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Article Summary

A Guide To Ativan Addiction

The brand name for Lorazepam, Ativan is not only highly addictive, it is also a highly potent sedative. Read on to learn more about Ativan addiction:

Understanding Ativan

Ativan - also referred to as lorazepam - is a potent and strong sedative that acts immediately when used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and all associated conditions. The drug is also prescribed for the management of acute seizures and insomnia, as well as for sedating aggressive people.

As a benzodiazepine, Ativan produces the desired therapeutic effects because the formulation interacts with the binding cells in the GABA receptors located within the central nervous system.

Even though this prescription medication is useful in managing anxiety, it wasn't designed for long term use. This is because it is as habit forming as it is addictive. As such, only patients who have a prescription should use it.

If taken over the long haul, Ativan causes tolerance, which culminates in dependence and addiction. In some cases, the drug also leads to cognitive impairment (which might prove permanent even after usage is discontinued) and benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

In some cases, addicts pair the prescription medication with alcohol if only to achieve more of the relaxation effects it causes. This often leads to such harmful consequences as respiratory depression.

Others abuse Ativan to get rid of the effects brought about by stimulant use, which often leads to an intense high. When the user continues such polysubstance abuse, they are more prone to fatal conditions, including coma and death.

Ativan Uses

As mentioned above, doctors prescribe Ativan to treat seizure, anxiety disorders, and a variety of other medical conditions. The drug also works well for curing severe insomnia. However, it should not be used for long because it is addictive.

If you use Ativan without a prescription or against the orders issued by your doctor, you have abused it. Similarly, you should never take another person's prescription - particularly if you have a preexisting medical condition or a history of dependence and addiction.

That said, medics have discovered that this prescription medication is therapeutic for dealing with:

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Chronic sleep problems
  • Manic bipolar disorder, where it works as a reliable adjunctive treatment
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Psychosis arising from sudden alcohol withdrawal
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy and cancer drugs

Causes Of Ativan Abuse

Ativan carries a high risk of psychological and physical addiction. Although the exact reasons behind its addictiveness remain unknown, the following factors might contribute to chronic abuse and dependence:

a) Genes

If any one of your first-degree relatives - including a parent - has an addiction problem, you are twice as likely to get hooked to Ativan.

b) Brain Chemistry

This prescription drug is highly addictive because it activates the reward system in the brain with adverse effects on the central nervous system. Therefore, researchers hypothesize that those who are easily susceptible to addiction lack some of the brain chemicals used to naturally produce pleasure.

c) Environment

Environmental sensors might cause you to start abusing Ativan, and other associated addictive prescription medications - if only to cope with your emotions. If you use any substance to deal with life events and stresses, you will probably become dependent.

In the same way, if you grew up in a household where substance abuse was commonplace, you have a higher likelihood of become addicted to Ativan. By copying the behavior you saw around you, you will have learned that using drugs is the right way to deal with issues.

d) Psychology

Last but not least, Ativan works well in alleviating some of the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses - including but not limited to anxiety and depression. If you suffer from these illnesses, you might end up getting hooked to the drug without knowing that you have other underlying mental health problems, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression.

Ativan Effects

Ativan slows down the chemical messaging to nerve receptors, thereby producing a calming effect. It is so effective that it will create this effect without harming the respiratory or cardiovascular system.

The other possible effects that arise when you take this drug include:

  • Improved relaxation, accompanied by less behavioral inhibition
  • Reduced chances of experiencing seizures
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety and nervousness

For the above effects to occur, Ativan has to be used according to the doctor's prescription. This means that the bottles should be at your workplace, or inside your home or car.

If you have an Ativan prescription, you will only get one dose a month. As a general rule, doctors don't prescribe this drug for more than four months. Therefore, the presence of more than one prescription bottle - or evidence of overlapping months - shows that the individual concerned has been abusing the medication.

That said, Ativan also comes with several negative effects, which might leave a lasting impact in all aspects of your life. These effects include, but are not limited to:

  • A lifestyle revolving around Ativan
  • Cognitive problems
  • Extreme depression
  • Kidney failure
  • Neglected family and work responsibilities
  • Red eyes
  • Respiratory failure
  • Trouble with the law

Ativan Side Effects

If you abuse Ativan, you will also experience several recognizable side effects. As such, you need to understand the various side effects that arise from taking benzodiazepines in high doses, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Cessation of breathing, which might lead to death
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Reduced ability to make lucid decisions
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness

Ativan Addictive Qualities

As mentioned earlier, Ativan is one of the most addictive of all benzodiazepines. It is for this reason that the prescribing doctor will ask about your history with drug abuse - if at all - as well as if your family has a history of dependence and addiction. To ensure that you do not get hooked to the drug, your doctor will only prescribe Ativan for the short term - nothing going over the 4 month mark.

That said, your chances of addiction will depend on many factors. Similarly, the abuse of the drug affects people in different ways. For instance, there are many personal accounts posted online about the experiences people have had with Ativan.

