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Article Summary


Ativan is a brand name for the prescription sedative lorazepam, a medication often prescribed to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. Ativan is in a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which directly affect the central nervous system and work to produce a sense of calm which is why they are prescribed as such. While it may be beneficial in certain clinical settings, prescription drugs such as Ativan have very high rates of abuse and individuals who are even legitimately prescribed the drug often get caught up in such abuse. Because Ativan is a central nervous system depressant, there are dangers associated with using the drug as prescribed much less when abusing it.

Ativan Abuse

Individuals who are legitimately prescribed Ativan can become dependent to the drug very quickly, meaning it can be difficult to even make it through the day without the drug. At the same time, individuals may stop experiencing the intended benefits from a certain dose of Ativan, and so may decide to take more than is prescribed. Combine these two factors, and one can understand how abuse of Ativan can occur through legitimate use of the drug. This could happen to someone who has no history of drug abuse at all, and it could also happen to individuals with a history of substance abuse which is often the case. So someone who just wanted something to help them sleep or to ease anxiety now has a completely new problem on their hands which can be very difficult to deal with.

Ativan is also abused by individuals who use different types of drugs including prescription drugs to get high. These days, prescription drugs such as Ativan are used just as often to get high as any other illicit street drug. For instance, benzodiazepines such as Ativan may be used to level off a high if someone has taken too much of a drug and wants to come down off of it, such as cocaine or meth. Or Ativan may be used along with alcohol to intensify its depressant effect. Individuals who abuse drugs in this way are often not considering the dangers involved when mixing drugs and/or alcohol, and are only interested in instant gratification.

Unfortunately, this leads to many severe consequences which can sometimes even lead to death. For example, mixing Ativan and alcohol which are both depressants could very easily cause a fatal overdose. These dangers are evident every day in emergency rooms around the country, where an estimated 35% of drug-related emergency room visits involve benzodiazepines such as Ativan. Ativan and similar benzodiazepines are also the most commonly used prescription drugs in suicide attempts, with nearly 30% of prescription-drug related attempted suicides involving benzodiazepines.

Ativan Side Effects

When taking Ativan for an extended period of time, whether with a prescription or not, abrupt, or overly rapid cessation of the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms. Use of the drug for even as little as a week has been known to cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Ativan withdrawal symptoms are often extremely unpleasant and some symptoms can even be life threatening. Seizures are a very common symptom of any type of benzodiazepine withdrawal including Ativan. So even if someone does want to get off of the drug they should never attempt to stop taking Ativan cold turkey. A seizure from Ativan withdrawal could result in the individual going into a coma or even worse death, so this is not worth the risks. Detox facilities and other types of drug rehab facilities are the best option for someone who wants to stop using Ativan. Here, detox specialists can ensure that the dangers associated with Ativan withdrawal are minimized or completely eliminated so that this can be a safe and smooth process.

Another dilemma that individuals will face when they choose to stop taking Ativan is a condition known as rebound anxiety. The problem is that Ativan was simply covering up the anxiety and not resolving it, and when Ativan use abruptly ceases the individual's anxiety returns in full force; often worse than before starting Ativan. This is part of the dependency mechanism and why it is so hard to stop taking Ativan. For this reason, it is recommended that individuals consider alternative solutions to treat anxiety before starting Ativan to avoid such setbacks. There are many drug-free and holistic solutions available and no reason that someone should be burdened by dependence to any drug even if it is a prescription drug. There are many treatment programs which can help individuals discover what is causing their depression, anxiety and/or insomnia and resolve those situations instead of using drugs.

Prescription drug addiction is an extremely prevalent yet somewhat unacknowledged problem, and Ativan abuse is often explained away or justified because it is a prescription and not viewed in the same light as illicit street drugs. But don't be fooled, Ativan abuse is drug abuse, and individuals who abuse these types of powerful prescription drugs are putting themselves at risk of many social and health consequences. It can sometimes take a great deal of convincing to get someone to a point where they will come to terms with the fact that they have a problem, but unless the problem is recognized individuals who are abusing Ativan will continue down their road of self destruction.

Getting Help For Ativan Abuse

Individuals who are abusing Ativan will inevitably need help getting off of it, particularly during the detox period. However, it is highly recommended that even legitimate patients who were prescribed the drug seek further treatment to help them understand what causes their anxiety and how to deal with these issues without the use of drugs. Further treatment of course is particularly necessary for individuals who are abusing Ativan and other drugs recreationally, because there is little chance that they will remain off of drugs if they don't make a honest effort to become truly rehabilitated. To do so can take months in an inpatient or residential drug rehab program, where treatment professionals will work to resolve the underlying issues which prompted them to abuse drugs such as Ativan in the first place.

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