Thursday January 18th 2018

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Is Ativan addictive?

YES. Ativan (lorazepam) is addictive.

But what makes Ativan addictive? How long does Ativan stay in the body (up to 6 weeks after last use)? How do you know that you’re an Ativan addict? We’ll review here and invite your questions about the addictive potential of Ativan at the end.

What is Ativan made of?

Ativan contains lorazepam, a benzodiazepine medication. Ativan’s inactive ingredients include monohydrate, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polacriline potassium.

What is Ativan used for?

The main ingredient in Ativan, lorazepam, is used to relieve anxiety and also to treat severe seizures, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Ativan is generally dispensed in tablet or liquid form, both of which are taken by mouth. Ativan works by slowing brain activity, and in large doses, Ativan can also get a user “high.”

How addictive is Ativan?

Ativan, like most benzodiazepines, is very addictive. Doctors try to prescribe Ativan for no more than 3 or 4 months because of the well-known habit-forming potential of Ativan. But how addictive a drug is doesn’t just depend on its chemical properties; it also depends on how you’re using it.  Snorting Ativan high or mixing Ativan and alcohol increase chances of drug addiction.  Ativan addiction also depends on various social and cultural factors. Some factors which play a role in Ativan addiction include:

  • Ativan availability
  • Ativan’s illegal diversion history
  • attitudes of doctors prescribing Ativan
  • public awareness of Ativan action
  • state laws or local controls on Ativan

Ativan dependence vs. addiction

Most people who take Ativan long-term will develop a physical dependence on lorazepam, but this isn’t the same thing as an addiction. An Ativan dependence causes you to develop a tolerance to the medication’s effects over time, and also causes withdrawal symptoms when you cut back on Ativan doses or abruptly stop taking Ativan. Ativan addiction may manifest these same symptoms, but MUST also involves a psychological dependence on Ativan. An Ativan addict will experience strong cravings for the drug and compulsively uses lorazepam, despite negative consequences to social, work and home life.

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How do you get addicted to Ativan?

In general, those who are taking Ativan to treat a legitimate anxiety disorder or other medical issue are less likely to get addicted to Ativan than people abusing Ativan recreationally. If Ativan is taken in the doses prescribed by a doctor, a dependence on Ativan may develop, but an addiction may not necessarily occur. Addiction is more likely to occur when you smoke, snort, or inject Ativan or if you otherwise take Ativan other than prescribed. People with a past history of drug or alcohol abuse are also at a greater risk of developing an Ativan addiction.

Some of the ways that people consciously choose to abuse Ativan include:

  • chewing Ativan to release the medication immediately
  • crushing Ativan into a powder and snorting it for a quicker high
  • crushing Ativan to dissolve in water and inject intravenously
  • taking Ativan in higher doses than prescribed
  • taking Ativan more frequently than prescribed

Signs of Ativan addiction

It’s true that Ativan addiction and Ativan dependence can be difficult to distinguish from one another. If you take Ativan to cope with everyday stresses and feel you can’t go without it, you may be addicted to Ativan. Other signs of Ativan addiction include:

  1. Continuing Ativan use or abuse even if it has negative consequences
  2. Craving Ativan and using it compulsively
  3. Seeking Ativan in order to stimulate the “reward center” of the brain

Ativan addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about Ativan addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: Medline Plus: Lorazepam Treatment for Abuse of Anti-Anxiety Drugs Tripled Over 10 Years:

DEA – Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines

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13 Responses to “Is Ativan addictive?
Deloris Sherrill
5:34 pm March 25th, 2013

My doctor gave me 1mg Ativan for sleep aid and I took it for years.
I move to FL and doctors treated me as a drug addict when I asked for perscription so I quit cold turkey with no side effects. Do you consider 1mg at bedtime addictive? I still have trouble sleeping and have found nothing to help me sleep. I do not want sleeping pills.
I woke with no sleeping pill problems with the ativan . What is the reason for not being able to use 1mg for sleep help?

