To understand the connection between Ativan and anxiety we need to discuss each separately. We will start with a quick introduction to Ativan then move on to discussing anxiety disorders. In the final sections, we will discuss addiction and how to treat Ativan and anxiety together as a dual diagnosis.
What is Ativan?
Used as a drug to soothe the symptoms of anxiety disorders, Ativan is a benzodiazepine. Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that are characterized by intense or persistent worry, fear, and anxiety. Although Ativan has been proven as a helpful short-term drug to treat anxiety, it is habit-forming and has a high risk of abuse. If you have become dependent on Ativan while living with anxiety, it is essential to treat both the addiction, as well as anxiety, for the best outcome.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Although many people experience the feeling of anxiety, when anxiety becomes intense and affects everyday life, it can be a sign of the presence of an anxiety disorder. Overwhelming and persistent anxiety that is coupled with high levels of stress can interfere with the ability to function normally.
If you are feeling anxious about many different things in your life, this might be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder. Despite this, there are many different types of anxiety disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Social anxiety disorder: This form of anxiety might create high levels of stress specifically in relation to social situations or seeing other people
Panic disorder: Sudden feelings of panic can produce attacks known as panic disorder
Phobias: Some phobias can be regarding germs, or bugs, and can cause intense anxiety. This can include compulsive disorders such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
Agoraphobia: Known as anxiety relating to being in a situation where you may feel embarrassed, helpless, or unable to escape. It is also known as the fear of open spaces and can force the sufferer to isolate themselves
Separation anxiety disorder: Children often have this type of anxiety, and it can occur when being separated from parents or caregivers
Selective mutism: Causing the sufferer to be unable to speak in certain situations
Side Effects of Ativan
Shortness of breath
Signs of an Ativan Overdose
Lack of responsiveness
Extremely slowed breathing
Blue lips or fingers
Treatment Risks of Ativan and Anxiety
Although anxiety disorder is a group of mental health conditions and it is debilitating, there are still risks with using Ativan to treat anxiety. No matter what triggers the anxiety, it is always very real for the one suffering. This is why Ativan can feel like a huge relief to many people prone to anxiety. It can provide immediate relief but is not good for long term use.
Ativan causes dangerous side effects, can interact with other substances, and can cause addiction. Ativan is not a full fix for a life-long condition of anxiety. It is important to use other treatments, such as therapy, along with Ativan to manage your anxiety.
It is a Central Nervous System Depressant
Because Ativan and other benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, it can cause your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration to slow down. Although this relaxes the body, you are essentially using a sedative.
When using Ativan you can become both drowsy and dizzy. This makes driving a car, or operating machinery a risky task. It can even make walking upstairs dangerous.
When combining with other drugs, such as anti-depressants or alcohol, Ativan can become fatal. Specifically, alcohol and opioids can not only impair, but also increase the risk of an overdose. This occurs because of the effect of slowing respiration multiples and stops breathing altogether.
Using Antidepressants to Treat Anxiety
Since benzodiazepines like Ativan should only be used for short periods to help with anxiety, oftentimes longer-term management of an anxiety disorder is done with antidepressants. This is because antidepressants are less habit-forming and pose less of a risk to the person using them. It can be harder to develop a substance use disorder to antidepressants than it is to Ativan. Additionally, Ativan can always be kept on hand as needed such as during a panic attack, or a high period of anxiety.
Anxiety and Dependance on Ativan
Unfortunately, it is very easy to become dependent on Ativan. If you struggle with anxiety and take it regularly, then your tolerance will eventually rise. This may lead to taking more and more of the drug until a substance use disorder develops. If you have developed a substance abuse disorder due to your anxiety, you should treat both conditions at the same time.
Treating anxiety and addiction at the same time involves different forms of therapies. Depending on the person, anxiety and addiction treatment might involve different forms of holistic care, alternative therapies such as art therapy, changes in lifestyle or nutrition, and even live-in treatment programs. Group support can also be extremely helpful in ending an Ativan addiction.
Although using Ativan is safe under the watchful eye of a medical professional, it needs to be monitored. Anyone who struggles with anxiety knows how painful it can be, so it is important to understand the risks, and how much worse your condition can become when coupled with addiction.
One of the biggest risks of an Ativan addiction is the withdrawal that comes with stopping its use. Withdrawal can be one of the main reasons why you may not want to quit using Ativan.
Ativan withdrawal can be felt within six to eight hours after it has left your system. This withdrawal may begin initially as signs of rebound anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, and cravings for Ativan. After a few days, you may begin to suffer from tremors, high blood pressure, agitation, disorientation, hallucinations, and even suicidal thoughts. Finally after about five days, to one week, you should see the withdrawal effects begin to fade. Depending on how severe your dependency is, you may see the after-effects of withdrawal for months.
It is extremely important never to stop using Ativan or other benzodiazepines without medical guidance. Suddenly stopping use can cause heart problems, panic attacks, and even seizures. Detox from Ativan should always be done with the guidance of a health care professional.