Physical addiction to Ativan

Ativan is a powerful benzodizepine with a high risk of causing physical dependence and addiction. Here, we answer how you can recognize physical addiction to Ativan and what treatment is like.

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Dependence on Ativan

Ativan (generic name lorazepam) is a strong sedative medication prescribed for the management of sleeping disorders and anxiety. It produces effects similar to other benzodiazepine medications. In fact, Ativan can cause physical and psychological dependence. But how do you know the difference between normal use and a drug problem?

Here, we discuss signs of dependence so that you can know if you or someone close to you is physically or mentally addicted. Then, we discuss how addiction can be treated. We’ll explain the common course of treatment and therapy options in detail. Finally, we invite you to ask questions or share your experience in the section at the bottom of the page. We try to respond to all real life questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Physical dependence on Ativan

People who become physically dependent on Ativan exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it or lower doses significantly. After a period of regular use, you may also start to feel the need to increase doses in order to be able to relax and sleep normally again. This phenomenon is called tolerance.

Both dependence and tolerance are expected outcomes of regular use of Ativan over a period of weeks or months. In fact, physical dependence on Ativan is associated with chronic use of Ativan. But what really happens when you become drug-dependent?

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Understanding dependence

When you become dependent on a psychoactive drug like Ativan, your body becomes adapted to its presence. Ativan is made of chemicals that act on your brain and central nervous system. When you take it for an extended period of time (several weeks or months), the body grows used to it…and then comes to depends on it to maintain balance and function normally. What happens then?

When you become physically dependent, you experience withdrawal symptoms if you discontinue Ativan abruptly or significantly lower the dosage. Physiological dependence can be recognized via two (2) main symptoms:

  1. Increased tolerance to Ativan.
  2. Withdrawal signs and symptoms when Ativan is discontinued, or doses are significantly lowered.

Dependence vs. Addiction

In many cases, physical dependence is the predecessor of addiction. Often, people who are dependent on Ativan continue using it to avoid withdrawal. Or, people increase doses to compensate for increased tolerance. In these cases, addiction can develop as an undesired side effect of use. So, contrary to popular belief, you can become addicted to Ativan even if you started using it as prescribed.

How can you tell the difference between the two?

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Ativan addiction is very different than physical dependence on Ativan. Addiction is a set of psychological symptoms that demonstrate overall loss of control or obsessive-compulsive Ativan seeking. One major sign of addiction is the continued use of a drug regardless of its harmful consequences. The main signs of an addiction are:

  • CONTINUED use despite negative harm to health, social, work, or home life
  • Loss of CONTROL of use
  • CRAVINGS or COMPULSIVE thinking about the drug

In brief, becoming addicted means that you are unable to stop using Ativan…even after you go through withdrawal. It is a psychological (not physical) need for the drug. Conversely, dependence is an expected outcome of regular use of Ativan. Drug dependent people go through withdrawal and can take or leave Ativan at will.

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Physical signs of addiction to Ativan

Ativan’s addiction potential does not come only from its chemical properties. The length and frequency of the Ativan use are also a contributing factor. Because Ativan causes relaxation, it can also be used recreationally. But more often, Ativan becomes addictive as it allows you to overcome your sleeping or anxiety problems and then you come to believe that you cannot live or function without it.

How do you know you are addicted?

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You probably ‘hooked’ if you recognize your behavior in any of the physical signs of addiction to Ativan listed below:

  • You feel a strong need and cravings for Ativan.
  • You are constantly thinking about Ativan.
  • You are unable to be relaxed and calm without Ativan.
  • You are unable to function without Ativan.
  • You can’t overcome your sleeping and anxiety problems without Ativan.
  • You have several failed attempts at quitting Ativan.
  • You obsess over obtaining and using Ativan.

It is important for you to be able to recognize if you have developed addiction to Ativan in order to start treating it in time. The earlier you start with treatment, the better chances you have to resolve possible health consequences. The chronic use of Ativan can cause serious health imbalance with unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • limb weakness

TIP: If you suspect that you or a loved one have become addicted to Ativan, do not deny it. Instead, ask for help and encourage treatment. Long-term Ativan addiction can lead to serious health problems and, in some cases, irreversible damage.

Treating physical symptoms of addiction to Ativan

Ativan addiction symptoms can be treated using mainly behavioral and psychotherapeutic modalities. Structured treatment programs can provide successful recovery and relapse prevention therapies. Ongoing Ativan treatment can take place in an inpatient rehab center or via an outpatient treatment program.

Here is what the Ativan addiction treatment process generally includes:

  1. Intake
  2. Development of an individualized treatment plan
  3. Medically assisted Ativan detox
  4. Talk therapy and medication assisted treatment
  5. Integrative treatments

At the beginning of a stay in treatment, the medical staff will work with you on developing an individualized treatment plan. This plan will be based on an initial intake process which should include a full medical history, physical exam, questionnaires or interviews, and drug testing.

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If you require a withdrawal, you can expect Ativan doses to be gradually decreased under medical supervision and according to a tapering schedule. During the process of medical detox, your body starts to eliminate lorazepam. Withdrawal effects are a normal and expected occurrence at this stage, but it is important to detox under medical supervision.  This way, symptoms can be addressed as they occur.

After detoxification, you will engage in formal “treatment” based on talk therapy. Support groups, counseling sessions and alternative types of therapies can assist your recovery process from Ativan addiction. In fact, a combination of behavioral and cognitive therapies appears to be mostly effective in helping you achieve and maintain an Ativan-free life.

Physically addicted to Ativan questions

Do you still have questions about Ativan’s physical addiction potential? Please post them in the designated section below. 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: NCBI: Physical dependence on benzodiazepines: differences within the class
SAMHSA: Prescription Medications: Misuse, Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Hi AJ. The best thing is to consult with a doctor who can evaluate your situation in depth and suggest any further steps.

  2. I took 1mg of Ativan for 30 days…then another month went by and anxiety came so the dr switched my long term meds and gave me 1mg Ativan to be taken once or twice daily as needed I had a rough 5 days so my question is since I had almost a month break from it did I break the physical dependency cycle or since I took the last dose over a month ago was that not enough time to reset?

  3. I was prescribed Lorazepam for 5 years and came off it altogether very abruptly (doctor aided) 3 weeks ago. Main withdrawal symptom has been high levels of anxiety and irrational thinking that this will never get better. There are so many conflicting websites when it comes to timelines. How long should I expect to feel soanxious?

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