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Ativan Abuse and Addiction

Ativan is a prescription medicine belonging to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It is prescribed to the patients of anxiety to help them stay calm. Ativan is the brand name for the compound ‘lorazepam’ that is a central nervous system depressant. It produces its action by slowing down the brain activities. Just like other Benzos, lorazepam is habit forming when used for long periods of time. Even people who take it for therapeutic purpose may end up developing physical and psychological dependence.


Table of Contents:

  • What is Ativan?
  • What are the dosage amounts for Ativan?
  • Effects produced by Ativan
  • How long does Ativan stay in the system?
  • Common Ativan drug combinations
  • Statistics on Ativan abuse

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a potent anti-anxiety medication, belonging to the class benzodiazepines. Apart from anxiety, it is also used to treat panic disorders, insomnia, seizures and sleep disorders. In some cases, benzos are used as anesthetics and sedatives to relax the patient before a surgery or due to other medical reasons. Just like other benzodiazepines, there is a potential to become addicted to it when it is used for extended periods of time.

Ativan is available in 0.5mg, 1mg and 2mg tablets so the amount of lorazepam varies in different tablets. Ativan is manufactured in the form of small, white tablet. It is important to have knowledge about how the drug looks like so it becomes easier to identify if a loved one is abusing Ativan and also, it can help to prevent an accidental overdose.

What are the Dosage Amounts for Ativan?

It is highly recommended to carefully control Ativan intake to prevent abuse and addiction. Ativan tablets are administrated orally and dosage amount varies from one patient to the other. Usually, the dose starts from 0.5mg and is gradually increased depending upon the condition of the patient. The maximum dose of Ativan per day prescribed to different patients may range from 1 to 10mg.

For the treatment of anxiety, usually 2-3mg of Ativan is prescribed to be taken 2 to 3 times a day. Whereas, for the treatment of stress and sleep disorders, 2 to 4 mg Ativan can be prescribed to be taken before going to bed. For elderly people, the amount prescribed is lower since they have low tolerance for the drug.

Ativan Abuse and Addiction

When used for therapeutic purposes, the effects of Ativan may last up to 72 hours. However, when it is abused and is taken in large quantities; the euphoric effects produced by it may last up to 9-10 hours.

Effects Produced by Ativan:

Ativan can only be obtained with a valid prescription and since most of the people use it for therapeutic purposes, they do not realize they are abusing it. Not only taking it without a prescription is abuse but taking it in higher than prescribed amounts or taking it more frequently than prescribed is also considered abuse. The potential to develop physical and mental dependence increased a great deal when it is abused.


When Ativan is consumed, it produces calming effects by affecting the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. It reduces the communication among neurons thus producing relaxing effects. But when it is taken in significantly increased amounts, it binds to specific receptors in the brain producing a euphoric high. The common effects produced by the drug include:

  • Euphoric high
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Sense of calmness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleepiness

Since Ativan is a prescription drug, there is a high potential of its accidental or intentional abuse. Accidental overdose is also a risk factor. It is possible to overdose on Ativan when it is taken in high amounts. Some common symptoms associated with Ativan overdose may include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Loss of coordination
  • Mental confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Low respiratory rate
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

When it is taken in very high amounts or when it is combined with other drugs, even death is possible.

How Long Does Ativan Stay in the System?

After Ativan is consumed, it takes about 2 hours to feel its complete effects. The average half life of Ativan is around 12 hours. It can take 10-20 hours or even more to completely eliminate it from the body. A number of factors determine how long Ativan will stay in the system such as:

  • Age, weight and height of the user
  • Gender of the user
  • Genetic disposition of the user
  • Overall health of the user

The half life and thus staying time is different for different benzodiazepines.

How long do Benzodiazepines stay in the system?
Brand Names Halcion Ativan Valium
Length of Action Short-acting Intermediate Long-acting
Time 2-4 hours 10-20 hours 20-70 hours

Common Ativan Drug Combinations:

Ativan is often combined with other drugs to achieve a better and long lasting high. Some of the drugs commonly taken in combination with Ativan are:

  • Amphetamines: Ativan is a depressant while amphetamines are stimulants. So both the drug produce opposing effects. Combining these both can help the user come down from high more easily.
  • Cocaine: Cocaine is also a stimulant and is used in combination with Ativan for the same reason as amphetamines are used. Ativan opposes the stimulant effects of cocaine.
  • Methadone: Methadone is a painkiller and it is often combined with Ativan to boost its pain relieving action.
  • Alcohol: Combining alcohol and Ativan produces a quicker and stronger high. However, both alcohol and Ativan are central nervous system depressants so combining these both can be fatal since body and brain activities can be depressed to dangerous levels.

Combining Ativan with other drugs can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. The risk of overdosing is also increased a great deal that may lead to unconsciousness, coma and even death.

Statistics on Ativan abuse:

Abuse of prescription medicines is on the rise in United States during the past few years. A significant number of people are addicted to prescription medications including benzodiazepines.

  • Benzodiazepines are the second major cause of prescription medication related deaths. First are opioid medications.
  • In 2011, over 50,000 emergency room cases involved lorazepam use.
  • The use of benzodiazepines has increased by 30% since 1996. More people are using benzodiazepines every year. In 2011, over 27 million prescriptions were written for Ativan.
  • 95 percent of all the patients admitted in hospital due to benzodiazepine abuse were taking it in combination with another drug.

Once the addiction has been developed, it is important to seek therapy and treatment to ensure a successful recovery.


Road to drug and alcohol recovery is easy if you follow our extensive addiction recovery guide.