Ativan Addiction and Abuse

Ativan is an anxiety medication with a generic name of lorazepam, often prescribed to help people feel calmer and more relaxed. Lorazepam is part of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which affect the central nervous system, including the brain and the nerves. With long-term use of Ativan, there is the potential for abuse. Ativan is strong, acts almost immediately, and long-term usage can lead to building a tolerance, as well as possible dependence and addiction. Ativan is designed to help people with the symptoms of short-term anxiety and is not necessarily meant for long-term use because it has the potential to be habit-forming.
Ativan is a powerful anti-anxiety medication that falls into a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These psychoactive drugs are used primarily in the treatment of anxiety but may also be used to treat panic disorders, seizures, insomnia and trouble sleeping. In some cases, benzodiazepines may also be used for anesthesia, sedation before surgery or medical procedures, muscle relaxation, withdrawal from alcohol and drugs, nausea and vomiting and depression.

People often wonder, is Ativan a barbiturate? The answer is no; barbiturates are a different class of drugs from benzodiazepines, which is what Ativan or lorazepam is classified as. Other benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Ambien. Also often called benzos, benzodiazepines have hypnotic, sedative and anti-anxiety properties. They work to impact the GABA neurotransmitter, controlling the neurons that contribute to anxiety and stress.

Barbituates, on the other hand, are a class of prescription drugs that are derived from barbituric acid, and they do similarly impact the body’s reaction to stress and anxiety, but benzos have largely replaced their use in the 21st century. Also called barbs, barbiturates aren’t used as prescription medications much anymore because of their addictiveness, but are instead mostly used for anesthesia and as a sedative.

An Ativan contains either 0.5mg, 1 mg or 2 mg of lorazepam, and also inactive ingredients including monohydrate, magnesium stearate, and microcrystalline cellulose. Lorazepam is an active ingredient and is a benzodiazepine. This class of drugs is synthetically made and has a particular chemical structure and makeup.

In general, benzodiazepines work by improving the efficiency of GABA, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. In reduces the communication between neurons, which is how the calming effect occurs.

Other common benzodiazepines include Alprazolam, Clonazepam, Diazepam, and Prazepam. Lorazepam has a half-life of 10-20 hours and an intermediate onset time. This refers to how long it would take the body to get rid of half the dose.

When considering the Ativan brand name vs. the generic name, it’s relatively straightforward. There is one primary available brand name for the generic lorazepam, which is Ativan. However, other brand names for medicines that include lorazepam can also include Lorazepam Intensol.

Lorazepam Intensol is available as a tablet or a solution form, although the prescription indications, side effects, and other information is general the same as it is for Ativan.

With prescription drugs, knowing what the medications look like can be extremely important. This can be useful to help people determine if their loved ones might be using or abusing a prescription medication, and identifying prescription pills, particularly ones like Ativan, can also help prevent accidental overdoses or dangerous interactions that can have serious consequences, including death.

In general, lorazepam or Ativan is a small, white tablet.

Some of the standard dosages and tablets for generic lorazepam include:

  • Lorazepam 0.5mg Tablet: This is a small, white, round tablet imprinted with GG and 91, manufactured by Sandoz Inc. There are also 0.5 mg tablets imprinted with EP 904 and manufactured by Excellium, RX 7, manufactured by Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, and tablets printed with M and 321, manufactured by Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Other manufacturers may include Par Pharmaceuticals, imprinted with a V and 4007, and Watson, with the 0.5 mg dose imprinted with 240
  • Lorazepam 1mg Tablet: A 1mg tablet of generic lorazepam may have similar imprinting and manufacturers as the 0.5mg doses. For example, a common imprint on a 1 mg tablet is Mylan 457, with scoring on one side, and the other side is blank.
  • Lorazepam 2 mg: These are also round and white with scoring and a typical imprint is MP 96, although there are other prints found on generic lorazepam tablets, depending on the manufacturer.

Ativan, the brand name for lorazepam, looks different than the generic forms of lorazepam. Ativan is a five-sided tablet that’s white. One characteristic imprint, depending on the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the Ativan, is to see “A 64 Wyeth.”

