Last updated: 04/23/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Illnesses surface. Jobs are lost. Marriages end. Family members die. Let’s face it. Life happens, and it can be stressful. When situations occur, it is easy, for people to begin using Ativan, a drug relatively common in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Overuse, abuse and dependence have led to an increase in people seeking Ativan addiction treatment.
What is Ativan?
A member of the benzodiazepine family, Ativan, also known as Lorazepam, is widely used to help people cope with feelings of fear and anxiety that can be overwhelming.
How Ativan Works
Lorazepam, in addition to other types of benzodiazepines, act on specific parts of the brain to trigger relaxation mechanisms called GABA-A receptors. Ativan slows responses to alleviate panic attacks and general anxiety.
GABA-A receptors in the brain are affected, thereby decreasing over-stimulation of neurons. For someone experiencing severe, debilitating anxiety, Ativan can seem like a wonder drug in the quest for calm.
Dangers and Side Effects
Ativan is highly addictive and can be habit forming. Once neurotransmitters are activated, a greater doses of the drug is required to receive the same effect. The risk of chemical dependence may be greater for someone suffering with anxiety.
New studies have also linked the use of “benzos” with an increased risk of dementia. In short, playing with brain chemistry can permanently impair the neurotransmitter’s ability to connect properly.
With anxiety onset, a patient pops a pill and experiences immediate relief. A week later, the same level of anxiety comes, but more medication is required to slow the rapidly firing neurons. Another pill seems like a reasonable solution. Soon, the anxiety seems more overwhelming and debilitating than when it started. The patient must take more and more to experience relief. Where does it end?
For someone wrestling with extreme nervousness or driven by compulsions, seeking a solution in pill form is easy. Pharmaceuticals are easily prescribed by well-meaning doctors in today’s world. But, the physical, mental and emotional costs of addiction are high.
A person who stops taking Ativan without receiving proper medical care may experience withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal can include extreme irritability, difficulty sleeping and even greater levels of anxiousness.
Reaching Out for Help
Seeking Ativan addiction treatment is critical. Addiction requires a three-fold treatment of body, mind and emotions for true recovery. Doctors generally taper patients off the drug and monitor their physical responses closely.
Psychological and counseling services are also recommended to help patients develop strategies to treat the anxiety which led to seeking relief in Ativan from the start.
Griffin, C., Kaye, A.M., Bueno, F. & Kaye, A.D. (2013). Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System- Mediated Effects. The Ochsner Journal. 13(2), 214-223. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/
Harvard Health Publications. (2013). Two types of drugs you may want to avoid for the sake of your brain. Retrieved from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/two-types-of-drugs-you-may-want-to-avoid-for-the-sake-of-your-brain
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2013). Lorazepam (Ativan). Retrieved from: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Mental-Health-Medications/Lorazepam-(Ativan).
MedlinePlus. (2010). Lorazepam. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682053.html.