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Ativan Addiction

Ativan is a drug available by prescription to treat a variety of ailments. It is in a category of medications called benzodiazepines, which are the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the United States. 

More than 15 types of these medications exist, and they treat a wide range of psychological and physical ailments. However, they are most commonly used to help people manage sleeping and anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines slow down a naturally overactive nervous system. Ativan is a central nervous system depressant and can be used for many disorders such as epilepsy.

While Ativan can be extremely useful in treating sleep disorders and relax tense muscles, there’s still a problem with these drugs. Ativan holds a strong potential for being abused, which can lead to addiction. When Ativan is used longer than prescribed or used in higher doses than the doctor directed, you can become tolerant to the drug. It becomes even more dangerous when it is used with other drugs.

People who take Ativan by prescription must be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate drug dependence. Familiarizing yourself with these signs can become life-saving later on if an addiction develops. Addiction is a deadly disease that must be managed throughout the rest of your life. 

What Is Ativan?

Ativan, a benzodiazepine, is classified as a Schedule IV drug in the Controlled Substances Act. Benzodiazepines were discovered in 1930 by Leo Sternbach during his stint at Hoffman-La Roche & Co. However, they were not introduced to the public until 1957 due to extensive testing. Benzodiazepine addiction was not addressed until the 1980s, the period when it became apparent the drugs were as addictive as the barbiturates they replaced.

Ativan is a generic version of the brand named lorazepam. It is used in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders but has been used in the treatment of epilepsy and seizures. There are also cases where Ativan (Lorazepam) is used to ease nausea and vomiting in chemo patients. A medical benefit of the drug is its quick onset and long half-life. It can affect the body in as little as five minutes through intravenous therapy (IV) and in as little as 15 minutes when consumed orally. It also can last up to 12 to 24 hours, making it extremely useful for those suffering from severe sleep or anxiety conditions.

Ativan is a central nervous system depressant (CNS) and puts it in the same classification as barbiturates and alcohol. These medications slow down brain activity and better manage and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors that function at a higher-than-usual rate. They bind to the receptors in the nervous system and increase the efficiency of GABA. Once it is activated, it invokes anxiolytic feelings such as sedation and relaxed muscles. When used for its intended purpose, Ativan can have beneficial effects.

The drug is not intended for long-term use and is rarely prescribed for more than four weeks at a time. Using benzodiazepines for longer than four weeks can lead to grave consequences such as addiction. When benzodiazepine dependence takes place, extreme withdrawal symptoms can occur. Another problem that Ativan users face is if the medication is used with other drugs. Polydrug use can be deadly, and 30 percent of drug overdoses occur in those combining opioids and benzos.

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What Are the Signs of Ativan Addiction?

Noticing the beginnings of addiction can be challenging, but some signs point directly at benzo misuse and abuse. Even in the early stages of the addiction phase, there are many signs to observe. The first stage of addiction is a developing tolerance as your body’s response to the drug lessens with repeated use. The outcome inevitably is addiction, a disease that can be generalized as the continued use of harmful substances despite the consequences. If daily tasks such as family time or work have been affected by Ativan use, and if that use is affecting your life as a whole, then these are signs of addiction.

Other signs to look for include:

  • Isolation
  • Lying about drug use
  • Doctor shopping to get multiple prescriptions
  • Complete loss of control
  • Hiding drugs around the house
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit

What Is Involved in Ativan Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment will not look the same for everyone. Recovering users can choose from therapies that are designed for one’s well-being. You must find a treatment facility that caters to your unique individual needs while offering the highest standard of care. Addiction is a disease that will be present for the duration of your life, but it can be managed and treated with the proper guidance. 

With the emergence of the most up-to-date treatment techniques and access to treatment, long-term sobriety has a higher success rate than in years past. This has led to treatment being sought out at a higher rate and individuals gaining back traction in their lives.

The first step in the treatment process is detox. A medically supervised detox is crucial to ensuring your safety through the withdrawal process. The process requires a three- to seven-day stint that is supervised 24 hours a day by medical professionals and addiction recovery specialists. The process involves ridding the body of any foreign substances the user consumed before treatment. Ativan poses serious health threats as it leaves the body. 

Detox will allow the individual to get through this process as comfortably and safely as possible. Medication will be administered to counteract the worst symptoms, and supervision will ensure the safety of the client if anything unexpected occurs as a result. Ativan can cause seizures due to overactive GABA upon cessation, and the medical staff will determine the appropriate course of action.

The next step in the treatment process is the placement in either a residential or outpatient treatment (PHP/IOP) setting. The severity of one’s addiction determines where the person will be placed,  but in cases of benzodiazepine addiction, clients usually are placed in residential care. This kind of program requires clients to live on-site for up to 90 days (three months), but they could stay longer depending on their particular situation. 

All scenarios are situation-based, and rehab for drug or alcohol abuse should be tailored to meet your needs. You will take part in therapies and group exercises that will help you acclimate back into society. These behavioral therapies will help you cope with triggers and temptation when outside of the facility.

How Dangerous Is Ativan?

Ativan is often thought of as safe because it is prescribed by a physician, but that is actually untrue. Abuse of any drug can be deadly even if it is sold over the counter. The strength of Ativan and the areas of the brain affected can create havoc for a user. It is classified as one of the most dangerous drugs. 

This drug is rarely prescribed for longer than four weeks to avoid dependence. When used in combination with other depressants such as alcohol or opioids, the risk of death becomes more significant. Breathing is suppressed to the point of near suffocation. 

All benzodiazepines are a cause of concern during the withdrawal phase. If you suddenly stop using drugs like Ativan, you risk seizures or delirium tremens (DTs), a more severe condition. This can result in death if attempting to quit the drug on your own. It is always recommended to seek out help when quitting dangerous drugs like Ativan.

Ativan Abuse Statistics

  • Benzo overdoses accounted for nearly 9,000 deaths in 2015.
  •  Benzo use has increased up to nine percent in the years 1996-2013.
  • 446,00 people age 12 or older had currently abused sedatives in the months before a survey was conducted
Many people

Sources

Drugs.com. Ativan. (April 25, 2019) Durbin, K. MD from https://www.drugs.com/ativan.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

Treatment Name: Lorazepam (Ativan®). (n.d.). from https://www.chemoexperts.com/lorazepam-ativan.html

Benzodiazepines | CESAR. (n.d.). from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp

Drug Enforcement Administration. Diversion Control Division, Definition of Controlled Substance Schedules. (n.d.) from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/#define

NIDA. (2019, November 19). The Neurobiology of Drug from Addiction.https://www.drugabuse.gov/neurobiology-drug-addiction

NIDA. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) (April 2016) Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013. Marcus A. Bachhuber MD, MSHP, Sean Hennessy PharmD, PhD, Chinazo O. Cunningham MD, MS, and Joanna L. Starrels MD, MS from https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061

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