Ativan Addiction: Recognizing a Need for Professional Help

Americans rely on different types of prescription drugs to stay both mentally and physically healthy, and many doctors are more than happy to prescribe these medications.

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ativan addiction information

However, many of these drugs are supposed to only be taken on a short term basis. Unfortunately, many people can end up taking them for years.

Ativan is one of these drugs. Although it can be used to effectively treat insomnia, seizures, anxiety and other conditions, it is not meant to be a permanent solution. With that said, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not uncommon for people to become dependent and reliant on this drug. These individuals may need to rely on help from Ativan addiction treatment centers to stop using. Ativan abuse can wreak havoc on the human body, and it can be a very difficult drug addiction to recover from.

Learn more about Ativan addiction and treatment in this article below. We’ll outline some of the more important aspects involved with this type of substance use disorder (SUD).

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Using ativan

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is a benzodiazepine. This type of medication has a calming effect on the central nervous system (CNS), so it can effectively treat anxiety disorders, seizures, insomnia and more. This drug is also called a sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic drug. The generic form is known as lorazepam. 

This medication comes in two different forms. Ativan tablets are often prescribed by doctors for patients to take at home. These patients may suffer from anxiety disorders or seizures. There is also an Ativan solution for intravenous injection. This injection is often given before surgery to help patients sleep. 

America’s war on drugs has been going on for quite some time now. Many addiction experts would argue that the problem isn’t necessarily the drugs, but America’s ignorance as a whole. Many people have no idea what they’re putting into their bodies. They have no idea how the drugs work or what could happen if they were to abuse or misuse the pills that they’re prescribed.

Understanding how Ativan works is crucial to understanding how a person can develop an addiction to this medication.

Ativan attaches to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the central nervous system. It then enhances the inhibitory effects of the acid. Basically, it helps ensure that this molecule will have a stronger negative effect on the body. This causes an increase in chloride channel opening, and chloride is needed to inhibit nerve signaling. 

All in all, this  then prevents the nerves from being excited or stimulated. This is what gives Ativan its anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety, antiemetic and sedative properties. 


Prevalence of Benzodiazepine Use in America

Benzodiazepines are among some of the most abused prescription medications in America. It’s also one of the most commonly prescribed medications in America. Many people see this drug as a crucial pill that they need to get through the day. Many people do not realize that benzodiazepines can be extremely addictive. They also do not realize that it doesn’t take a lot to become addicted to this medication. 

A recent study that looked at approximately 60% of pharmacies in America found that:

  • Over 5% of adults between the ages of 18 and 80 filled at least one prescription for a benzodiazepine in 2008.
  • Benzodiazepine use increases with age. Those who were 65 years of age and older were 3 times more likely to take benzodiazepines than someone between the ages of 18 to 35. 
  • Those who were older tend to take benzodiazepines for longer periods of time. Over 30% of those who were between the ages of 60 to 80 took benzodiazepines for extended periods of time in comparison to only 20% of those between the ages of 18 and 50.

With benzodiazepines being such a prevalent prescription medication in America, it’s no wonder that abuse rates can skyrocket. Those who do not take Ativan as prescribed are likely to become physically and chemically dependent on the drug. 

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How Does an Addiction to Ativan Develop?

Because Ativan is so widely prescribed, it’s also widely abused. Many of the people who abuse Ativan struggle with anxiety or depression. 

In many instances, people who take Ativan don’t mean to abuse it. Unfortunately, prolonged abuse will often lead to this happening. These individuals often find that they no longer experience the same results when they take Ativan for long periods of time. Let’s look at a common case study. 

Ann has difficulties sleeping at night due to her anxiety. She is prescribed a single daily dose of 2 mg of Ativan to be taken at bedtime. When she first took the drug, it was amazing. Within the hour, she was sleeping like a baby with no care in the world. It was one of the first nights in a long time where she was able to get a good night’s rest.

Ann starts taking Ativan regularly to help her sleep. Unfortunately, her body begins to develop a dependence on the drug. She finds that it’s getting more and more difficult for her to fall asleep at night. While 2 mg of Ativan might have helped her fall asleep before, she now tosses and turns for some time before she can get any rest.

To deal with this, Ann increases her dosage without the approval of a doctor. She takes 3 mg instead of 4 mg. Once again, the medication works and she finds herself sleeping like a baby. This, however, also doesn’t last forever, and she soon finds herself unable to sleep well even after taking 3 mg of Ativan before bed.

