Ativan (lorazepam) Overdose and Treatment

Ativan (lorazepam) is one of several brands of tranquilizer compounds known as lorazepam. This medication falls within a category of similar substances jointly referred to as benzodiazepines, or benzos as they are referred to in illicit markets. Lorazepam has myriad medical uses, ranging from the treatment of sleep disorders to alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It may also be prescribed as a means to repress anxiety and seizures in patients. Finally, Ativan is used to treat coronary symptoms as the result of cocaine dependence.

Lorazepam is universally considered one of the safest and most effective drugs available. Plus, only one other benzodiazepine is more readily accessible, and that would be Xanax.

Excessive lorazepam use, like other benzodiazepines, has the potential for adverse effects. Ativan use is almost never suggested past four weeks. Recreational use is both illegal and highly discouraged by medical professionals. Taking lorazepam in unintended ways or over long periods of time has been linked to dangerous addictions and increased suicidal symptoms. In fact, some 26 percent of attempted suicides by pills are directly attributed to lorazepam and other benzos.

Overall, lorazepam is generally thought to be a weaker benzodiazepine compared to Xanax — though dosage amounts, timing and a patient’s own unique brain chemistry must always be taken into consideration. Ativan is the second most prescribed benzodiazepine, meaning its prevalence alone makes its abuse potential likely. An overdose may very well be possible as well.

Ativan Overdose | Ativan Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
Can one overdose by consuming Ativan? Yes.

But we must dig a little deeper in order to come to a justifiable answer to such a question. While an overdose on lorazepam is possible, a fatal overdose is not as likely.

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan work to sedate the central nervous system. A direct lethal overdose is far less common than a threatening symptom of a non-fatal overdose not being adequately treated in time. One of the most frequent and most dangerous of these symptoms is respiratory depression.

As with all benzos, numerous factors have to be thought through when determining the likelihood of an overdose. Firstly, because it is easy to build a tolerance to lorazepam after just a few prescribed doses. Tolerance can be influenced by age, weight, metabolic rate and past benzodiazepine usage by the patient in question.

How the drug is used or moreover, misused, is another essential component. Simply put, recreational methods of Ativan ingestion make the drug more dangerous. Users are known to either snort or let the pills dissolve in their mouths to experience a marijuana-like high.

Before outlining specific overdoses amounts, it’s helpful to understand how much Ativan is acceptable when used as directed. The maximum daily dose caps off at 10 mg per person, per day. Though a 6 mg dose appears to be the accepted median. This number can be dissected down into its components, equaling out to a handful of 0.5, 1, or 2 mg tablets in the span of 24 hours.  

With Ativan overdose dosages in mind, it’s easier to understand the medication’s LD50. This value refers to the lethal dosage in 50 percent of mice laboratory tests. The amount comes in at 1,850 mg/kg for Ativan. Of course, this is only a general rule of thumb and provides only a theoretical correlation with humans. Using this number as a baseline, we can determine that several thousand milligrams are required to produce an immediate fatal overdose of Ativan. Fatal being the optimal word here. An overdose may occur at any level higher than the abovementioned 10 mg per day.

In addition, Ativan does not mix well with other substances. Alcohol and opioids are known to onset the overdose effects associated with benzodiazepines at a much faster rate. Combining them seemingly cancels out the LD50 altogether. Always be cognizant of this deadly dark horse.

Before outlining the correct course for Ativan overdose treatment, one must know exactly what to be on the lookout for. A number of said signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Lethargy and fatigue: Benzodiazepine overdose victims will not feel or act like themselves. Though sleepiness is a common side effect of Ativan use, in greater duration, this may be a sign of excessive intoxication.
  • Uncoordinated behavior: Sedation may result in inexplicable spasms or loss of motor function entirely. Stumbling is likely and reflexes will be all but gone.
  • Profuse sweating: Victims may have a clammy or glossy appearance to their skin.
  • Memory loss: Lorazepam is used to prevent new memories from forming during surgery, and this effect may translate over during an overdose state. Such confusion can lead to erratic, unforeseen behavior.

Breathing issues may also be the result of oversedation. This is conceivably the gravest symptom in the entire lineup. If this symptom, or any other for that matter, develops, get yourself or the victim into treatment promptly.

Once stabilized breathing and cardiovascular function are established, physicians are able to treat the overdose itself. Benzodiazepines differ from other prescription medications, like opioids, in that they have an antidote compound. This drug is known as flumazenil. The medication is considered a double-edged sword for Ativan overdose treatment, however. Yes, it will stop an overdose in its tracks, but it also has the potential side effect of inducing seizures. This is a no-go for persons using Ativan to prevent this exact ailment. Luckily, as mentioned previously, Ativan overdoses usually tilt away from the lethal side of things. Such an overdose is not an outright death sentence, but it should be avoided at all costs.

Do you or someone you know abuse Ativan? It’s important to be aware of the risk of Ativan overdose. For those looking to avoid this painful and potentially life-threatening side effect of frequent use, the best option is rehabilitation. The Recovery Village address a broad range of addictions using evidence-based, high-quality care. Reach out to an intake coordinator today to take the first step toward a better life. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.