Whereas some agree that the drug was useful in helping them treat their panic attacks, others say that they got hooked to it after a couple of months of use, and were positively unable to quit.

Unverified reports say that the drug produces calming, pleasurable feelings while others attest to hallucinating. Although you might experience psychoactive effects if you abuse Ativan, the main thing to remember is that most people who abuse this drug do so for recreational purposes.

Like other prescription medications in its class, Ativan often leads to physical dependence. Over time, your body will start tolerating the tranquilizer, meaning you will have to take higher doses to achieve the recreational high or therapeutic effect you desire.

However, as your tolerance develops and you start taking more of the drug, your margin of risk will simultaneously shoot up. This means that Ativan will operate dangerously in your system.

Similarly, increased tolerance will enforce serious withdrawal symptoms whenever you stay away from the drug for long. As a direct result, you will dedicate more of your resources, energy, and time in trying to get and consume Ativan - causing your personal obligations, school, family, and work to suffer.

Ativan Dangers

Apart from being addictive in nature, Ativan can also prove to be seriously fatal. Most of the severe side effects arising from this drug will come about after you take higher doses.

More particularly, the dangers of abusing Ativan include:

  • Excessive sedation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory impairment
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

If you abuse this prescription drug over an extended period, the way your brain functions will also change. In fact, study after study shows that using benzodiazepine in the long term will lead to cognitive impairment.

Although some patients who quit Ativan experience improved cognitive function, others might lose it altogether.

In the same way, the withdrawal symptoms that will arise when you decide to stop taking this drug might prove to be equally dangerous. It is because of this reason that anyone who has been using Ativan for a long term - or in high doses - should only undergo detox under medical supervision.

These withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Depersonalization
  • Depression
  • De-realization
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Memory loss (short term)
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Vertigo

Signs And Symptoms Of Ativan Abuse

Many different signs and symptoms indicate certain Ativan abuse, dependence, and addiction. The symptoms you will experience might include any or all of the following:

a) Mood Symptoms
  • Depression
  • Hostility
  • Mental changes
  • Paradoxical anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mood changes
b) Behavioral Symptoms
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Doctor shopping, and visiting many doctors to procure multiple prescriptions
  • Financial problems
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to manage obligations
  • Increasing interpersonal problems
  • Job loss
  • Legal problems
  • Memory problems
  • Scholastic and occupational dysfunction
  • Social withdrawal
  • Stealing and/or borrowing Ativan from loved ones
  • Violent behavior
c) Physical Symptoms
  • Appetite changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Heartburn
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Respiratory depression
  • Skin rash
  • Slurred speech
  • Syncope
  • Trouble walking
  • Vomiting
d) Psychological Symptoms
  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Light-headedness
  • Psychosis

Some Ativan abusers take heavier doses of the drug over an extended period, in which cases they can be considered as chronic users. The main symptoms of such chronic abuse include:

  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Tremors
  • Weakness

Treatment For Ativan Addiction

At present, the FDA has not approved any medications for the treatment of benzodiazepine addiction. However, there are several other therapies used to treat this type of addiction.

Contingency management, motivational enhancement therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are all useful in helping addicts identify the beliefs and thought processes underlying their abuse, as well as change them. These lessons are further reinforced through twelve-step programs, if only for sustainable recovery.

Reviewing different drug abuse rehabilitation centers will help you understand the different set of treatments available, as well as the complementary services provided in support of your core recovery plan.

According to a recent publication by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) titled Principles of Drug Addiction, these core services include psycho-behavioral therapy and pharmacological interventions.

Although pharmacological interventions are still under development, a wide variety of psycho-behavioral therapy strategies and techniques work well to help Ativan addicts recover. Most of these are based on different theories about the different causes of the psychological stresses that lead to substance abuse and addiction. Similarly, they focus on some of the approaches that are most effective at helping addicts achieve and maintain a mind that is free of drugs.

In drug rehabs, the commonly-used psychological and behavioral therapies used include, but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Community reinforcement approach
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Contingency management interventions
  • Dialectical behavior therapy

When you join rehab for Ativan addiction, therefore, you can be sure that psychotherapy will be administered at both the group and the individual level. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy provided at the individual level will ensure that you identify the beliefs and thought processes that caused you to start abusing Ativan.

The drug rehabilitation center might also provide complementary ancillary services revolving around health and wellness. These services include:

  • Adventure therapy, with activities like hiking
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Physical training and exercise
  • Yoga

Since some rehabs are quite pricey and even though you might have a supportive family, you might still find that you need additional help. Look for options that offer help with free (or low-cost) legal services, housing, job placement, childcare, public benefits, and transportation - among others. This way, you will have an easier time managing your addiction, fighting it, recovering, and getting back on your feet with little to no stress.

Over and above everything else, although it might take some time before you fight your Ativan addiction, dependence, and abuse, you will be glad you did. Since being hooked to the drug carries a real risk of destroying your lifestyle as well as causing such fatal consequences as death, the earlier you start fighting addiction, the easier it will be down the line.

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