Ativan side effects

Ativan Side Effects: Common Side Effects of Ativan Use

Last updated on July 15th, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Ativan (or Lorazepam) belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines produce a calming effect that primarily acts on the central nervous system. They work by enhancing a naturally produced chemical in the body called GABA.

As such, Ativan can treat anxiety and insomnia. It can sometimes also treat seizures, muscle spasms, and even bipolar disorder. 

Still, Ativan treatment also comes with risks. This drug has numerous side effects; some of which can be dangerous. Plus, benzodiazepines carry a high risk of misuse and abuse, so it is important to be honest with your doctor about your use of the drug.

How is Ativan Taken?

Since Ativan typically comes in the form of a pill, most users take it orally. And, depending on the doctor’s directions, some users take it with food while others do not.

Ativan comes in 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg tablets. The dosage can range anywhere from 0.5 mg to 10 mg per day, depending on the individual.

In other words, the appropriate dosage will vary depending on both the user and the condition that the drug is treating.

It’s important to note that, while Ativan can be highly beneficial for those with anxiety disorders and sleeping problems, it does have the potential for serious side effects and carries a high potential for abuse

General Ativan Side Effects

It is important to know some of the general side effects of Ativan. It is also important to be able to identify signs of Ativan abuse. Remember, benzodiazepines such as Ativan carry a high potential for abuse. Spotting the problem is often the first step in getting help for addiction.

At their most extreme, the physical side effects of Ativan can be similar to that of alcohol intoxication. This makes a great deal of sense when you look into the side effects of both substances. Some of the shared side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, impaired coordination, and changes in sexual interest.

Some Ativan side effects affect a person mentally as well. These can include hallucinations, depression, and memory problems, among others.

Dizziness

This is perhaps the most common side effect of Ativan.

Generally speaking, dizziness is a lightheaded sensation accompanied by a physical inability to balance or orient yourself to your surroundings, even if those surroundings are not changing. 

Some describe dizziness as a spinning sensation similar to motion sickness. Experts recommend that you find a place to sit when experiencing dizziness. This is important because falling or loss of consciousness can occur after onset dizziness.

Drowsiness

Drowsiness describes feelings of tiredness or exhaustion. Most would describe drowsiness as unusual tiredness, sleepiness, and general “sluggishness.”

This can occur even when there is no reasonable explanation for the cause of such feelings. Many users who experience drowsiness complain that despite feeling so tired, it’s difficult to fall asleep.

Drowsiness often causes other symptoms such as decreased mental capacity and forgetfulness.

Impaired Coordination

Impaired coordination, also called ataxia, involves difficulty walking and moving. It can range from minor to severe. Additionally, impaired coordination can be a gradual or sudden onset symptom.

Ataxia normally affects major bodily functions. However, it also has the capacity to affect fine motor skills as well, making the simplest tasks nearly impossible.

In the worst circumstances, it can even result in a complete loss of balance and coordination.

Change in Sexual Interest or Performance

Ativan has the potential to change your levels of sexual interest, as well as change your relative stamina and endurance levels. 

Changes could include decreased sexual desire, heightened sensitivity, and impotence.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations are sensations that seem to be vividly real but are, in reality, a creation of the mind. They have the capacity to affect all the senses but are most commonly either visual or auditory.

Typical examples of hallucinations include hearing voices or seeing things that are not there. Another common hallucination is the feeling that something is crawling on your skin when, in fact, there is nothing there.

Depression

Depression is a common but serious side effect that is associated with many medications. It is a particularly common side effect in drugs that affect mood or hormone imbalances.

Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness or emptiness. For the most part, those who struggle with depression have a general sense of apathy toward the same things that once brought them joy or contentment.

Less common signs of depression include changes in appetite or loss of energy. Onset depression may result in feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts as well.

Signs of Ativan Misuse or Abuse

While all of these side effects can occur with Ativan, there is a distinct difference between someone exhibiting one of these symptoms and someone who is exhibiting a combination of these symptoms.

Like many benzodiazepines, Ativan produces feelings of calm and relaxation. As such, it has a high potential for abuse, even among those with no prior history of abusing medications.

In fact, with over five percent of the U.S. population having been prescribed benzodiazepines in the last year, the potential for Ativan misuse is actually quite high.

The average person will likely experience one or two of the side effects listed above. However, those who abuse Ativan will probably exhibit more extreme side effects— and have a higher number of symptoms.

The symptoms that indicate abuse include enhanced drowsiness and high levels of anxiety. Memory and learning difficulties may indicate Ativan abuse as well.

Ativan Addiction and Treatment

It can be challenging to distinguish normal Ativan side effects from signs of Ativan abuse. Still, it is important to be on the lookout for signs of abuse if you or someone you know takes Ativan. 

Are you interested in learning more about prescription drug addiction and treatment?

Learn more in our prescription drug blog. We have information and resources regarding treatment for all types of addictions.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.