Once again, she decides to up her dosage. 

By doing this, Ann has increased her tolerance to Ativan. An increased tolerance is one of the main aspects of addiction. Her body becomes acclimated to the artificial influx of chemicals. Without Ativan, Ann now has a lot of difficulties sleeping. The body has become reliant on Ativan.

Another reason why it’s so easy to get addicted to Ativan is because those who take larger and larger doses of this drug will often experience a sense of euphoria. This sense of euphoria is comparable to the euphoric sensation that other drugs can have on the body. 

Some people may come to look forward to the euphoric sensations. This may also encourage them to take larger and larger doses. 


A Higher Likelihood for Co-Occurring Disorders 

Over 4 million Americans struggle with a co-occurring disorder.”

Ativan is also addictive because this is a drug that is often abused by those struggling with a co-occurring disorder. This is also known as a dual diagnosis. 

A co-occurring disorder is when an individual struggles with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Those who take Ativan often begun taking it to deal with a mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression. 

These mental health disorders already point to a chemical imbalance in the brain. These individuals are much more likely to become dependent and reliant on an artificial source of the chemicals that they need, as their body is not producing enough of it. They need the help of Ativan to feel normal again. 

As they are already struggling with an imbalance, these individuals will often need to rely on medications for longer periods of time. If they get addicted to Ativan, their addiction may further exacerbate their mental health disorder.

This reason is also why those struggling with an addiction to Ativan will need help from a professional rehab facility. They need to be treated for both disorders and will need dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual diagnosis treatment will take into consideration the patient’s mental and physical health. It involves the use of different medications and a different approach when it comes to counseling and behavioral therapies. 


The Effects of Ativan

After Chris Cornell committed suicide in his hotel room, his wife came out and openly spoke against how rescription drugs had ruined his life and changed him. One of the drugs that were found in Chris’ system was Ativan. Watch the video above to get a brief summary of the effects of Ativan. 


Short Term Effects of Ativan

An addiction to Ativan can appear very shortly after a person begins to use this drug, but it’s apter to appear if the use of it has continued for more than two to four weeks. 

Many people take Ativan for its short-term effects. It can do a lot to help someone struggling with anxiety, insomnia and more. The short-term effects of this medication include: 

  • Drowsiness for those who are struggling with insomnia
  • Increased feelings of euphoria
  • A heightened sense of well-being
  • Reduced anxiety, worry and tension

Unfortunately, while the short-term effects may be appealing, those who take lorazepam may also experience some side effects. They include hallucinations, light-headedness, dizziness, weakness, disorientation and depressed mood. 


Long Term Effects of Ativan

Ativan addiction behaviors are very apparent once abuse has moved into addiction. If it’s been a while since the last use of the drug, withdrawal symptoms can set in, and you may experience fevers or flu-like symptoms, anxiety, confusion, insomnia or memory loss. 

Because of the way addiction works, and how tolerance to drugs like Ativan increases after a period of time, people tend to increase their doses as time goes on. However, the higher the dose, the more severe the side effects become. Long term effects of Ativan use include difficulties breathing, an upset stomach, increased urination, blurred vision and heart complications. 

Some people may even experience exaggerated effects. They may find themselves sleeping most of the day or they may even feel that they have no motivation to work. Some other individuals have also reported experiencing confusion.


Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal

Once many patients realize that they’ve become addicted to Ativan, they may want to stop. They may think that they’re ready to quit turkey, and may even consider stopping abruptly. Doing so can be dangerous, and it can result in significant Ativan withdrawal symptoms, such as: 

  • Severe and long-lasting headaches
  • An increase in their anxiety levels
  • Rebound panic attacks
  • Tension in the body
  • An increase in depression symptoms
  • Prolonged bouts of insomnia
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Numbness or tingling of the extremities 

There are several Ativan withdrawal symptoms that are considered even more dangerous. These include: 

  • Experiencing hallucinations and/or delirium
  • Having convulsions or seizures
  • Heart issues such as palpitations or tachycardia
  • Experiencing bouts of vertigo
  • Short term memory loss
  • Experiencing hyperthermia

The less severe withdrawal symptoms are just as difficult to contend with, and they usually lead to relapse. Many people will use again just to get some relief. The more dangerous symptoms require immediate medical attention. Either way, it’s best to get Ativan addiction treatment in order to be sure that you’re able to stop using Ativan safely. 

