Ativan (generic name lorazepam) is used to treat anxiety and other medical conditions. Like other medications within the benzodiazepine class, it’s widely abused, a practice which leads to addiction, withdrawals (including those which can be deadly) and in certain cases, overdose. Addiction can be treated and these dangers further avoided with the right combination of evidenced-based treatments.
Why Do People Abuse Ativan?
As a short-acting, high potency benzodiazepine (meaning you feel the full effect faster), Ativan has a high potential for abuse. Due to these characteristics, according to the American Family Physician (AFP), Ativan is one of the most frequently abused benzodiazepine drugs (benzos).
If you or a person within your life is using either a personal prescription for Ativan or someone else’s to self-treat a medical condition, these behaviors are in fact abused, and very dangerous as well. When a drug is used without the expert authority of a doctor to inform the dosage (dose and frequency of use) a person is far more apt to use it in a way which is harmful to their health.
In these circumstances, tolerance and dependence form more easily and quickly. These situations set the stage for further abuse, creating a prime atmosphere for compulsive patterns of drug-seeking.
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Benzodiazepines And Polydrug Abuse
Benzodiazepines are quite often abused with other drugs, as a person strives to increase the pleasurable or euphoric state they seek.
The AFP goes into greater detail, writing that “an estimated 80 percent of benzodiazepine abuse is part of polydrug abuse, most commonly with opioids.” Two opioids most frequently used this way are heroin and methadone. They continue, detailing “that 3 to 41 percent of alcoholic persons report that they abused benzodiazepines at some time, often to modulate intoxication or withdrawal effects.”
Signs And Symptoms Of Ativan Addiction
When a person’s life has given way to the compulsion of addiction, certain behaviors surface which can point to a problem.
A person could be addicted if they have:
- Craved the substance so intensely that their thoughts frequently center on it.
- Lost large parts of their day/week to using the drug or being sick from it.
- Found they can’t cut back, or stop altogether, even when they try to.
- Experienced times when they used the drug for longer than they planned on.
- Had important areas of their life (work, family or school) compromised by using or being sick from the substance.
- Stopped engaging in things which used to bring them fulfillment in order to make more time to use.
- Experienced problems within their relationship but kept on using Ativan despite this.
- Struggled with mental, emotional or physical health problems, but remained engaged in their drug use regardless of this toll.
- Endangered themselves due to the way the drug changed their behaviors or actions.
- Became tolerant of Ativan, leading them to use more of the drug.
- Became sick and experienced withdrawal when reducing or suddenly stopping their dosage.
When a person uses Ativan they may appear excessively sleepy, drowsy or intoxicated for no apparent reason.
Dangers Caused By Ativan Abuse And Addiction
When Ativan is used to excess, its properties become magnified, further altering a person’s psychomotor functions. This can severely impair a person’s reaction time and make it dangerous to drive a vehicle.
Over time, the drug will actually create a detriment to their mental health instead of alleviating problems as they might have hoped. This may surface as depression, rebound anxiety and/or suicide. As a person grapples with these conditions, they may take more of the medication as they endeavor to alleviate the symptoms, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.
When a person becomes tolerant they no longer feel the desired effects, whether they be pleasurable, anxiety-reducing, an intense calm or others. To counter this, a person may increase their dosage, or even use another drug in an effort to reach this state. The AFP reports “Some patients combine alcohol with benzodiazepines when they are not able to acquire the desired or “needed” effects.” Either of these behaviors places a person even more firmly in the crosshairs of overdose.
Withdrawal isn’t only painful and uncomfortable in the case of benzodiazepines. Along with alcohol, benzos are one of the only drugs which produce fatal withdrawals, marked by seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). While symptoms don’t always go this far, those who have used the drug heavily, for longer periods of time are more susceptible to the risk.
Quite dangerously, several of the drugs people frequently abuse with benzos can intensify CNS depression so severely that the risk of overdose rises. The AFP cautions us further, noting that “Fatal overdoses in addicted patients often involve the combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol, with or without opiates.”
This is because individually these drugs cause critical life support systems to fall, used together they can cause them to plummet rapidly. Benzos are also very dangerous when used only with opioids as well.
When this happens, either from too much of Ativan alone or with another drug, acute overdose occurs, causing:
- Confused mental states
- Hypnotic state
- Inability to control body movements
- Respiratory depression
- Slowed cardiac functions
- Very low blood pressure
- Weakend muscles
No matter how cautious you think you are when you’re addicted the drug has changed your brain chemistry and impaired your ability to make sound, healthy decisions. The only way to alleviate the risk of overdose and the other dangers we spoke of is to seek a comprehensive treatment program.
Treatment For A Benzodiazepine Addiction
Our treatment plans are as varied as the lives of our client’s lead. This individualized approach begins in our assessment and continues throughout every aspect of your care. This integrated approach offers you the highest chance of success in your pursuit of a sober, healthier life.
Medical Detox: First, if you haven’t already detoxed, our primary aim will be to treat the physical addiction and to cleanse the drug’s accumulated toxins from your body.
To do this, we will use medication-assisted therapies (medications and behavioral therapies) to reduce and/or alleviate the intolerable symptoms you could experience at this time. Medical detox is especially critical for an addiction to benzos, due to the fact that withdrawal can be fatal if untreated.
Behavioral Therapies: Your mental and emotional states are greatly affected by addiction. To treat the psychological component of addiction, we will create an individualized treatment program for you rooted in the following researched-based behavioral therapies:
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Dual Diagnosis Care: A large number of addicted individuals who are addicted also struggle with a mental health disorder (co-occurring disorder). This is especially true for those who self-medicate, as is frequently the case with benzodiazepine abusers.
Whether it be anxiety or another mental illness, our dual diagnosis care attacks both states so that they no longer aggravate each other and complicate your recovery.
Additional Modalities: Addiction can strip away your passion to live. It erodes your sense of self-confidence, self-love and your ability to effectively interact with other people in a healthy way.
To enhance our other modalities and to overcome these detrimental states, we offer an engaging blend of cutting-edge treatment modalities:
- Adventure Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Family Therapy And Support
- Mindfulness And Stress Management Practices
- Wilderness Therapy
- Aftercare support (A Balanced Life)
Make Sobriety Yours
Whether you have an addiction alone or a dual diagnosis, we can help. Contact us now. We want to share with you how Vertava Health’ treatment programs can help you build a sober, fulfilling future.