Doctors prescribe Ativan (lorazepam) to treat a variety of conditions: Anxiety, insomnia, seizures and agitation are among the most common. It belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which is known to have a high potential for addiction and abuse.
Despite the huge increase in the number of people seeking treatment for Ativan addiction over the past decade, physicians continue to prescribe it, often for long-term use. People who take Ativan for more than four weeks frequently develop physical tolerance and psychological dependence on the drug; the feeling of euphoria and wellbeing it produces lasts longer than most other drugs, which leads to strong cravings for the next dose. Ativan addiction sneaks up on those who take it before they realize it is happening.
Benzodiazepines first became available in the US in 1963; in 2011 alone, doctors wrote nearly 15 million prescriptions for sedatives like Ativan. Tragically, Ativan is linked to between one-third and one-half of suicide attempts involving drugs. Whether this is because the drug can produce feelings of depression and suicide at higher doses, or because of the actual sedative effects of the drug, is unknown. Between 2005-2009, the number of emergency room visits for suicide attempts using Ativan increased 170%.
- In 2011, over 60,000 people were admitted for treatment of Ativan addiction.
- In 2012, 7.2% of teenagers said they had used Ativan for recreational purposes.
- Approximately one in six adults will seek medical treatment for insomnia and anxiety; most of them will be treated with Ativan or a similar medication at some point.
Symptoms of Ativan Addiction
- Feeling unable to cope without Ativan.
Instead of taking the drug as prescribed, or to treat symptoms, the person needs to constantly take Ativan to get through the day.
- Needing to increase the dose to get the desired effect.
People facing addiction frequently need to double or even triple the prescribed dose to feel calm and relaxed.
- Being unable to cut down on the drug.
No matter how often or how hard the person tries, they are unable to cut back or stop taking Ativan.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if the drug isn’t taken regularly.
A person with an Ativan addiction will experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they can’t take the drug at regular intervals.
Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms from Ativan can occur in just a few hours in people who are addicted to it. While not all users experience all symptoms, most will experience a combination of the following:
- Extreme anxiety or agitation.
- Extreme sensitivity to pain.
- Shakes and tremors.
- Muscle aches and pains.
- Twitching muscles.
- Heart palpitations.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Seizures in rare cases.
- Potential for psychosis
A person who has been using Ativan for more than a few weeks, or uses more than medically prescribed, should never abruptly stop taking the medication, because withdrawal side effects are not only extremely uncomfortable, they can be dangerous, even deadly. Medically supervised detox is the best way for long-term users to stop taking the drug. The physical and psychological symptoms can be safely managed, and the person will be more comfortable.
Psychological, Social and Physical Effects of Ativan Addiction
Unfortunately, many people who become addicted to Ativan don’t realize the potential harmful physical effects, believing that a medication that is prescribed by doctors is safe. Long-term use has negative effects on all aspects of a person’s life.
The psychological effects of long-term Ativan use develop gradually; often, the person does not recognize the effects himself, friends and family members will notice them first. Over time, the drug can induce:
- Panic attacks.
- Poor impulse control.
- Increased tendency toward aggression or violence.
- Agoraphobia, or fear of being outdoors.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Psychotic episodes and hallucinations
Physically, Ativan produces neurological and muscular effects that gradually worsen. They include:
- Long- and short-term memory loss.
- Impaired thinking.
- Uncontrollable eyelid twitching.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- “Pins and needles” sensation in hands and feet.
- Suppressed immune system.
- Risk of death from overdose or suicide.
The social effects of Ativan addiction can take a huge toll on the life of the user. The social consequences include:
- Loss of close relationships, because the drug takes primary importance.
- Loss of job, because Ativan use impairs the ability to think clearly.
- Financial ruin, because feeding the addiction becomes so expensive.
- Criminal record, which may come from driving while taking the drug, or using illegal means to get the drug.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
Ativan addiction is psychologically powerful; the sense of euphoria and wellbeing is very comforting to affected individuals. In addition, long-term users face unpleasant and potentially dangerous physical symptoms of withdrawal. For this reason, most people do best in an inpatient rehab program with a medically supervised period of detoxification to prepare the person for the mental and emotional work of understanding their addiction and learning how to overcome it.
Once the physical withdrawal is complete, treatment involves one-on-one sessions with skilled and caring therapists who help the person identify factors that contributed to their addiction, and develop strategies to ensure a successful recovery. The best treatment also involves family members, and combines available therapies to create an individualized treatment plan.
People suffering from Ativan addiction are often fearful of seeking treatment, equating it to punishment for past behavior. Inpatient treatment in the right rehab setting is anything but punishment, it is an opportunity to be free from the chains of addiction and learn new ways to live a full and healthy life. At Cliffside Malibu, clients have private rooms, ocean views, delicious meals prepared by gourmet chefs, and a personal trainer to help them improve their physical health and fitness. Amenities also include Wi-Fi throughout the facility, and beautiful gardens for meditation. Treatment is completely individualized and carried out by a personal therapist, who coordinates all aspect of the patient’s care.
Getting Help With Ativan Addiction
Don’t put off treatment for Ativan addiction: The risk of irreversible health damage, loss of family and security, and even death is too great to postpone care. If you think you, or someone you love, may be addicted to Ativan, call Cliffside Malibu at 1-800-501-1988 to learn about treatment options today.