2:33 pm March 26th, 2013

Hello Deloris. It’s possible that there is confusion with the term “addictive”. Addicts crave drugs for their effects. While the line can get a little blurry in terms of medicine vs. harm…it’s possible that you didn’t develop physical dependence on Ativan and that Ativan may help you relax enough to fall asleep. But still, you may not want to depend on Ativan in order to fall asleep. If you were to return to daily doses of Ativan, you would develop a reliance on it for sleep. Instead, perhaps lifestyle changes can help.

Sleep is a very misunderstood human behavior. It is a time for rest and inspiration. Maybe you can look into different ways to manage sleeping problems so that you can integrate the feelings of anxiety, fear, or resentment that keep you awake at night. A sleep or meditation course can help. I benefited from a sleep course offered by the Institute of Applied Meditation this winter. It’s really helpful!

To learn more about why doctors do not prescribe 1 mg Ativan for sleep, consult with the doctor who would NOT prescribe it to you, or ask a local pharmacist.

Does 0.5 mg twice a day will get dependence to Ativan if taken occasionally. Only????? And for how long I am taking to get dependence on 0.5 mg.
1:09 am April 29th, 2014

Does 0.5mg taken twice a day for my spastic leg will get dependence if taken only occasionally and for how long taking it before getting dependent on Ativan….thanks

12:51 pm April 30th, 2014

Hello Does. This is a question for your prescribing doctor or pharmacist, who have much more information about your personal history and medical situation.

1:20 am July 16th, 2014

Can I get addicted to low dose (0.5mg ) taken 4 times daily or become dependent on the drug?

2:42 pm July 24th, 2014

Hello Harold. Yes, Ativan dependency can develop after daily use of the CNS depressant after a couple of weeks or more; in fact, it’s not recommended for more than 4 months usage at a time. Speak with your pharmacist for a full picture of the risks and your concerns about physical dependence. Addiction occurs when you start to crave the drug, so be on the lookout for this psychological symptom.

3:01 am March 25th, 2016

I have a profound high range hearing loss so hearing aids offer limited support.
I have learned to use my lip reading skills to support my ability to communicate since I only hear vowel sounds
I have been using 5 mg Ativan for 10 years because my brain is always running on high. I have tried many other options with no luck.
Once I get to sleep even if I wake during the night I can get right back to sleep and keep an eight hour sleep schedule.
I’m not sure if I am somehow damaging myself and have concerns

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:00 pm March 31st, 2016

Hi Jan. If you have questions about addiction treatment and your options, immediate assistance is available. Call our free hotline to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

4:47 am September 22nd, 2016

How can I stop taking this drug I’ve been on it 4 times a day for 10 years what are the symptoms of withdrawal

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:13 pm October 14th, 2016

Hi Beverly. First, I suggest that you speak with your doctor to help you create an individualized tapering schedule. Then, consult with a pharmacist to recommend some over-the-counter aid. Moreover, you may find more information, here:

9:00 pm January 12th, 2017

Can an 89 yr old adult female taking .25 mg Ativan twice daily become dependent? About 135 lbs

10:47 pm May 11th, 2017

I am 75 and have used Xanax .2 for over 30 years. I only take it for anxiety and that’s on a now and then basis. i might go weeks without taking any and at times take one every day for a week if under some kind of duress. I have not needed to take a higher dose all these years but a few times would take .5 when I’m very anxious. I get a prescription for 30 and can go 4-5 months before needing a refill. I now have a new Doctor in his 40’s and he is against folks taking tranquilizers because of dependency ….huh at my age! Wouldn’t you think after all these years If depended I would need higher dosage and need a daily dose?!?! What are your thoughts…..

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:35 pm May 22nd, 2017

Hi Linda. It seems to me that you are using Xanax only as needed. If you refill your medication only once in 4-5 months, then you are neither dependent not addicted to Xanax. I suggest that you speak with your doctor about your medical history, and explain him/her your situation and Xanax use.

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