Also imprinted on 2 mg doses is an A 2 5 Wyeth. These five-sided tablets may be printed with A BPI 64, A BPI 63, A Wyeth 81 or A 2 BPI 65 as well. Some Ativan tablets also have scoring and there is the shape of an A on the front side, with the manufacturer information and scoring are found on the opposite side of the tablet. The differences in what’s printed on the five-sided tablets are based not only on the manufacturer or pharmaceutical company but also on the dosage.

ativan addiction
Ativan tablets that are administered orally, as well as generic lorazepam, are available in dosages of 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg. For most people who take Ativan, the dosages are prescribed in divided ranges. This could include anywhere from 2 to 6 mg per day, with the largest dose often being taken before bed. While this is the average range of the dose people are prescribed on Ativan, it’s possible it could range anywhere from 1 to 10 mg per day, depending on the condition being treated and the individual.

For someone who’s taking Ativan for anxiety, there is often a dose of 2 to 3 mg given two or three times per day. For someone who’s taking Ativan for situational stress, or for issues related to sleeping, they may given one dose of anywhere from 2 to 4 mg, often before bed.

Ativan may also be given to patients who are elderly or debilitated, and that dosage is often divided and consists of anywhere from 1 to 2 mg per day.

In many cases, if doctors are prescribing Ativan to a patient, they will start with smaller doses and gradually increase them over time, which can help reduce the risk of harmful effects from using the drug. If a doctor or care provider believes a higher dose is needed, they will usually first start by increasing the doses taken at night, before bed.

The effects of Ativan or lorazepam usually last for 6 to 8 hours from a single dose. For people who abuse Ativan and try to achieve a high from it, there have been reports of euphoric effects for up to 10 hours. Regarding therapeutic doses only, the effects have been known to last for up to 72 hours.

Ativan has a half-life that’s estimated to be around 12 hours on average. What this means is that after someone takes their last dose, it could take just under three days for the drug to be fully eliminated from their system. There are other sources and research indicating the half-life for Ativan could be a bit longer, at just under 16 hours, and if that were the case, it would take more than 3 ½ days for it to be fully removed from the user’s system.

There are some individual factors that determine how long Ativan stays in your system. This can include age, body weight and height, kidney function, metabolic rate, and also dosage.

Several drug tests can be given to detect the presence of Ativan, but it can’t be detected in a traditional drug test like the SAMHSA-5. Urine, blood, and hair drug tests can often indicate whether or not lorazepam or Ativan is in someone’s system. With urine tests, research shows that Ativan can be detected in someone’s system for up to six days after ingestion, and for people who use it frequently, this can be longer. In blood tests, it seems Ativan can be detected within six hours after taking it, and up to three days after that.

A hair test, if it’s conducted the right way, can indicate whether someone has taken Ativan for up to four weeks after they last ingested it.  

The use of Ativan is one that can be somewhat controversial. This anti-anxiety medication does have therapeutic benefits for many people. First and foremost, Ativan is used to treat anxiety, but it can also be used for anesthesia and treat to epilepsy. With that being said, Ativan can be highly addictive.

One of the first reasons it can become addictive is because people don’t necessarily follow their dosing instructions provided by their doctor or care provider. Taking doses incorrectly, particularly by taking higher doses than what’s prescribed or taking doses more often, is one of the first things that can lead to an addiction to Ativan. This is the first sign of abuse of this prescription medication.

Another reason Ativan can become addictive is that people build a tolerance to it. As you develop a tolerance to a drug, you may feel as if you need to take more and more in order to continue feeling the effects. Even if you’re not chasing a euphoric effect, but simply want it to keep having the same therapeutic effects such as helping with anxiety or helping you get to sleep, when you build a tolerance to Ativan, it can make you more prone to then abuse it.

First and foremost, to avoid abusing this medication, it’s important to take it exactly as it’s prescribed. It’s also important that people speak with their doctor if they feel like they’re building a tolerance to it, rather than trying to self-medicate by taking higher doses. It’s also important that people don’t ever share their Ativan with another person, and that they don’t take the medication for longer than what they’ve been directed because it’s most often prescribed for short-term usage.

