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Ativan, known as lorazepam, is a drug primarily prescribed for anxiety.
Even when prescribed, the user can develop an addiction.
Learning the symptoms and signs of addiction can help you or someone you love before it is too late.
There are no medicines currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addiction to benzodiazepines like Ativan.
Despite this, there are addiction therapies that can help.
One well known therapy often used in addiction therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy.
Other forms of helpful therapy include motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management.
These help people with addictions to recognize and change the thought processes and beliefs that contribute to substance abuse.
Why is Ativan Prescribed?
Although Ativan is highly addictive, it is often prescribed by doctors.
To prevent physical and mental dependence on the medication, often Ativan will only be prescribed for 3-4 months.
Despite this, 3-4 months is long enough to develop a serious addiction and dependence.
Ativan is commonly prescribed for the following reasons:
- Manic bipolar disorder
- Nausea and vomiting due to taking cancer drugs or chemotherapy
- Chronic sleep problems
- Muscle spasms
- Symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal
- Psychosis associated with abrupt withdrawal from alcohol
How Does Ativan Affect Users?
Ativan abuse can affect people differently. Although it is known for treating panic attacks, many people use it in order to feel the euphoric and sedative effects. Many users report pleasurable, calm feelings, but some may report hallucinations.
Because Ativan is one of the most potent benzodiazepines available, it carries a high risk for addiction. If you take Ativan for longer than the prescribed period of time, then you have a risk for developing a dependence.
In some cases of having a prescription you can develop a tolerance. This leads to needing the medication to feel normal. This is a sign of dependence. At this point you may experience physical and emotional discomfort known as withdrawal.
Signs of Ativan Abuse
Since those who use Ativan may appear similar to those who use alcohol, it can be difficult to understand abuse. Signs such as slurred speech, ataxia, and poor physical coordination are common. Signs of Ativan abuse might include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Using Ativan as a coping mechanism
- No longer participating in former activities that were once loved
- Legal problems
- Lying about use
- Passing out
- Going to multiple doctors to get more prescriptions
Dependence vs Addiction
Withdrawal symptoms occur when you reduce your dosage of Ativan, or stop using Ativan altogether. Physical dependence is different from addiction.
- Dependence: Component of addiction, but not all people that are dependent are addicted
- Addicted: Showing mental and behavioral signs including increased time, energy, and resources dedicated to obtaining and using Ativan.
Both dependence and addiction may show withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Short-term memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations and delirium
Withdrawal symptoms from Ativan can be extremely dangerous. This is why, at high doses, you should undergo medically supervised detox. This form of detox occurs in a medical treatment facility where you will be surrounded by doctors. This can help you to avoid dangerous symptoms such as seizures and severe anxiety attacks.
Recognizing Substance Abuse
Recognizing substance abuse is not an easy task. Especially because Ativan is a prescription medication, even if you did not plan to abuse or become addicted to this drug, it is possible. You may be abusing Ativan and not know it if you fit into one of the following categories:
- Need for a prescription for Ativan
- Faked symptoms to obtain a prescription for Ativan
- Purchased Ativan from others with a prescription
- Bought Ativan illegal on the street
- Went to multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions
Dangers of Ativan
Because Ativan is extremely addictive, it should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Most of the severe side effects of this drug occur when taking high doses, or when this drug is combined with other substances. These substances often include alcohol or opioids.
Dangerous side effects of Ativan include:
- Respiratory depression
- Excessive sedation
- Memory impairment
- Loss of consciousness
Similar to using other drugs, Ativan can also cause changes in brain functioning. Long-term benzodiazepine use can result in cognitive impairment and even alzheimers. Although cognitive dysfunction improved in many patients after stopping benzo use, not all patients regained full cognitive functioning.
Understanding When Someone Has an Ativan Addiction
Similar to other prescription drugs, it can be difficult to recognize an Ativan addiction. Even though you may obtain the drug legally, you can still be abusing it. Often this is the main danger of prescription drug abuse, it goes on for longer without being seen.
Physical dependence on Ativan can develop quickly even when taking the recommended dosage. Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and anxiety, are the first sign of a physical dependence. You may also develop tolerance, which means you need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.
Cravings are a telltale sign of psychological dependence. You may even experience cravings while taking Ativan, or if you have not used for a long period of time. If you continue to use this drug even though it is causing issues in the rest of your life, then it is a sign of addiction.
There are 11 criteria that characterize addiction and if you match more than two of these, you are considered to suffer from addiction.
If someone you know is addicted to Ativan, one of the best steps to take is to stage an intervention. Your biggest hope is that they are already aware of their problem, but this is not always the case. Many people who suffer from Ativan addiction are in denial. This can make approaching recovery very difficult.
During an intervention it is recommended to include an interventionist. This person can educate and guide you through the intervention process. Whether that is choosing the right time, who to invite, how to prepare, as well as the actual event. The goal is to get the addict into treatment.
Withdrawal symptoms can come on quickly in those who are addicted to Ativan. Even if you follow the recommended dose from your doctor, you can still experience physical withdrawal symptoms in as little as a week. Long term abuse of Ativan will cause intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
When Ativan is used for a longer period of time, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms become. Treatment and a medically assisted detox is always the best answer for recovery.
Although there are currently no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addictions to benzodiazepines, other therapies and treatment can help.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction or dependence to Ativan, you are not alone.
Do not struggle along.
Contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health.
We have dedicated treatment facilities to help you.
With free insurance verification for treatment and many options, there is no day but today to get sober.