How long does it take for an average Ativan abuser to get over the withdrawal symptoms? That is one of the most frequently asked questions that Northpoint Recovery gets. Many people want to know how long it will take for them to start to feel better. After all, withdrawal symptoms can feel very intimidating. 

The answer to this question will be different for everyone. There are many factors that come into play. Some of the factors that can determine how long Ativan withdrawal symptoms may last include:

  • The length of time that the user was taking Ativan for
  • The dosage of Ativan taken and the frequency of which it was taken
  • Whether the user struggles with any co-occurring disorders
  • Whether the user takes any medications along with the lorazepam
  • The type of symptoms that the user is experiencing

While there isn’t a definite answer, most people can expect the physical withdrawal symptoms to last about 14 days. The psychological ones, however, tend to last much longer. Some people report experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms months after quitting. 

The physical withdrawal symptoms tend to peak within a week and will slowly subside afterwards. Most addiction treatment facilities will place patients under medical detox from day 1 to 10. This way, the professionals have more control over the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms. It also makes it safer for users to recover, as they are less likely to experience any dangerous side effects.


How Long Does Ativan Stay in the Body?

After Ativan is consumed, how long does it stay in the body? It’s important to also consider this question before deciding whether or not to take this drug. 

In comparison to many other benzodiazepines, Ativan is a fairly fast-acting drug. It usually takes about 2 hours for the drug to reach peak levels within the plasma and body. After that, the levels slowly start to decline. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Ativan is quickly processed from the body. In fact, this medication has a half-life of about 12 hours. This means that it will take anywhere from 2.75 to 3 days for Ativan to be completely processed from the body.

While Ativan takes quite a long time to be removed from the body, its metabolites take an even longer time. One of the major metabolites of Ativan is lorazepam glucuronide. This molecule has a half-life of approximately 18 hours

In short, it takes quite some time for Ativan to be completely removed from the body. In general, expect it to take 5 days for one’s system to remove 95% of the lorazepam that was ingested. 

Many factors come into play when it comes to how long it would take for the body to completely clear any Ativan it has ingested. Some of these factors include:

  • The frequency of use. Heavy users will usually build up some levels of lorazepam within their body. These molecules may be absorbed by muscle or fatty tissues. It can take some time for the remaining drugs to be released by one’s system.
  • The individual’s age. Surprisingly enough, studies show that those who are older will have a  22% slower clearance rate. While no one knows the exact reason and science behind it, many people suspect that it is because those who are older may have poor metabolism or poor liver function. 
  • One’s biological makeup. Once again, genetics has a huge influence on what happens in a person’s body. Some people may simply process benzodiazepines, like lorazepam, a lot quicker than others. 
  • One’s body weight and height. Although no one knows for sure why this happens, many studies show that those who are shorter may actually store Ativan in their bodies for longer periods of time. Those who are overweight may actually clear Ativan levels from their bodies much more quickly. 

At the end of the day, the amount of time that it takes for a person’s body to break down Ativan will vary. It all depends on the individual. Some people are great at metabolizing this prescription drug. Other people may find that their bodies will hold onto the medication and store it for longer periods of time. There are so many factors that come into play that it would be impossible to calculate the clearance rate for each person. 


Ativan Drug Tests

The reason why so many people are concerned with the length of time that it takes for the body to process Ativan is because they may have to take a drug test. Understanding how drug tests work can really help some people better understand how Ativan works.

Drug tests are also crucial tools for family and friends to determine whether a loved one may be addicted to Ativan. Some rehab facilities will also conduct a full-panel drug test on each patient to determine whether he or she is taking any additional substances. Drug interactions can have a huge effect on the type of treatment plan that each patient should receive. 

There are several different tests that can screen for Ativan. They include: 

  • Saliva tests. These tests are perhaps one of the least invasive options out there. However, it is rarely used to test for Ativan, as this medication can only be detected in saliva for up to 8 hours after ingestion.
  • Urine tests. This is also a fairly non-invasive testing option. It’s also one of the most popular drug tests for Ativan, as it is accurate and can test for Ativan use for up to 6 days after ingestion. It’s also fairly inexpensive to screen for Ativan abuse using this method.
  • Blood tests. These are some of the least popular types of drug tests, as they are invasive and expensive. Also, Ativan can only be found in blood for up to 3 days after ingestion. 
  • Hair tests. These tests offer one of the longest detection periods available. A hair test can screen for Ativan use within a 90-day window.

