What are the Signs of Ativan Abuse?
Fifteen million people in the U.S. abuse prescription drugs. Taking more than is prescribed, or mixing prescription medications with other drugs or alcohol is considered prescription drug abuse. Ativan is the trade name for lorazepam, a generic prescription drug, and part of the drug class called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines like Ativan are highly effective at treating a range of disorders, most notably anxiety and panic attacks. Prescription drugs like Ativan are tranquilizers or sedatives, which bind to GABA receptors in the brain. The medication has a calming effect on patients that does not cause serious cardiovascular or respiratory system impairment.
But unfortunately, benzodiazepines and Ativan can be addictive and are often misused. Prescription drug abuse can cause a range of dangerous side effects that put people’s health and safety at risk. What are the signs of Ativan abuse and where can loved ones turn to for help with prescription drug addiction? The following article will explore Ativan abuse and treatment methods.
What are the physical signs of Ativan abuse?
Ativan is well-known in the medical community as a highly addictive drug with a high-risk for abuse. Prescribing doctors usually only prescribe Ativan as a short-term treatment option, for about three to four months. Ativan is generally prescribed for the following conditions on a short-term basis:
- Manic Bipolar Disorder
- To treat vomiting and nausea from chemotherapy and cancer drugs
- Sleep problems
- Agitation and restlessness
- Muscle spasms
- Psychosis from abrupt alcohol withdrawal
Ativan can cause physical dependence. As the user’s body becomes acclimated to having Ativan in their system, they will need higher and higher doses to get the same effect of the medication. This is one of the reasons why Ativan is only given for a few months at a time. As tolerance increases, so does a person’s risk of overdose. People who continue to abuse Ativan will experience painful, distressing withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. This is the physical part of the addiction disease. Not everyone who is physically addicted to a substance will be psychologically addicted to it. The physical signs of Ativan include the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Problems making sound decisions
- Trouble breathing
- A lack of coordination
- Weakness and dizziness
- Slurred speech
Benzodiazepines and prescription Ativan abuse look similar to alcohol abuse. Users will slur their speech and have trouble with coordination, putting them at risk of falls and serious injury. Some Ativan abusers will also take heavy doses of the drug over a long period. Chronic Ativan abuse will display different symptoms, including:
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle weakness
- Memory loss
Chronic Ativan abuse will lower a person’s appetite, leading to weight loss and possible nutritional deficiencies.
Are the side effects of chronic Ativan abuse reversible?
Most memory issues will resolve once someone quits abusing Ativan. But some people will experience permanent cognitive impairment even after they stopped using the drug. This risk of long-term damage from Ativan is higher in elderly populations. Also, Ativan abuse can trigger and expedite cognitive decline in elderly patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
What are the symptoms of Ativan addiction and abuse?
It can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of abuse, especially if a person has a legitimate prescription for Ativan fro their doctor. Besides the physical side effects of Ativan misuse, a person who is addicted to the drug may display the following signs:
- Feigning symptoms to get more Ativan from their doctor
- Doctor shopping to get more Ativan
- Stealing Ativan from friends or family
- Buying Ativan illegally on the black market
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will also exhibit other signs of addiction, including:
- Lying about when they’ve taken a substance or how much of a substance they’ve taken
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Lashing out
- Failing to fulfill obligations
- Financial problems
Is Ativan often abused with other drugs?
Research indicates that prescription benzodiazepines like Ativan are frequently abused with prescription opioids and painkillers. Studies suggest that Ativan is often misused for recreational purposes and that prescription benzodiazepines increase the effects of opioids. Polydrug abuse makes treatment more complicated and also increases the risk of overdose.
- Being female
- Having poor health
- Drinking alcohol daily
There are protective factors against prescription drug misuse as well, including being younger than age 25, and also being employed full time.
What is the withdrawal timeline and the withdrawal symptoms for Ativan abuse?
Withdrawal symptoms for Ativan abuse can start within 24 hours of the last use of the pills. Acute withdrawal symptoms where the physical side effects are most pronounced can last anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Longterm, psychological effects can last for months, years, or in the case of cognitive decline, for the rest of the patient’s life. Symptoms of withdrawal can include the following:
- Short and long-term memory loss
What is the treatment protocol for Ativan addiction?
It’s not safe to quit taking drugs like benzodiazepines cold-turkey. For people with a prescription Ativan addiction, it’s critical that they undergo a safe, medical detox to avoid the painful, debilitating symptoms of withdrawal. Anxiety and depression are common during the detox and withdrawal phase. Depression can cause other problems with a person’s day-to-day functioning and can increase the risk of self-harm or suicide. Medical detox can mitigate these risks.
After a person has detoxed from Ativan, they can benefit from a combination of therapy, inpatient or outpatient rehab, and ongoing support and care from counselors and loved ones. In many cases, drug abuse and addiction are maladaptive coping mechanisms for stress and trauma. In therapy, patients are given the tools to cope with stress without misusing prescription drugs. If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription Ativan addiction, please reach out to a qualified drug abuse counselor to explore your addiction treatment options.
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