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Ativan Abuse

Are you misusing your prescription or taking Ativan illegally? More about all forms of Ativan abuse, how to recognize

minute read

Does experimentation = Ativan abuse?


However harmless your experimentation or recreational use of Ativan may seem…it can be dangerous and is considered to be drug abuse. You might be thinking:

  • “I need Ativan to deal with the current stress in my life.”
  • “Ativan will help me relax.”
  • “I will only use it this one time because a friend told me it produces a great high.”

But, be careful! Ativan is more addictive than other benzodiazepines. Taking higher doses of the medication for an extended period of time will almost certainly lead to physical and psychological dependence.


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In this article we cover more about how Ativan is abused, review the tell-tale signs and adverse side effects of its misuse. Then, we offer strategies and resources to help you deal with Ativan abuse. At the end, we welcome you to post your questions and try to provide personal and prompt answers.

How is Ativan abused?

Ativan – a benzodiazepine medication – is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant with a high potency for abuse. It can be abused by people who don’t have a medical reason to take it, and by people with a prescription.

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Not prescribed Ativan? 

Obtaining or using Ativan without a doctor’s suggestion is considered drug abuse. People will often take someone else’s medicine with or without their knowledge, purchase pills on the internet, or buy it off of dealers on the street or acquaintances who have a some extra pills left from their prescription.

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Have an Ativan prescription?

Many believe that just because they are taking Ativan as a part of treatment for a medical condition, they cannot abuse it. But, this is far from the truth. Sometimes, people abuse it unintentionally by taking more of their medication due to a build up in tolerance to Ativan. Other times, patients will engage in serious illegal activities such as requesting prescriptions from multiple doctors (a.k.a. doctor shopping), forging prescriptions, or pretending to have lost their medication just to obtain more Ativan.

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Signs of Ativan abuse

Whether you have a prescription or not, Ativan abuse is characterized by the following signs.

Behavioral signs of abuse:

  • Taking Ativan without a doctor’s prescription.
  • Using Ativan in higher doses or higher frequencies than prescribed.
  • Using Ativan recreationally to get high.
  • Administering Ativan via non-prescribed methods by crushing and snorting it, or dissolving in liquid for intravenous use.
  • Mixing Ativan with other drugs that slow down the body (such as alcohol or opioids).

Physical signs of abuse

  • Drowsiness
  • Physical relaxation
  • Poor coordination and motor skills
  • Slowed breathing rates
  • Withdrawal symptoms when Ativan doses are lowered or skipped

Psychological signs of abuse

  • Aggressiveness
  • Feelings of calm
  • Euphoria
  • Lack of motivation
  • Memory issues and forgetfulness
  • Paranoia
  • Slowed response time

Why do people abuse Ativan?

People take Ativan for different reasons, really…

You might be trying to cope with past trauma by sedating your emotional response. Or you might have a brain that is hard wired to have super-strong euphoric reactions to psychoactive drugs. You may have problems coping with stress or anxiety in everyday life.

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Many people abuse Ativan because it produces feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. Others find taking Ativan similar to indulging in alcohol. Sometimes, people with mental health conditions (such as anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD) that are not properly managed will abuse drugs to be able to deal with the crippling effect of the undiagnosed mental illness.

Truth is, the reasons that compel Ativan abuse are numerous and highly individual.

Are there any possible adverse side effects?

Scientific experiments and studies have found that the most adverse reactions caused by Ativan abuse are:

  • Extreme depression
  • Kidney failure
  • Respiratory depression

In addition, mixing sedatives like alcohol and opiate drugs with Ativan can be life-threatening and lead to:

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

But, the negative implications of Ativan abuse are not only in the scope of physical and mental health issues. In fact, drug abuse can negatively impact almost any aspect of your life. Some of other side effects that may occur as a result of abusing Ativan, include:

  • Broken interpersonal relationships.
  • Experiencing legal or financial issues due to Ativan abuse.
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family.
  • Job loss or professional setbacks.
  • Neglecting work and family responsibilities.

REMEMBER: By taking Ativan for entertainment, pleasure, and in ways other than intended, you are exposing yourself to the risk of dangerous consequences including overdose, dependence, and addiction.

Help for Ativan abuse: How can it be treated?

Once you decide to break free from Ativan abuse, the next step is to seek help!

But, what does the process of treating Ativan abuse look like? When entering a rehab program you can expect to go through the following phases:

1. Evaluation. In order to treat a drug use disorder, doctors need to learn more about you and the scope of your Ativan abuse problem. You’ll go through an interview, intake assessment, and drug testing so your doctor can establish a diagnosis, define the severity of your condition, and design a personalized Ativan addiction treatment plan.

2. Detox. Then, Ativan needs to be eliminated from your body. If you’ve developed physical dependence to the medication this can be a harsh and uncomfortable process. This is why medical Ativan detox options include short-term use of prescription medications to address and minimize symptoms as they occur. Medications can lessen and aleviate Ativan withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic and seizures. They may include:

  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Phenobarbital
  • Buspar (buspirone)
  • Tegretol (carbamazepine)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)

3. Therapy + counselling. Addiction is best treated when counselling (talk therapy) and medications are combined. This allows the brain and body to stabilize so that you can look deeper into the psycho-emotional reasons for Ativan use. Reputable treatment programs will usually include some of the following therapies in your treatment plan, based on your needs:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment (DDT)
  • Educational Sessions
  • Family and/or Couples Therapy
  • Medication Maintenance Therapy (MMT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)


Ativan (lorazepam) is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. It is widely and frequently prescribed for treating anxiety and similar disorders, which makes it more available to users. Here are some ‘Facts and Stats’ about Ativan abuse:

  • 12.9% of people abusing Ativan are also abusing another drug, while a staggering 82.1% of people abusing some other drug are also abusing Ativan.
  • In the time range from 1998 to 2008, the number of hospitalizations related to the use of benzodizepines, including Ativan, has increased by 300%. The number of all hospitalizations in the USA has increased by only 11% for the same period of time.
  • In 2002, more than 100,000 ER visits involved Ativan and another benzodiazepine drug.
  • The risk of a medical emergency increases substantially if you mix Ativan with alcohol.

Explore more statistics on the following links:

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs Chart

Coalition against Drug Abuse: Drug Abuse Statistics

Drug abuse questions

Find out more about Ativan abuse, addiction, treatment and more by exploring the content of our site. We invite you to ask questions and share your personal opinions or experiences and post them in the comments section below. All legitimate inquiries will be provided a personal and prompt response.

Reference Sources: Coalition against Drug Abuse: Lorazepam Abuse Signs, Symptoms and Addiction Treatment
Coalition against Drug Abuse: The Effects of Ativan Use
MedlinePlus: Lorazepam
NIDA for Teens: What Are the Common Misconceptions About Prescription Drug Abuse?
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