Ativan is the brand name for a potent benzodiazepine called lorazepam. Ativan belongs to the group of drugs used as sedatives or tranquilizers. Similar drugs include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta, and Halcion. In all, more than a dozen benzodiazepines are available by prescription. In illicit use, benzodiazepines are known on the street as benzos, goofballs, stupefy, blues, downers, or chill pills.
Depending on the dose, Ativan can produce a sense of calm, relax tight muscles or make the user drowsy. Doctors mostly prescribe it for short-term anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The long-term effects of treating temporary issues with Ativan are not fully known. That’s why the duration of treatment rarely exceeds 3 or 4 months. Sometimes, Ativan is used to treat other physical and mental conditions as well:
Certain neurotransmitters in your brain — called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA — send calming messages to your body. Benzodiazepines attach to these receptors to enhance their effect. When people feel anxious or have racing thoughts, taking a benzodiazepine kicks up GABA activity a notch to counteract the anxiety.
Ativan takes anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours to take effect. Depending on the dose and duration of use, it remains in the system for 20 to 100 hours.
Every day, people take Ativan just as prescribed. It helps them get through cancer treatment, an emotional rough patch, or a bout of insomnia. On the other hand, every day, some Ativan users find themselves in the grip of addiction and wonder how it happened.
People either wittingly or unwittingly abuse drugs. Even conscientious patients can accidentally take too much Ativan. If the therapeutic effect is more intense, then they might start occasionally squeezing in extra doses. They might discover that Ativan works even faster if they take it with a glass of wine.
Maybe they borrowed some pills from a friend just to get a few good nights’ sleep. Ativan does take the edge off; perhaps they were tempted by pills that were left over after a problem had resolved itself.
Whether they realize it or not, all these actions amount to drug abuse. What’s more, it’s a crime at both federal and state levels to share prescription meds or to take someone else’s. As for the individuals who wittingly abuse the drug, none deliberately set out to get addicted. It’s that intense rush of euphoria at high doses that makes Ativan hard to give up.
The problem is that the body quickly builds tolerance to Ativan. That means it takes increasingly higher, more frequent doses to replicate the euphoria. People develop because they’re chasing that elusive high that they felt the first few times.
Also, Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant. Examples include anxiety, vertigo, confusion, sweating, panic attacks, and delirium. Some people make a good effort to stop but just can’t handle withdrawal.
Another form of abuse is to combine Ativan with other drugs to enhance the high. Alcohol is one example. Cocaine, methadone, amphetamines, and opioids are others. In 2019, 16% of opioid-related deaths also involved benzodiazepines.
Substance abuse occurs in just about every demographic. It crosses age, gender, racial, educational, and socioeconomic boundaries. Depending on many factors, a respected attorney could be just as vulnerable to addiction as a troubled high school dropout. Still, many addicted people share one or more of these traits:
If you or someone you love is experiencing even one or two of these symptoms, it’s probably time to talk to a professional counselor:
The most obvious sign of addiction is continuing to use the drug even when it turns your life upside down.
There’s a lengthy list of adverse effects:
Some chronic abusers experience debilitating headaches, memory problems, tremors, or anorexia.
Fortunately, people do break free from Ativan. With professional treatment, they live healthy, happy, productive lives. Admitting that there’s a problem is half the battle. It’s important to approach treatment for yourself — or intervention on a loved one’s behalf — with the right mindset. Addiction is a chronic brain disease. It’s not a lack of willpower. It’s not a moral issue.
A woman with diabetes can’t just summon the self-control to stop having it. A man with arthritis would hardly be judged for it by his fellow church members. No one chooses to become addicted. The only choice involved is whether to seek professional help, and many people make the right decision. They do everything their caregivers recommend. They leverage every resource available. These individuals also build a network of support and stay on the path even after occasional setbacks. They mentor others who are just starting the journey to recovery.
The most successful treatment programs are something like a barrage against an enemy. Using a variety of weapons increases the odds of victory. The first goal is to identify other mental issues. Drug addiction always goes hand-in-hand with something else like depression or anxiety. Addressing co-occurring problems at once is always most effective.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a mainstay of treatment. It has a proven track record, and people rely on its strategies for years to avoid relapse. It is the centerpiece, so to speak, of comprehensive care. CBT helps individuals pinpoint the underlying causes that lead them to abuse Ativan or other substances. It teaches them to recognize the triggers that make them turn to drugs or alcohol, and triggers can be all over the map.
Stress, loneliness, and anger are triggers. Disappointment is a trigger. The environment of a certain neighborhood bar could be a trigger. Even a college roommate you haven’t seen in 20 years could be a trigger. Once triggers are identified, CBT helps people in recovery learn to safely navigate them. It teaches new ways of working through upsetting emotions. It equips people to cope with stress, anger, loneliness, or insomnia in healthy ways.
Several complementary treatments reinforce cognitive behavioral therapy. Peer group sessions provide a safe place for people to speak openly about their struggles. Group members are never judgmental. Those who are farther along in the journey encourage newcomers with success stories and tips for avoiding relapse.
Addiction is hard on relationships. At best, they become strained. At worst, they are broken entirely. Family counseling and/or couples therapy aims to restore communication, bring about understanding and start the healing process. The community reinforcement approach, or CRA, teaches clients to identify sober activities and hone their skills for reentering life. In contingency management therapy, people are rewarded for positive behavioral changes.
Dialectical behavior therapy helps people live in the moment, control their emotions and improve their relationships. 12-step programs are another staple of treatment, especially in long-term care after leaving rehab. Members in various stages of recovery support one another in their shared desire to stay clean.
These are just a few weapons we have at our disposal. Everyone is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Your care will be customized, and we’ll tweak the plan if progress is slower than expected.
Many clients find that me-time and self-care speed recovery. Yoga, meditation, hiking, journaling, and attending religious services are popular activities for staying clean. You could even explore alternative approaches like art therapy. We can also direct you to fitness classes, nutritional counseling, vocational resources, family education, and much more.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even fatal. Ativan’s long-term effects can last weeks, months, or years. That’s why it’s critical to act quickly before physical dependence on the drug becomes severe.
Our experienced caregivers at Free by the Sea are committed to helping people heal from Ativan and other substances. We offer residential, outpatient, and intensive outpatient treatment as well as a partial hospitalization program. Don’t waste another day. Contact us now to start reclaiming your life or the life of a loved one.