Ativan Side Effects of Long-Term Use – Ativan is the brand name for a prescription drug known as lorazepam, a medication that belongs to a family of depressants called benzodiazepines (benzos).
Ativan can be prescribed for several reasons, including for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, and seizure disorders. Nonetheless, Ativan can be habit-forming, particularly if it is used for recreational purposes or if the person takes more than their prescribed dose. Over a prolonged period, Ativan can have a negative impact on an individual’s physical and emotional health, as well as on his or her overall quality of life.
Long-term abuse of Ativan can lead to:
- Sedation and fatigue
- Confusion and disorientation
- Memory impairments
- Learning problems
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal bleeding
- Kidney problems
- Loss of appetite
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Pale or bluish skin
- Withdrawal symptoms
Also, in severe cases, social effects of chronic Ativan use may include family conflicts and relationship strain leading to divorce. Other possible effects include financial and/or legal problems and unemployment.
Effects on the Body
Like other benzos, Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that reduces activity in the brain. For this reason, Ativan helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety, such as tension, restlessness, irrational fears, feelings of panic and irritability or agitation.
But within just a few weeks, the CNS begins to adapt to the effects of Ativan, and tolerance to the drug’s effects increases. The development of tolerance requires the person to use higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired calm, relaxing feelings. With extended use, the user can become dependent on Ativan, thus requiring the drug to function physically or mentally.
Recreational use of Ativan significantly increases the risk of dependence and addiction. But even a patient who takes Ativan as directed by a doctor’s can become dependent on the medication over time. For this reason, lorazepam and other benzos are often prescribed for relatively short periods.
One of the most significant risks of Ativan misuse is the possibility that Ativan dependence can progress into an addiction. In addition to tolerance and dependence, addiction is characterized by a psychological compulsion to seek and use drugs despite the incurrence of negative consequences.
Although Ativan does not usually induce severe suppression of the respiratory systems, a lethal overdose can occur when the drug is used in addition to other CNS depressants. Mixing Ativan with alcohol or other sedatives significantly increases the risk of respiratory depression, overdose, and death.
Ativan abuse can cause problematic changes in a person’s behavior. Favorite activities and family responsibilities may be neglected in favor of obtaining and using the drug.
Some of the common behavioral signs of Ativan abuse include the following:
- A loss of interest or pleasure in activities once considered important
- Withdrawal/isolation from social events and family relationships
- Sleeping too much
- Unusual irritability or anxiety
- Confused, drowsy appearance
- Neglect of personal hygiene and grooming
- Borrowing or stealing money
- Being secretive or deceptive about one’s activities
- Poor performance at work or school
Drug-seeking behaviors are common among those who abuse prescription drugs like Ativan. These behaviors may include visiting multiple doctors (doctor shopping), exaggerating or lying about anxiety symptoms, and forging prescriptions. Formerly honest individuals can adopt unethical behaviors such as lying, stealing, or selling drugs as a result of addiction’s effect on their mental health.
After a person has been using Ativan for a long time, he or she may experience an intensification of symptoms that used to be relieved by the drug, such as anxiety, seizures, or muscle spasms. This rebound effect can also occur during withdrawal when the person attempts to discontinue Ativan use.
Additional signs of withdrawal may include:
- Abdominal pain
Withdrawal from benzos such as Ativan without medical supervision can be hazardous, especially for long-term users. Discontinuing the drug abruptly can result in potentially fatal seizures as part of a syndrome, not unlike delirium tremens, an extreme effect of alcohol withdrawal. The safest method of withdrawing from Ativan is by way of a medical detox, a process in which patients are monitored as they are gradually weaned off the drug.
Getting Treatment for Ativan Addiction
As noted, to prevent the potentially life-threatening side effects of Ativan withdrawal such as seizures, a medically-supervised detox and/or a gradual drug taper are recommended. Medical detox provides a structured, supportive environment where clients are kept medically stable until they are ready to begin the more intensive work of recovery.
Although prolonged Ativan abuse can take a severe toll on a person’s physical and emotional well-being, it is never too late to seek help for addiction. Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive rehab programs, including a full range of therapeutic services, such as psychotherapy and counseling.
If you or someone you love is dependence on Ativan, other benzos, prescription or illicit drugs, or alcohol, please contact us today to discuss treatment options. Discover how we help people free themselves from the chains of addiction indefinitely!
Related: Long Term Side Effects of Xanax