Ativan is a prescription drug known as a type of sedative or tranquilizer. Ativan is commonly used to treat forms of anxiety. It is the brand name for the generic drug lorazepam and part of the drug class of benzodiazepines. It has also been found to have therapeutic effects across a range of various medical conditions.

Ativan works on the body by attaching to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain. One of the main effect of Ativan is to slow down the chemical messages received by nerve receptors. This causes an calming response usually without much effect on the cardiovascular or respiratory systems. Ativan can affect people differently. Some say that the medication greatly helps to decrease panic attacks and feelings of anxiety. Others have complained that Ativan causes hallucinations and other psychoactive effects. It is prescribed for other conditions as well, such as:

  • Manic bipolar disorder
  • Vomiting associated with cancer medications and chemotherapy
  • Chronic sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

Is Ativan Addictive?

Because Ativan has been known to be a highly addictive prescription drug, doctors tend to only prescribe it to patients as a short-term treatment of about 3-4 months. According to the American Addiction Centers, there are two main signs of physical dependence on Ativan. Over time the body will develop a tolerance to Ativan, and it will require increased dosages to get the desired curative effect or recreational “high.” But as tolerance builds and the dosage increases, the margin of risk also increases. It becomes more hazardous for the body to continue to consume Ativan. Secondly, because of the higher tolerance, Ativan abusers will often experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking this prescription tranquilizer or significantly reduce the familiar amount.

Physical dependence is different from addiction. The American Addiction Centers explains that dependence is a part of addiction, but not all individuals who are addicted are necessarily physically dependent. Likewise, not all persons who are physically dependent will become addicted. A person who has become addicted to Ativan will often display psychological and behavioral signs. For example, there is generally an increased amount of time, energy, and money dedicated to obtaining and taking Ativan, which negatively impacts a person’s work, family, school, and other personal obligations.

Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal

The symptoms of Ativan withdrawal can be particularly dangerous. Some of them include:

  • Anxiety
  • Vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Depersonalization
  • Hallucinations and delirium
  • Derealization
  • Seizures

Treatment for Ativan Addiction

High dose and/or long-term Ativan users are strongly encouraged to go through a medically supervised detox. Generally, withdrawal from Ativan requires a weaning process, because suddenly stopping this drug can lead to the dangerous withdrawal symptoms as well as other dangerous complications. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests two cooperating treatments: pharmacological inventions and psycho-behavioral therapy.

Pharmacological intervention refers to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This involves certain medications that are approved by to treat the addiction of certain drugs. Most medication-assisted treatment focuses on opioid abuse. For now, there are no medications specifically approved to treat Ativan or other benzodiazepine abuse (other than using benzodiazepines in the tapering process). However, it is important to take note of MAT for opioid abuse in the Ativan abuse context because of the high co-occurrence of abuse of these two drug types. Although MAT is not generally available in the Ativan treatment context, there are a core set of services centered on psycho-behavioral therapy.

Different psycho-behavioral therapy techniques are based on varying psychological theories about the causes of psychological stress leading to addiction and the most effective approaches to achieve and maintain a mind free of drugs.

In rehab, psychotherapy is provided on both an individual level and in group settings. For example, in a one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session, the therapist will work with the individual to determine the thinking and beliefs concerning the substance abuse. CBT focuses strongly on learning processes. It suggests that drug abuse is an ineffective form of coping with stress. After the underlying causes of the Ativan abuse are acknowledged by the individual, the next step is to establish new drug-free strategies to cope with stresses). CBT has proven itself to be effective and long-lasting, even after the sessions end. Individuals who are recovering say that they still use the strategies they learned in CBT to maintain self-control and make healthier life choices in their lives.