Ativan: Understanding Addiction

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In recent years, there has been a substantial discussion about the risks of benzodiazepines, including addiction, overdose, and serious side effects. One of the most widely prescribed types of benzos in the US is Ativan, a prescription tranquilizing medication.

What is Ativan?

It is a prescription tranquilizing drug used for treating patients who suffer from anxiety disorders, seizures, and insomnia. In 2011, more than 27 million prescriptions were made. It has addictive qualities, meaning it can lead to physical and psychological dependence. People who become addicted have to keep increasing their dose to experience the same high.

Side Effects

As a high potency benzodiazepine it can cause mild or severe side effects. The most common ones include:

  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Generic Name

Ativan is available in generic form, called lorazepam. A prescription from a doctor is needed in order to buy the drug. In some cases, the generic drug can be less expensive than the brand-name version.

Approved Uses

Lorazepam is an approved drug for the short-term treatment of anxiety symptoms. It’s commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders including panic disorders, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

The drug is also prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia caused by anxiety and stress. Another use is in the treatment of a severe type of seizure called status epilepticus.

Ativan vs. Xanax

There are many similarities between Ativan and Xanax. They are both benzodiazepines that are used as treatment drugs for anxiety disorders. Both of the drugs can lead to physical and psychological dependence and cause similar side effects. Also, both can cause a person who’s addicted to have withdrawal symptoms upon stopping.

The difference is that Ativan has fewer withdrawal symptoms than Xanax, as well as less potential for misuse. Xanax is also involved in more overdoses.

Xanax has a half-life of 11.2 hours. On the other hand, Ativan has a half-life of 12 hours.

How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

For the majority of people, Ativan stays in the body for five days after taking it. Although the drug is not detectable through a traditional drug screen, more extensive screens will detect it.

Ativan can be detected in urine tests for up to six days and in blood tests for up to three days after use. Moreover, saliva tests can detect the presence of Ativan for up to eight hours, and hair tests can detect it for 30 days or longer.

Ativan Half-Life

Ativan has a half-life of 12 hours. However, people who abuse the drug usually take higher amounts, so it might take longer for the drug to be eliminated from the system.

Ativan and Alcohol

Lorazepam interacts negatively with alcohol. The two substances are central nervous system depressants, and mixing drugs in this group can be dangerous.

When used at the same time, alcohol and lorazepam can slow down the functions of the body and make people more susceptible to overdose.

Overdose and Withdrawal


In 2011, around 50 thousand people in the US ended up in the emergency room due to lorazepam complications.1 In 2015, nearly 9,000 people died due to benzodiazepine overdose. This is a significant increase from 2002 when less than 2,000 people died from the same cause.

The most common symptoms of overdose are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coma
  • Withdrawal

It has been found that nearly 40% of people who are using benzos longer than six months will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. The other 60% of people will experience mild symptoms.2 This happens if the drug is stopped suddenly.

The most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Blurred vision
  • Racing heart

Withdrawal from high doses of benzos can have life-threatening side effects, including seizures. For that reason, withdrawal should happen under medical supervision.



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