions

Adderall speeds the system up to help those who have ADD or ADHD be able to concentrate better and stay more alert. Unfortunately, some people mix Ativan and Adderall together. Mixing drugs is a way for people to extend the high they feel or prevent withdrawal symptoms from other drugs they might be taking.

Adderall and Ativan are prescription medications that are prescribed for opposing purposes. Ativan slows the central nervous system response to stress and uncomfortable situations so that a person will have less anxiety.

However, mixing Adderall and Ativan is dangerous because it increases the risk of an overdose. Other health problems can be caused by this combination, too.

Ativan Overdose

Ativan overdose may happen at any level higher than what your doctor has prescribed for you. The amount of Ativan that a person takes to reach an Ativan overdose differs from person to person. This can be based on weight, gender, genetics, and underlying health conditions, among other factors. The doctor prescribing a person Ativan is taking these factors into account when deciding what dose is safe.

Since Ativan is extremely potent and can appear harmless as a prescription drug, it may cause both accidental and intentional abuse as well as an accidental Ativan overdose. Most commonly, overdoses happen when it is taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

Signs of Ativan overdose may include the following:

  • Mental Confusion
  • Slurred Speech
  • Lack of Energy
  • Loss of Control of Body Movements
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Slow Breathing
  • Passing Out
  • Coma

Severe cases of Ativan overdose, especially when the drug was used in combination with other drugs, can be fatal.

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Ativan Addiction Treatment

There is a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper treatment.

To determine the most effective ways to treat Ativan side effects and addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide the necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy for Anxiety

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorders and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Inpatient rehab is the highest level of care for substance abuse treatment.
Inpatient rehab is the highest level of care for substance abuse treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

 Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term substance abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as anxiety and depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up NJ can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

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Sources

[1] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682053.html

[2] NCBI – https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Lorazepam

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