Ativan Overdose – Ativan (lorazepam) is a short-acting benzodiazepine (benzo) that functions in the central nervous system (CNS) by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA works to reduce or depress activity in the CNS and induces a tranquilizing effect on the mind and body. An overdose of Ativan can occur if a person uses too much of the medication, abuses it by tampering with its form and/or altering the route of administration, or takes it in combination with other drugs or alcohol.
Ativan is commonly prescribed to treat common symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, agitation, and restlessness. It can also be used for the treatment of seizures, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, or insomnia.
Signs of an Ativan Overdose
Ativan is considered to be a relatively safe drug when used as directed by a physician, but taking large doses place the user at risk of an overdose, which may result in coma or even death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug overdose fatalities involving benzos increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,537 in 2017.
When taken alone and used as prescribed, Ativan rarely results in serious complications like unconsciousness, coma, or death. High doses of Ativan, however, can be lethal, especially when it’s used in conjunction with other substances that also depress activity in the CNS. Many overdoses, whether intentional or not, have been linked to the concurrent consumption of alcohol, prescription painkillers, other anti-anxiety drugs, or other sedative/hypnotic medications.
Signs of an Ativan overdose include the following:
- Pale, bluish skin or lips
- Shallow, slow breathing
- Oversedation or drowsiness
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Impaired memory
- Loss of consciousness
An Ativan overdose is a medical emergency that may result in death if the person doesn’t receive prompt medical attention. Someone who has overdosed on Ativan should never be left alone to recover, and emergency medical assistance should be sought right away.
Side Effects of Ativan
By reducing activity in the CNS, Ativan also impacts physical functions and responses. Other potential side effects include the following:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Low energy levels
- Loss of pleasure in daily life
- Learning difficulties
- Memory loss
- Blood in stool or urine
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Involuntary movements
Addiction and Withdrawal
One of the most severe side effects of Ativan use is the potential for developing an addiction. Ativan addiction is most prevalent among users who use too much of the drug, who abuse it for recreational purposes, or who take it with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol, prescription painkillers, and sleep aids.
After using Ativan for more than 2-3 weeks, the CNS adapts to the effects of the drug, and many people will require higher doses to relieve their symptoms. This condition is known as tolerance, which may also contribute to physical dependence. If the user continues to abuse Ativan, or the dose is not reduced, these two factors can lead to addiction—a chronic, progressive disease also characterized by a compulsion to seek and use a substance despite the incurrence of negative consequences.
Hallmark signs of Ativan addiction include the following:
- Restlessness, irritability, or depression when the drug becomes unattainable
- An obsessive interest in obtaining the drug
- A lack of control over how much Ativan is used at a given time
- Withdrawal from friends and family as a result of drug use
- A decline in the quality of one’s performance on the job or at school
- Neglectfulness in physical appearance and grooming
- The onset of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued
Benzo withdrawal can result in serious symptoms, including seizures, extreme agitation, and hallucinations. When a person is abruptly deprived of the drug, they may also encounter headaches, nausea and vomiting, sleeping problems, excessive sweating, and restlessness.
A drug taper is usually recommended for most benzo users to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. During this process, a healthcare provider gradually reduces the dose of Ativan over a prolonged period, until the drug can be safely discontinued without compromising the patient’s health.
Seeking Help for Ativan Abuse
Many people erroneously believe that prescription medications, including Ativan, are less dangerous or habit-forming than illicit drugs, such as meth, cocaine, or heroin. This is not necessarily the case, though, especially in situations where a person is abusing more than one substance at a time. Also, people who become dependent on Ativan may be more likely to suffer from mental health conditions that can get worse if the drug is misused.
Recovery in Tune is a specialized treatment center that offers integrated programs that treat addiction as well as co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. Our programs feature services vital for the recovery process, including psychotherapy, counseling, support groups, aftercare planning, and more.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to Ativan, other drugs, or alcohol, contact us today. Discover how we help people break free from the cycle of addiction for life!