It’s important to note that these numbers are not etched in stone. For example, it is possible to test positive for Ativan use even after 8 hours of ingesting the drug. 


Ativan Addiction Symptoms and Signs

It can be difficult to draw a line between abuse and addiction. Someone who is using Ativan in a way that it is not prescribed is abusing it; however, that does not necessarily mean that they are addicted. An addiction involves a lot more things. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has outlined 11 criteria that make up an addiction. Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following 11 questions to get a better idea of the severity of the substance use disorder (SUD). 

  1. Have you been taking larger and larger doses of Ativan than prescribed?
  2. Do you want to stop taking Ativan, but find that you’re unable to?
  3. Do you find yourself spending a lot of time getting, using or recovering from Ativan use? 
  4. Have you continued to use Ativan even when it caused problems in your relationships? 
  5. Do you get cravings or urges to use Ativan?
  6. Do you use Ativan again and again even if it puts you in dangerous situations?
  7. Have you neglected housework, school work or work in general because of Ativan?
  8. Do you give up important social, recreational or occupational activities because of Ativan?
  9. Have you developed a tolerance to this prescription medication and no longer feel an effect when taking the prescribed dose?
  10. Do you develop withdrawal symptoms, which can only be relieved by taking more Ativan?
  11. Do you continue to take Ativan even if it causes physical or psychological problems?

Tally up the amount of yes and no answers. Those who have answered yes to two to three questions may have a mild SUD. Those who have answered yes to four to five questions may have a moderate SUD and those who have answered yes to six or more questions may have a severe SUD. 

Many people may realize that they have a problem, but are still hesitant to get help. Should an individual only get help if they are at rock bottom? The answer to that is no. Drug addiction treatment is for anyone who is struggling with an addiction. 

Those who are struggling with a less intense SUD may need less supervision or care. These individuals may be able to get away with choosing an outpatient treatment program that only requires a commitment of several hours each week. On the other hand, those who are struggling with a more intense SUD may want to opt for residential treatment. They may need an intense level of supervision in order to successfully recover.


How to Tell If a Loved One Is Addicted to Ativan

Often times, the people who contact us are actually concerned family and friends of the drug user. These people are often the first to notice when an addict is downward spiralling. There are many ways that family and friends can help. However, before they can offer any assistance, they must be able to first recognize the symptoms of addiction.

Recognizing an addiction to Ativan is not easy. Many individuals may be high-functioning. These individuals are similar to high-functioning alcoholics. They are able to work and even socialize with others while under the influence. Here are some signs that a loved one may be addicted to Ativan: 

  • He or she is starting to go to various doctors in order to get a prescription for Ativan. Family and friends may notice that there are several prescriptions for Ativan sitting at home that are written by different doctors. It’s also a good idea to take a look at the labels on the prescription bottles.
  • He or she is using Ativan in a method that’s not prescribed. Ativan is only prescribed as an oral tablet. It should never be crushed and snorted or injected.
  • He or she is taking Ativan more frequently than prescribed. Many family members and friends first start noticing a problem because the user is popping pills frequently. This happens most frequently amongst those who take Ativan for anxiety or depression.
  • He or she is neglecting his or her responsibilities. The drug user may stop going to school or work. He or she may neglect household chores and stop cleaning up the house. Feeling too tired to do anything is a common excuse.

Those who are concerned for a loved one can contact us too. We can help these individuals find out how to best approach the drug user about recovery. 

Approaching a loved one about recovery can be difficult and scary. Emotions run high during interventions, and many people may find themselves getting pushed away by the drug abuser. After all, no one really wants to be the subject of an intervention - even if they need it.

There are many different ways to stage an intervention. Those who are having difficulties coming up with an idea or preparing for an intervention can always give us a call. Our addiction specialists can offer some insight on what it’s like to live with an addiction to Ativan, and what the various treatment options are. 

When staging an intervention, it’s important to get several crucial points across to the intended target. These points include:

  • How much everyone who is present at the intervention loves him or her. No one wants to feel targeted, and a positive intervention is much more likely to result in successful outcomes. 
  • Evidence that the addiction has begun to affect the individual. This includes things like spacing out throughout the day, sleeping throughout the day or even neglecting school or housework in favor of taking Ativan.
  • The different types of Ativan addiction treatment programs that are out there. Looking for help can feel very intimidating. Many addiction experts recommend finding out what the various treatment options are. It may also be a good idea to reserve a spot for the drug user at a specific rehab facility.
  • Consequences for failing to get treatment. It’s important to let the Ativan abuser understand that there are consequences for actions. If the addicts fail to get help, those around them may choose to stop supporting them financially. 

