What are the Signs of Ativan Abuse?

Benzodiazepines like Ativan are primarily used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Benzodiazepines are classified as a schedule four controlled substance because although they can treat mental health disorders, they do come with a risk of addiction and abuse. Unfortunately, people with mental health disorders like anxiety are at higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. 

It is estimated that around 17% of all adults who are prescribed Ativan abuse the drug. Taking more of a prescription than a doctor instructs, or mixing medicines with drugs or alcohol to get high is considered drug abuse. Abusing a drug like Ativan doesn’t necessarily mean a person is addicted. But drug abuse significantly increases a person’s risk of becoming dependent and addicted to a substance. The signs of Ativan abuse are different than Ativan addiction. When someone starts to become preoccupied with getting more Ativan, if their Ativan use causes negative consequences, and they can’t seem to cut back on the amount of Ativan they take, these signs are indicative of Ativan addiction. 

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a prescription tablet that is used to alleviate anxiety symptoms and to reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy. The DEA classifies Ativan as a schedule four controlled substance because it does come with a risk of dependence and addiction. Ativan is also called lorazepam. Doctors rarely prescribe Ativan for longer than four months because the drug can be addictive.

As a sedative medication, Ativan is part of the benzodiazepine drug class and is considered a long-acting benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines can interact strongly with alcohol, and people who take Ativan should not drink. Mixing Ativan with alcohol will cause significant impairment and can increase the chances of overdose and death. But unfortunately, people who abuse Ativan for recreational purposes, and people who are addicted to the drug will sometimes mix it with alcohol to get a more intense high from the medication. 

Why do people abuse Ativan?

Because Ativan is a prescription medication, many people who take Ativan may mistakenly believe that it isn’t possible to abuse the drug or become addicted to it. It’s also easy for loved ones to overlook the signs of Ativan abuse because a doctor prescribed the medication legally. But just because a substance is legal and obtained through a pharmacy does not mean it is 100% safe. Many legal, effective medications come with a risk of addiction. People who are prescribed Ativan may use more of the drug than prescribed to get a more powerful effect. This causes their body to build a tolerance to the drug quickly, and they will need more and more of the drug to get the same desired effect. 

Dealers will also obtain Ativan prescriptions and sell them on the black market. People abuse Ativan to induce a high, a sense of calm, or to become drowsy. Mixing Ativan with alcohol will give someone a potent high and multiply the effects of the drug. People who are addicted to cocaine or other powerful stimulants will sometimes use Ativan to help the come down from a stimulant high. 

Who is most likely to abuse Ativan?

Drug addiction and abuse infect all levels of society, and no demographic group is immune to a substance use disorder. But certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of abusing a prescription drug and becoming addicted:

  • Genetic predispositions
  • Environmental influences (stress, poverty, peer pressure)
  • Psychological factors (mental health disorders, risk-taking personality traits)
  • Being addicted to other substances at a young age (tobacco products, other drugs, alcohol)

What are the signs of Ativan abuse?

  • Taking more Ativan than a doctor prescribed
  • Using Ativan with other drugs or substances to get high
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when cutting back on Ativan
  • Becoming anxious at the thought of not having enough Ativan
  • Stealing another person’s prescription
  • Doctor shopping

People who abuse prescription drugs will sometimes “doctor shop.” Doctor shopping is the act of visiting several doctors within a short time frame to get several different Ativan prescriptions. Some patients will lie to doctors and say they lost a prescription or it was stolen in the hopes of getting more Ativan from an unsuspecting and sympathetic doctor. 

What can be done to help someone addicted to Ativan?

There are no prescription medications that can be given to someone addicted to Ativan. Instead, a combination of talk therapy and attending either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program is recommended for Ativan addiction. Coming down from benzodiazepines when someone is addicted to the drugs can cause painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms.

A rehab program may be able to prescribe medications for people in recovery from Ativan addiction to lessen the severity and effects of these withdrawals. Patients who’ve been prescribed Ativan for anxiety will need access to doctors experienced with addiction and abuse disorders. Doctors can prescribe a safe and non-addictive alternative to help patients with anxiety symptoms. 

People abuse drugs for a variety of different reasons. Every person who has ever struggled with drug cravings and abuse has different triggers for why they abuse and misuse drugs. An experienced therapist is trained to help patients uncover their personal triggers for drug use, and how to develop coping skills and make the necessary lifestyle changes to eliminate these risks for relapse. Rehabilitation facilities also offer patients access to support groups and recreational activities to help them build healthy relationships with other people who are motivated to live a drug-free life. 

Drug addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease that requires ongoing maintenance and care. But with help from trained, qualified specialists, people can achieve initial sobriety and go on to live a life free from drug abuse and addiction. The experienced and dedicated drug addiction specialists at Mission Harbor Behavioral Health have helped hundreds of people beat their addiction to prescription drugs. 

How Ativan Addiction Begins

As a benzodiazepine or psychoactive drug, Ativan has the potential to become addictive quite quickly. Doctors prescribe the medication for patients for short-term or as-needed use, but the body can become used to it if taken too often. Thus, while it might reduce symptom severity for a while, its tolerance growth can lead an individual to misuse the drug.

Addiction risk grows with increased usage, and so do some rather unpleasant side-effects. When you stop taking Ativan, withdrawal symptoms can occur and also feel unpleasant. You might feel like you are worse off without the Ativan and need it to feel normal.

Tolerance and withdrawal can happen over weeks or even years. It might happen immediately for some people but take a longer time for others. Regardless of timing, this is how the addiction starts.

Older Adults as At-risk Individuals

The truth is, some people are more at risk of developing an Ativan addiction than others. Those seeking Ativan addiction treatment tend to experience cognitive impairments and depression. Older adults with depressive symptoms are more likely to develop an Ativan addiction than their younger counterparts. Prescribing new benzodiazepines to older adults can be dangerous, and physicians who do so have to monitor their patients since addiction is quite possible.

Factors That Influence Addiction and Recovery

Aside from advanced age, there are other factors that determine who becomes addicted to Ativan. Those factors include:

  • Prolonged Ativan use
  • Having an anxiety disorder
  • Having different forms of mental illness
  • A personal or family history of addiction or chronic stress

Anyone using Ativan can develop a habit of taking it, but the risk factors mentioned above make addiction all the more possible.

But that does not mean Ativan addiction treatment is impossible. There are Southern California rehab options available for those dealing with an addiction to Ativan. Only about 11% of those diagnosed with a drug or alcohol addiction disorder seek help every year. Still, those who seek treatment benefit from a safety net of aftercare programs if they do relapse after they leave.

When an individual enters rehab to detox from Ativan, they might be prescribed medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Not only does this provide the individual some comfort as they go through an emotionally and physically intense process, but it decreases the risk of them having a relapse in the future. It also helps keep the person safe in a controlled environment staffed by professionals.

Another factor that can positively influence a person’s recovery process is being treated for comorbidities (simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions in a patient) when they detox from Ativan. Addiction to Ativan and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Having a comorbidity diagnosis, such as anxiety, can increase the likelihood of addiction. This outcome is the case when benzodiazepines like Ativan are concerned. Treating any of the comorbidities can decrease the probability that the person will relapse and is something a reputable Southern California rehab center will do.

Reaching out for help is crucial in treating an addiction to Ativan. We are here to help you or your loved one with treatment, so do not hesitate to contact us today.

Updated 3/4/2021