Using Ativan recreationally can lead to risks like dependence, addiction and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. Fortunately, treatment is available.

Article at a Glance:

  • Ativan (lorazepam) can be used to treat a variety of disorders, but it is very addictive.
  • Many people find the side effects of lorazepam uncomfortable.
  • Lorazepam can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms even if used as prescribed

The DEA currently lists lorazepam, the generic version of the brand-name drug Ativan, as a Schedule IV controlled substance. These substances are only available by prescription, and taking a Schedule IV drug like lorazepam that is not prescribed to you is illegal.

Schedule IV drugs are commonly used in medicine but carry the risk of abuse. They can also be habit-forming, lead to dependence and induce withdrawal symptoms.

Is Lorazepam Dangerous?

Lorazepam can be dangerous due to its addiction potential. The drug is also a depressant, meaning it can slow down central nervous system functions like breathing and heart rate.

How Is Lorazepam Taken?

When used as prescribed, lorazepam is taken as an oral pill. Lorazepam has a long half-life of about 12 hours. When used illicitly, lorazepam may be taken in pill form, crushed up into powder and snorted or mixed into a liquid and injected intravenously.

Lorazepam “High” Effects

Lorazepam can treat anxiety or insomnia, but its sedative qualities make it highly sought after for recreational use. People who take lorazepam might feel sedative effects that are similar to those of marijuana or alcohol, and these effects can last for several hours.

There are many side effects related to lorazepam, including:

  • Paranoia
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Loss of motor ability
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia

Ativan (Lorazepam) Long-Term Use

Lorazepam is intended for short-term use due to the body’s tendency to develop a tolerance to the drug. People who abuse lorazepam or even take it as prescribed may experience a diminished effect over time. As a result, they have to take higher doses more often to feel the same effects, causing their tolerance to increase over time. The increased tolerance can lead to dependence, making it hard for people to function without being under the influence of lorazepam.

People who become dependent on or addicted to lorazepam will face uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking the drug. To prevent these symptoms, it’s best to slowly taper off lorazepam by taking gradually smaller doses as directed by your doctor.

The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Muscle aches
  • Seizures

Ativan addiction can feel overwhelming, but help is available. The Recovery Village offers a full continuum of care that can address benzodiazepine abuse as well as co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety. Contact us today to learn more about addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Drug Enforcement Agency. “List of Controlled Substances.” Accessed October 17, 2021.

Ghiasi, Noman; et al. “Lorazepam.” StatPearls, February 2021. Accessed October 17, 2021.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…] in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed October 17, 2021.

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.