Also, if you have a history of addiction or a family history of drug abuse, you should be particularly cautious wth the use of Ativan, since it has been known to be very habit-forming, as are most other drugs that are classified as benzodiazepines.

Ativan is extremely addictive, and because of how habit-forming it has the potential to be, as well as how fast-acting it is and its potency, it’s not often prescribed for use for more than a few months at a time. Often the maximum period it’s prescribed to patients for use is about four months.
Many times people wonder why is Ativan addictive? Ativan is a benzodiazepine or a benzo. This is a class of drugs that’s designed to block certain neurotransmitters in the brain, slowing processes, which is why it has an anti-anxiety and sedative effect on users. By impacting and balancing the chemicals in the brain that contribute to anxiety, users feel calmer and more relaxed. When Ativan is taken in larger doses than what’s prescribed, it binds to brain receptors that lead to the feeling of a euphoric high, and then a relatively long state of calm.

The effects of a euphoric high paired with calmness, muscle relaxation, and drowsiness are what users find appealing, and they’re why Ativan can be so addictive.

Ultimately, it’s the chemical structure that makes it a high-risk drug for Ativan addiction potential, but also physical dependence. Also, Ativan is very potent even compared to other benzodiazepines, which is why people who are taking it, even when it’s prescribed, have a higher likelihood of building a tolerance to it relatively quickly, which is one of the contributing factors to its addiction.

Since Ativan is very potent, it can lead to intense cravings compared to other benzodiazepines when someone stops taking it.

People may think that if they take a very small dose of Ativan, such as 0.5 mg, they don’t have the Ativan addiction potential, but this isn’t necessarily true. While you might not develop an addiction or dependence on Ativan at a small dose, it’s not a guarantee. Everyone’s body is different, and since Ativan is so potent, there is the possibility of addiction even taking a small dose.

Ativan isn’t usually prescribed for more than four months of use because of its habit-forming and potent properties. While you might not become addicted using it for a short time, again that is not a guarantee. People can get addicted to using a prescription drug like Ativan in just a few days or weeks, while for some could take it for months without becoming addicted or dependent.

Along with the potency of this drug, another reason it can be potentially addictive and habit-forming is because of the likelihood of people to abuse it by combining it with other drugs. Combining Ativan with other drugs or alcohol can be very dangerous, or deadly.

If Ativan is mixed with cocaine, it can counteract the stimulant effects of the cocaine, which would cause the user to come down from their high, and the same could occur when combining Ativan with amphetamines. When pairing Ativan with painkillers like methadone, it can boost the effects of both. When tramadol and Ativan are used together, there is the risk of profound sedation, coma, and respiratory depression. This is the case not just with methadone or Tramadol, but with any opioid used with Ativan.

A typical interaction is Ativan and alcohol, and when they’re taken together it produces a rapidly-occurring, powerful high, but when these two substances are mixed, it can increase depression of the central nervous system, leading to over-sedation, or potentially unconsciousness, coma or death.

There may also be an interaction with herbs, so it’s important to speak with a medical professional if you are prescribed or are taking Ativan and you’re also taking any herbs.

The use of prescription drugs in the U.S., including benzodiazepines has been on the rise in recent years, as have trips to the hospital and deaths related to these drugs, including Ativan. According to statistics, prescriptions are also getting stronger, and many of the deaths that occur and are related to benzodiazepines also involve opioid use.

  •  Benzodiazepines are the second-leading cause of prescription drug overdose deaths in the U.S. after opioids
  •  Prescriptions of sedative drugs (benzodiazepines) has increased about 30% since 1996
  • Overdose deaths involving these drugs quadrupled between 1999 and 2010
  • The amount of benzodiazepine in prescribed medicines including Ativan doubled from 1996 to 2013
  • Anxiety was the most common reasons these drugs were prescribed, making up 56% of prescriptions
  • Based on the rise of overdose deaths being greater than the increase in prescribing benzodiazepines during the same period, researchers believe people may be taking higher doses of the medicine or combining it with other drugs or alcohol
  • 75% of benzodiazepine overdose deaths also involved the use of opioids
Ativan Addiction was last modified: April 5th, 2017 by The Recovery Village