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Ativan Addiction Treatment

Posted in Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment on March 17, 2017
Last modified on May 6th, 2019

Ativan (lorazepam) is a type of benzodiazepine with sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties. Benzos act on the brain and central nervous system by producing a calming or tranquilizing effect, impacting the depressive neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is believed GABA may be unbalanced in people with anxiety. Injectable and oral forms of Ativan were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 1982. The first generic oral tablet of lorazepam was approved in April 1987 and the first generic injectable in March 1994.1

Lorazepam is prescribed for the management of anxiety disorders or the short-term relief of anxiety associated with depressive symptoms. Due to its strong sedative effects, it is sometimes prescribed as a short-term remedy for insomnia. In addition, it has been approved as an anticonvulsant, and may be administered intravenously to manage acute seizure activity as well as status epilepticus, a condition causing continuous seizures. Lorazepam carries the risk of interacting with a number of medications, can alter levels of consciousness and impair cognitive function and judgment.2

Benzodiazepines are considered the gold standard pharmacotherapy for alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) and are sometimes used for co-occurring substance addictions including alcohol. Benzos can help decrease tremors and prevent or reduce an increase in heart rate and blood pressure during withdrawal. Lorazepam is one of three benzos studied extensively to reduce the symptoms of AWS.3

Long-term use of lorazepam (more than four months) has not been analyzed in systematic clinical studies. Physicians should periodically reassess the usefulness of the drug on an individualized basis. The sedative effects of lorazepam are thought to last longer in older adults. Accidental falls are common in older people who take any benzodiazepine. As such, an initial dosage of 1 to 2 mg/day in divided doses is recommended for older adults and those with debilitating illnesses.4

Ativan Addiction and Abuse

Lorazepam is a Schedule III drug, which means it has a low potential for abuse compared to Schedule I and II drugs. However, it is typically not prescribed for long-term use because even after a relatively short duration, it can be addictive and subject to abuse. People without a prescription often abuse this drug and other benzos for their fast-acting sedative and relaxing effects. High doses can result in serious health risks and fatal overdoses.3 Professional Ativan treatment is necessitated due to the serious physical psychological repercussions of withdrawal.

Stats and Facts

  • An estimated 22,767 people died of an overdose involving prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2013, with about 31% of these overdoses attributed to benzodiazepines.5
  • From 2002 to 2015, there was a 4.3-fold increase in the number of benzodiazepine-related deaths.6
  • Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67%, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.5
  • Among people who filled benzodiazepine prescriptions, the median quantity filled in a year more than doubled between 1996 and 2013, suggesting either a higher daily dose or more days of treatment, potentially increasing the risk of fatal overdose.5
  • There were 350,000 emergency room visits in 2010, with lorazepam responsible for more than 10% of them.7
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that more than 20 million people in the U.S. have abused drugs like lorazepam at some point in their lives.7

Relapse Prevention

Preventing relapse begins by safely tapering doses until the body becomes less dependent on the sedative effects of lorazepam. At The Right Step, clients undergo detox supervised by medical professionals around the clock, an essential first step in recovery due to potentially debilitating side effects. Key factors contributing to successful relapse prevention include a person’s willingness to change, management of co-occurring mental health disorders, and acquisition of healthy coping skills. This is typically accomplished through inpatient rehab or an intensive outpatient program. Concurrent substance abuse and unstable psychiatric or medical comorbidities make the rehab process more challenging.

  1. Generic Ativan Availability. Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/availability/generic-ativan.html Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 7, 2017.
  2. What Does a Lorazepam Overdose Look Like? Project Know website. http://www.projectknow.com/research/lorazepam-overdose/?v=lib1-control Accessed February 7, 2017.
  3. Sachdeva A, Choudhary M, Chandra M. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Sep;9(9): VE01–VE07. Published online 2015 Sep 1. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2015/13407.6538.
  4. Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/pro/lorazepam.html Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 7, 2017.
  5. Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(4):686-688. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061.
  6. Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates Updated January 2017. Accessed February 7, 2017.
  7. Lorazepam Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/lorazepam-abuse/ Accessed February 7, 2017.
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