An intervention should be honest and genuine. It’s important to avoid blaming or judging the intended target.


Ativan Drug Interactions

Those who are taking Ativan should be wary of other substances that they are putting in their body. Some other prescription drugs may actually interact negatively with Ativan. Taking these drugs together may actually harm the body. 

While many prescription drugs may have a moderate interaction with Ativan, the following 27 drugs should never be taken at the same time as Ativan: 

  • alfentanil
  • buprenorphine
  • butorphanol
  • clozapine
  • codeine
  • dezocine
  • droperidol
  • fentanyl
  • hydrocodone
  • hydromorphone
  • levomethadyl acetate
  • levorphanol
  • meperidine
  • methadone
  • morphine
  • morphine liposomal
  • nalbuphine
  • olanzapine
  • oxycodone
  • oxymorphone
  • pentazocine
  • propoxyphene
  • remifentanil
  • sodium oxybate
  • sufentanil
  • tapentadol
  • tramadol

The drug interactions between Ativan and the above medications will vary. Many of the drugs above are opioids. It’s important to avoid taking a drug like Ativan with an opioid, as it can lead to central nervous system depression. In worst case scenarios, the drug interactions can include respiratory distress, coma and even death.

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Ativan Addiction Treatment Options 

You have a lot of different options available to you that can help you overcome your Ativan addiction. Almost all addiction treatment programs will start off with some type of detox. Ativan detox can assist you with the beginning stages of withdrawal, and it will allow you to get through the physical part of your addiction.

You can then choose between several different levels of care. The treatment plan that is the best fit for each individual will all depend on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and the addiction. The most common options include:

  • Inpatient Ativan rehab. Our 28-day alcohol and detox program is an inpatient program. Patients will move into our facility to get the treatment that they need. They will be under constant supervision and care. 
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). This type of program is less intensive. Patients will receive treatment every day at the rehab center, but will not need to live there. In general, most patients will receive anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of treatment a day.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This type of program is less intensive. Patients are only required to get 9 hours of treatment each day. Most patients will opt to receive 3 hours of treatment three times a week.
  • Standard outpatient program. This program is very flexible. Patients can pick and choose the number of hours that they would like to commit to treatment. 

Many patients will choose to start with an inpatient rehab program and transition down the levels of care until they reach a standard outpatient program. Those who require additional help may even opt to live at a sober living arrangement. 

What can patients expect from an Ativan rehab center? Many facilities provide a wide range of addiction treatment services. Addiction experts will usually sit down with patients to assess their condition. They will then use the information collected to create a tailored treatment plan for the patient.

Patients can usually review their treatment plan to see whether they are comfortable with the evidence-based treatment services that they’ll receive. Some of these treatments include: 

  • Behavioral therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), to rewire bad habits
  • Drug education classes that look at the side effects and dangers of abusing Ativan
  • One-on-one or group counseling to work through underlying issues, like trauma or co-occurring disorders
  • Medical or holistic detox to help ease withdrawal symptoms for a more comfortable experience
  • Independent living skills classes for those who plan on living by themselves after completing a rehab program

Each rehab facility will specialize in different evidence-based treatment services. It’s a good idea to take all recommendations into consideration. Read up on the various treatment services to see what you may be interested in.

Get Help for an Addiction to Ativan Today

Here, at Northpoint Recovery, we are one of the top Ativan rehab treatment centers in the Pacific Northwest. We understand your struggles, and we can help you find the type of treatment that’s right for you. 

Our 28-day drug rehab and detox plan is particularly popular amongst those struggling to recover from a drug addiction. Our comprehensive substance abuse treatment plans include many different evidence-based treatment approaches, from medical detox to behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). We can customize each addiction treatment plan to the needs and expectations of each patient.

Getting admitted to our facility is easy and simple. We will even verify your insurance information for you, and deal with the finances of how to get sober. Our admissions team knows just what to do to get you the help that you need and deserve. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help. Don’t let an Ativan addiction run your life anymore. With the right resources and tools, you can regain control over your life and begin living your life to the fullest.

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