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Ativan Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Ativan is a prescription medication used to treat several medical issues, but most widely insomnia and anxiety. It is a highly addictive benzodiazepine or a “benzo.” Ativan requires a prescription from a doctor and is typically recommended for short-term use.

Ativan is the drug’s brand name, while the generic name is lorazepam. The usual dose of Ativan for treating anxiety is a total daily dose of 2–3 mg split up across the day, while insomnia is treated with 2–4 mg at bedtime.

The standard dosage will typically have lasting effects for 10–20 hours. Because of this, it is known as an “intermediate-duration drug.”

Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan is a Schedule IV controlled substance and carries a risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. As such, it is important to be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction if you or a loved one take the drug.

How Ativan Addiction Develops

Most people prescribed Ativan don’t realize they can become addicted, which is very common among those who use it.

Over time, taking larger doses to reap the same effects can cause a person to become dependent on the drug physically and psychologically.

Signs of Ativan Addiction

Perhaps the biggest signs of Ativan addiction are cravings and a built-up tolerance level that requires higher doses. Those addicted tend to isolate, become aggressive and slack off on daily responsibilities.

Ativan is a drug that affects the central nervous system by binding cells with the GABA receptors located there, thus causing extreme relaxation, therapeutic effects and calmness.

Therefore, when the effects wear off, the user will seek more of the drug to return to these peaceful and anxiety-free states.

Someone may have an Ativan addiction if they show signs such as: 

  • Severe lethargy
  • Weakened muscle strength
  • Uncontrollable drowsiness
  • Hypnotic states
  • Coma
  • Death, in rare cases

Do People Snort Ativan?

When a person attempts to get high from a drug, they may take it differently to try to increase the speed and duration of the high. For this reason, some people may snort Ativan to get high. As Ativan quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier, some may find that snorting Ativan gives them a quicker high.

Difference Between Dependence and Addiction

A significant difference exists between drug dependence and addiction. A person may take a drug for a legitimate medical purpose and develop a dependence on it. A dependence simply means that the person’s brain and body have acclimated to the drug, and stopping it would cause withdrawal symptoms. Although an addicted person may also be dependent on a drug, not all dependent people are addicted.

Addiction, in contrast, is a complicated psychosocial phenomenon. A person is not only dependent on the drug but is also aware it is harming them. Nonetheless, they continue to use the drug compulsively despite the dangers.

Symptoms of Ativan Abuse

Symptoms of Ativan addiction can vary depending on the dosage taken, the length of the Ativan misuse and how the drug is abused. Typically, someone addicted will display the following behaviors:

  • Stealing, lying or being abnormally unreliable
  • Borrowing or stealing Ativan from others
  • Over self-inflicted sedation
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Withdrawing socially from situations and events
  • Agitation or violent behavior
  • Impaired judgment
  • “Doctor shopping” (Frequenting different physicians to obtain more Ativan and multiple prescriptions)
  • Not handling financial commitments

When well-being, health or daily obligations such as work, home or family are not treated or cared for, this can also be a significant indication of intentional Ativan abuse. Often, people will become aggressive or defensive while denying or trying to rationalize behavior that causes them to chase after the drug.

Dangers of Ativan Addiction

Addiction is dangerous, and Ativan addiction can lead to many risks. Besides the ever-present risk of overdose, which can be fatal, addiction can have other consequences. These can include physical, emotional, mental health and social risks.

Physical Risks

An Ativan overdose is one of the most important physical risks of Ativan addiction, but other physical consequences exist. These include the risk of accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, because Ativan is a sedative that can increase your response time. An increased risk of falls and fractures also exists from benzodiazepine addiction.

Emotional and Mental Health Risks

Addiction goes hand in hand with mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Struggling with an addiction can exacerbate these underlying problems. In addition, some people may take Ativan to cope with anxiety, leading them to avoid other safer and better treatments for the underlying mental health problem.

