ativan abuse

How to Recognize it if a Loved One is Abusing Their Ativan Medication

Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 12:43 pm

While most people are focused on the opioid epidemic, there is still a family of prescription drugs that are often overlooked.

Benzodiazepines are often used for anxiety, but they can also be very addictive. In fact, the number of overdoses associated with them increased 7 times between the late ’90s to 2015.

While most people would associate benzo addictions with Xanax and Valium, there is a weaker form that is often overlooked.

Ativan medication can lead to serious addiction and other health issues. Here’s what you need to know about Ativan abuse.

Ativan Medication: What You Need To Know

Ativan is the brand name for the drug known as lorazepam. Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine similar to drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.

While Ativan is known to be the weakest of the main 4, it can still be addictive and lead to abusing the drug.

Side Effects

Even with proper dosage, side effects of this medication can include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches and blurred vision.

Deaths related to this drug do not have to come with abuse or addiction. Even when used properly, driving or operating machinery can be lethal after usage. 

In higher doses, users may experience nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, or even amnesia. In the most serious cases, high doses can suppress the central nervous system and halt critical functions like breathing, leading to overdose.

Abuse

This can be a highly addictive drug, even as addictive as prescription opioids, and the risks are just as high.

People in their teens and 20s are more likely to abuse this drug, as the prescriptions are given frequently to adolescents struggling with anxiety.

When the prescribed dose is no longer enough to provide the expected symptom relief, people often begin to take more than they are prescribed. This leads to abuse.

Another scary possibility is mixing the drug with other substances like alcohol, which will cause other complications, or even be fatal.

The risks come with the unfortunate potential of experiencing the high-dose side effects mentioned earlier, but it also comes with the risk of experiencing withdrawal, which many abusers will fear.

Withdrawal

Benzo withdrawal can be terrifying. While the drug’s effects typically last for 10-12 hours, the withdrawal symptoms will often onset after 3-4 days.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of withdrawal will last for 10-14 days for most abusers of the medicine.

The symptoms of Ativan withdrawal include tremors, headaches, abdominal cramps, vomiting, heart palpitations, anxiety, and much more. In serious cases, withdrawal can lead to panic attacks and even seizures.

How To Tell If A Loved One Is Abusing Ativan

If you believe that a loved one is abusing their medication, there are two simple steps. Look for signs to determine the abuse, and intervene. Let’s talk about how to do that.

Physical Signs

If your loved one is constantly sweating, complaining about headaches, or if they seem very anxious even after taking the medication, these are good indicators of drug abuse.

Also, consider who is more susceptible to these addictions. People with mental health disorders are far more likely to abuse substances and self-medicate.

If they are prescribed Ativan for anxiety, and they also struggle with depression or PTSD, they are likely candidates for substance abuse. Dual diagnosis treatment is available for people with mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders.

Behavioral Signs

Behavioral signs can tell you everything you need to know. For example, if somebody is going to the doctor to refill their script more often than they should, that’s an obvious clue.

If they don’t tell you about that, then there are many more factors that point to addiction. If somebody using the medication is constantly lying about there whereabouts or says they can’t function without the medication, they may be addicted.

If you know they are trying to obtain the drug illegally, that is a major sign of a problem.

Carrying the medication around everywhere is not always a clear indicator of abuse. It may be a “just in case” situation. However, try to pay attention to signs of them taking the medication out of the room frequently, or how often they use it.

Intervening

This is the most difficult, but most necessary step. If you are reasonably certain that the person you love is abusing the medication, it is time to intervene. The sooner you do, the better.

Find out how to do an intervention in the right way so you can get them the help they need.

For a quick example of what to do, simply present your loved one with examples of their destructive behavior, in a loving way, and offer a solution.

This solution should involve treatment in an inpatient facility or regularly scheduled counseling. Giving options is less intimidating for the person suffering.

Treatment

If you have offered support and your loved one accepts treatment, remind them that it is a lifelong process. 40-60% of rehab patients will relapse after treatment.

If you care about this person, do what you can to offer as much support as possible for them to maintain abstinence from the substance.

Maintaining their abstinence is the longest and most difficult part of treatment, but it is also the most necessary.

Next Steps

People struggling with Ativan medication abuse require all the help they can get. If you believe that a loved one is suffering from addiction, do what you can to get them the help that they need.

Recovery is a long process, but don’t let that intimidate you. Remember the alternative, and help in any way you can to prevent it.

If they accept that they have a problem and want to recover, make sure to check out our treatment options and let them know what they can do.

References:

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.