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The Dangers Of Mixing Ativan With Alcohol

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Why Mix Ativan With Alcohol?

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, or sedative, which means that as a person drinks, their brain and other related circuitry slows down causing them to relax. When a person mixes alcohol with Ativan, they increase the side-effects of each substance.

Ativan is a sedative anxiolytic, or anxiety medication, with similar effects to other drugs in its class, including Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Ativan is a brand of lorazepam, which belongs to the drug class known as benzodiazepines.

Ativan is also a type of sedative, so when a person mixes it with alcohol, the effects of each drug are intensified. Ativan can be prescribed to help treat alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy. The danger of mixing Ativan with alcohol is that it increases the risk of alcoholic blackout, risky behavior, polysubstance dependence, and alcohol poisoning.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol And Ativan Use

Someone who mixes Ativan with alcohol may exhibit a level of intoxication that is disproportionate to the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed. An individual struggling with alcohol and benzodiazepine use may have a decreased ability to judge dangerous situations, and often becomes a threat to themselves or others around them.

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Mixing alcohol and Ativan may reduce a person’s functioning, inhibitions, and the combination has been used to facilitate sexual assault (also known as date rape). On its own, Ativan may cause clouded thoughts, and may cause a person to seem drunk.

The signs and symptoms of mixing alcohol and Ativan may include:

  • short-term memory loss
  • impaired motor control
  • unsteady gait
  • unusual behavior
  • severe drowsiness
  • coordination problems
  • decreased inhibitions
  • changes in sex drive or ability
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • stupor
  • slurred speech
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • coma

Despite the fact that benzodiazepines generally have a lower level of use than drugs like alcohol, cocaine, or heroin, when misused they can quickly result in drug dependence. Ativan is among the top five most commonly used benzodiazepines in the United States.

It isn’t always easy to determine why a loved one would use alcohol with prescription medications. Some people use alcohol as a way to cope with life, and when that’s no longer enough they may turn to prescription drugs as well. Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol and Ativan can provide the tools to get a person the help they need, and deserve.

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Effects Of Mixing Ativan And Alcohol

Ativan intensifies the effects of alcohol, often to a fatal level. With an estimated 2.5 million years of potential life lost, alcohol alone is responsible for up to 88,000 deaths each year in the United States. Alcohol kills more people than any other drug, and mixing it with Ativan merely increases the risk of fatalities.

Alcohol and benzodiazepines act on some of the same areas of the brain, including the main inhibitory neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Ativan and alcohol cause the brain’s neurons to release neurotransmitters, causing sedation, reduced anxiety, and intoxication.

Concurrent Ativan and alcohol use does more than just increase the euphoric effect of each drug. Ativan and alcohol may also cause irreversible damage to a person’s liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas, and brain.

Long-term use of alcohol and Ativan changes the structure and function of the brain, often causing an increased tolerance, and polysubstance dependence. Polysubstance dependence refers to the physical addiction to more than one drug. Yet alcohol and Ativan may affect each person differently based on their age, level of tolerance, genetics, mental state, and overall physical health.

A person who’s dependent on benzodiazepines and alcohol may need to use both drugs to feel normal, and rarely uses one without the other. A person suffering from a polysubstance dependence to sedatives may experience intensified withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using them.

Alcohol And Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person who’s dependent on a drug stops using it, they may experience intense physical and mental symptoms known as withdrawals. Withdrawals are a chain of symptoms associated with the abrupt discontinuation, or decrease in medications and recreational drugs. Abusing Ativan with alcohol can quickly lead to an increased tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to stop. If left untreated, alcohol withdrawals can increase the chance of relapse, and may even be life-threatening.

The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and Ativan may include:

  • sweating
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • rapid heart rate
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • delirium tremens

Ativan (lorazepam) may be used in a medication-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence. Yet using alcohol during this medication-assisted treatment increases the risk of life-threatening side effects of Ativan.

Attempting to detox from alcohol withdrawal without proper supervision can be dangerous, and is not recommended. A medically-supervised detoxification (medical detox) is the safest, and most effective way to treat alcohol dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

It’s important to note that a medical detox is not considered a full treatment for polysubstance dependence, or sedative use, and should be paired with behavioral treatment, and further support in order to sustain long-term recovery.

Ativan And Alcohol Treatment Programs

Alcohol and Ativan are highly addictive drugs, and without help quitting the two can be close to impossible. Alcohol affects each person differently, and while some are able to simply give it up, others are not. An individualized alcoholic treatment approach treats alcoholism, alcohol use, co-occurring disorders, and polysubstance dependence as it applies to each person’s needs.

Addiction can have environmental, psychological, physical, and spiritual factors, so a successful treatment focuses on each of these areas. A behavioral treatment at an alcohol rehabilitation center aims to help a person overcome alcohol and other drugs, and learn to live a self-directed life in recovery.