Social Consequences

Addiction often impacts not only the addicted person but also friends, family and colleagues. When someone is addicted, they often sever healthy social bonds in favor of pursuing their drug of choice. By failing to meet obligations at work, school and home, the person can harm their support system as they fall deeper into addiction. Some addicts may also steal from or otherwise harm their loved ones, further isolating themselves from their social network.

Ativan and Other Substances

Ativan vs. Xanax

Xanax is a popular prescription drug in the same family of benzos as Ativan. Many people may wonder what the difference is between Ativan and Xanax. The main differences are the dosage amounts, potency and primary usage.

Xanax mainly treats panic attacks and social anxiety and has a shorter half-life, while Ativan is predominantly used for insomnia, epilepsy and anxiety and has a longer half-life. Both are equally addicting and habit-forming.

Mixing Ativan and Alcohol

Another sign may be that the individual is pairing Ativan with other substances, such as alcohol. Ativan and alcohol are a dangerous combination, and using them together will create a much stronger effect of the drug. The problem with pairing Ativan and alcohol together is that it may seem harmless but can quickly become an accidental overdose.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, just over 50,000 people made emergency room visits in 2011 because of Lorazepam abuse in particular, and patient admissions for Benzodiazepine were also abusing another substance in conjunction with it.

If any of these behaviors are familiar to you or sound like a family member’s, it may be time to get professional help from an addiction specialist.

Mixing Ativan and Opiates

Mixing Ativan and opiates or opioids can quickly lead to an overdose, and Ativan carries an FDA-boxed warning to warn against combining the drugs. In 2021, almost 14% of opioid overdoses involved a benzodiazepine like Ativan. Nonetheless, some people attempt to mix Ativan and opioids to enhance an opioid high, as both drugs are central nervous system depressants with sedative effects.

Ativan Withdrawal

Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, and you do not want to stop taking them abruptly. Due to the problematic physical withdrawal symptoms, Ativan rehabilitation programs highly recommend slowly tapering off the drug.

Some of the possible side effects that can appear during Ativan withdrawal include:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Convulsions or Seizures
  • Mood swings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Intensive rage
  • Body tremors

Due to the intense nature of Ativan withdrawal symptoms, Ativan detox programs may also be recommended to come off of an Ativan addiction and are usually a vital part of the treatment process.

Acute withdrawal can begin as short as 10 hours from the last dosage. Depending on different variables, each person varies in how long withdrawal symptoms can last. Full-blown acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal can set in and last for 10 days to months, depending on the severity of the addiction and abuse of Ativan.

Treatment for Ativan Addiction

It’s advised to find an Ativan treatment facility specializing in Ativan abuse and a medical detox center that can help with rebound symptoms often caused by discontinued drug use.

Ativan users stand the best chance at successful recovery by receiving treatment from an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. Treatment programs help make the medical detox process more comfortable and also help educate and support people through recovery.

When a recovering Ativan addict feels backed up by these relationships, groups and education, this can help lead them to a happier, addiction-free way of living that allows them to integrate back into their regular daily routines and life. Help is available, and recovery is possible from Ativan addiction. Contact a Recovery Advocate at Orlando Recovery Center today to get started.

Sources “Lorazepam Monograph for Professionals.” September 28, 2022. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Ghiasi, Noman; Bhansali, Rakesh Kumar; Marwaha, Raman. “Lorazepam.” StatPearls, January 31, 2023. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Johnson, Brian; Streltzer, Jon. “Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.” American Family Physician, August 15, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2023.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” April 21, 2022. Accessed August 5, 2023.

View Sources “Lorazepam Monograph for Professionals.” September 28, 2022. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Ghiasi, Noman; Bhansali, Rakesh Kumar; Marwaha, Raman. “Lorazepam.” StatPearls, January 31, 2023. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Johnson, Brian; Streltzer, Jon. “Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.” American Family Physician, August 15, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2023.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” April 21, 2022. Accessed August 5, 2023.