How Do I Know If Someone Is on Ativan (lorazepam)?

Ativan (lorazepam) is the brand name of an anti-anxiety drug called lorazepam. Ativan is classified as a benzodiazepine, and these type of medicines impact the central nervous system, including the brain and nerves, creating a sense of calm and relaxation. When someone takes Ativan, or a drug like it, the activity of GABA, which is a naturally-occurring chemical, is increased.

A prescription drug, Ativan is given to patients to manage a broad range of anxiety disorders, as well as for anxiety related to depression. It can be used for the treatment of insomnia or panic attacks, and it can also be combined with other drugs to help treat nausea and vomiting that comes from chemotherapy. In some cases, Ativan can be used to treat seizures, as well as for sedation before someone receives anesthesia.

Ativan is usually prescribed for only a period of a few months because of the potential for abuse and addiction.

Prescription bottle
A big part of understanding if someone is on Ativan is also understanding how this drug works, and how it impacts the person taking it. While Ativan is used therapeutically for the treatment of things like anxiety and panic attacks, it is possible to get what’s described as a high from it, particularly when someone takes larger doses than what’s directed.

Most people who take Ativan or lorazepam as it’s prescribed don’t get high, however. If someone is on Ativan and they take a larger dose than what’s directed, they may feel a euphoric high, and they may also feel amplified sedation effects.

Often what happens with Ativan is that people are legitimately prescribed the drug for medical reasons, but that can lead to abuse. Some of the signs someone is on Ativan and also abusing it may include:

  • Starting to take Ativan in higher doses or more frequently than what their doctor directs them
  • Using Ativan in ways other than taking it orally including crushing up tablets and snorting them, or dissolving them in a liquid so they can be injected
  • Being on Ativan for the sole purpose of achieving a high
  • Combining Ativan with other substances such as alcohol

Also, anytime someone is taking Ativan without a prescription, this is considered abuse of the drug.

Physical signs someone is on Ativan include:

  • A sense of relaxation, both mentally but also physically
  • Calmness or euphoria
  • Slowed response time, coordination and motor skills
  • Slower breathing rate
  • Decreased concentration
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Sense of well-being

The signs of Ativan use above tend to be what’s desired when someone takes the drug, but there are some possible adverse symptoms of being on Ativan as well. These can include:

  • Depressed respiration
  • Impaired decision making and judgment
  • Skin rash or irritation
  • Problems speaking
  • Changes in personality

While the above can be signs someone is on Ativan for a legitimate medical reasons, some of the warning signs someone has taken a high dose of Ativan include:

  • Extremely slow breathing
  • Memory problems
  • No motivation
  • Decreased interest in regular activities
  • Aggressiveness
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia

When someone mixes Ativan with other depressants such as alcohol, side effects can include seizures, coma, and even death.

Also, as someone is on Ativan for an extended period they will often go through cycles where they’re abusing the drug and taking large amounts, and then periods of withdrawal. This can actually lead to worsening of symptoms of depression and anxiety.

When someone is on Ativan or abusing other drugs, there are often some common behavioral and lifestyle changes and red flags that may occur.

First, people will tend to build up a tolerance to Ativan, leading them to take the drug more frequently or to take larger doses.

As people continue to abuse Ativan, they will often start to avoid their commitments and responsibilities regarding school, work, and relationships. They may isolate themselves from people in their life, and they may start doing illegal activities such as stealing pills, taking money, or forging prescriptions in order to get more Ativan.

People who are dependent on Ativan may start to feel as if they can’t function without the drug as well. As with so many prescription drugs, a person who is abusing Ativan may have started taking it only to deal with panic attacks or anxiety, and then as they developed a tolerance and started taking it more, it led to the feeling they couldn’t function without it.

As with many prescription drugs that are commonly abused, there is the risk of physical dependence with Ativan. This is the case with all benzodiazepines, and physical dependence means that if someone were to stop taking Ativan suddenly, they would experience symptoms of withdrawal.

Ativan withdrawal symptoms might include feeling low or having reduced feelings of self-worth, being agitated, and insomnia. For someone who is a long-term, heavy user, signs of Ativan withdrawal can include seizures, tremors, cramping, sweating and vomiting.

The chances of someone abusing Ativan or becoming dependent on the drug are higher in people who have a history of addiction, and these risks also increase with individuals who take higher doses and have taken the drug for longer periods.

If someone takes Ativan for only a short period, the risk of dependence is reduced, and for people who are prone to addiction, it’s recommended that therapeutic use of Ativan be carefully monitored.

So what should you do if someone you know is on Ativan?

The first thing to do is observe their behaviors and determine whether they’re in line with abuse of Ativan, or whether the person seems to be taken it as directed by their doctor. If you believe someone is on Ativan and abusing the drug, it’s a good idea to contact a mental health professional or an addiction treatment center.

Treating a dependence to Ativan can be complex, because the underlying issues that go along with that dependence, such as the anxiety that led to the original prescription, need to be addressed. There are ways someone can stop using Ativan in a healthy way if it’s done in a professional addiction treatment setting.