Signs someone is abusing an Ativan (Lorazepam) prescription often include taking a higher or more frequent dose and feeling a dependence on the drug.

If someone has been prescribed an anti-anxiety medication like Ativan, common physical side effects often include a sense of relaxation, mentally and physically, calmness or euphoria, slowed response time, coordination and motor skills, slower breathing rate, decreased concentration, reduced inhibitions, and a sense of well-being.

These are desired outcomes when someone takes the drug for legitimate medical reasons, but these effects can quickly lead to misuse.

What Are Common Signs of Ativan Abuse?

Ativan (or Lorazepam) is a controlled substance. What may start as prescribed use, can lead to dependence and abuse. These are some common signs of abuse:

  • Starting to take Ativan in higher doses or more frequently than what their doctor tells them to
  • Using it in ways other than taking it orally, including crushing the 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 the drug with other substances like alcohol
  • Taking Ativan without a prescription

Warning signs that someone may have taken a high dose or too much of the drug include:

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

Get medical help right away if you or someone you love have any rare but very serious side effects, including depressed respiration, impaired decision making and judgment, skin rash or irritation, problems speaking, and changes in personality.

Ativan should never be mixed with alcohol or other prescription medicines. When someone mixes Ativan with other depressants, such as alcohol, adverse side effects can occur, including seizures, coma, and even death.

If someone has been misusing an anxiety medicine for an extended period, they will often go through cycles where they’re abusing the drug and taking large amounts, followed by periods of withdrawal. This can actually worsen depression and anxiety symptoms.

What Are Some Behavioral Signs of Ativan Abuse?

When someone is abusing Ativan or other prescription drugs, there are common behavioral and lifestyle changes and red flags. First, people will tend to build up a tolerance to Ativan, leading them to take the drug more frequently or in larger doses.

As people continue to abuse it, they can start to avoid their commitments and responsibilities at school and work, and in 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.

Once dependent, the individual may start to feel as if they can’t function without the drug.

What Are Some Physical Signs of Ativan Dependence?

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

Ativan withdrawal symptoms may 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 withdrawal can be more severe, including 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. These risks also increase for 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. For people who are prone to addiction, it’s recommended that the therapeutic use of Ativan be carefully monitored.

What Are the Dangers of an Ativan High?

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 directed.

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

What Should I Do If Someone I Know is Abusing Ativan?

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

Treating Ativan dependence can be complex. The underlying issues for dependence, such as the anxiety that led to the original prescription, need to be addressed. That’s a fundamental component of therapy at The Recovery Village. We offer dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders treatment, which we find provides the best possible outcomes for many patients.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” December 2019. Accessed June 16, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Prescription Depressants.” May 2019. Accessed June 16, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.” May 30, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.