The amount of time it takes to become addicted depends on you. It depends on your individual mental and physical health. It depends on biological and environmental factors. To understand Ativan addiction and its risk factors is to better understand how, why, and when you became addicted.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is a brand name for lorazepam. This is a drug in the benzodiazepine family. All benzodiazepines slow the central nervous system. They attach to receptors in the body and make the neurotransmitter GABA more effective. GABA is in charge of reducing neuron excitability.

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry1 explains that people with anxiety disorders, “have reduced numbers of benzodiazepine receptors in key brain areas that regulate anxiety responses.” When Ativan makes GABA more effective, it calms anxiety symptoms. It also causes sedation and other wanted and unwanted side effects.

Ativan can be a useful tool in managing mental health, but it can also cause problems such as dependence or addiction. People who self-medicate or use Ativan for non-medical purposes typically become addicted faster than those who use the medication as prescribed. However, there isn’t a set timeline for addiction development.

How Does Ativan Addiction Begin?

Ativan works quickly. American Family Physician2 shares, “Benzodiazepines generally produce almost immediate effects, and thus may be prescribed for short-term, intermittent, ‘as-needed’ use. Because many of the anxiety disorders wax and wane over time, patients with these disorders often prefer benzodiazepines because these agents can be taken intermittently, when patients feel the need to take them.” While this can aid in symptom management, “as-needed” can become more and more often as tolerance increases.

When you take a drug like Ativan regularly, the body becomes used to its presence. You need to take more of the drug more often to continue feeling its effects.

You will also begin to experience more unwanted side effects. Your addiction risk increases. However, when you don’t take Ativan, you may experience rebound or withdrawal symptoms that make you think you feel worse without it. You take regular and increasing amounts of the drug. You begin to depend on it for more than symptom management or a pleasurable “high.” You begin to need it just to feel “normal.”

This is the first sign of addiction. Tolerance and dependence can occur over weeks, months, or even years. It can begin gradually, or it can begin quickly.

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What Factors Influence Ativan Addiction? What Factors Influence Recovery?

Your physical health changes how quickly Ativan affects your mind and body. Your mental health influences it as well. Genetics play a role in addiction development. Your personal history does too. So many factors influence if and when addiction develops. So many factors influence how your addiction should be treated.

Recovery professionals at Black Bear Lodge ensure you get the personalized care you need for complete wellness. Treatment should include medical support for conditions such as chronic pain or health issues related to substance abuse. Treatment should include mental health care to address co-occurring anxiety and addiction issues. Some mental health issues may have existed before your addiction and influenced how quickly it developed. Others may be a result of Ativan use.

The International Journal of Geriatric Psychology3 found that benzodiazepine users, “were 1.6-fold more likely to develop new depressive symptoms in 1 year when compared to non-users…The use of benzodiazepines may precede the development of depressive symptoms.”

No matter which came first, addiction and other mental health concerns need to be treated at the same time. Mental health issues can mask addiction and vice versa. Untreated symptoms can trigger relapse. Learn more about integrated services and long-term recovery support. Call Black Bear Lodge at 706-914-2327 and talk with us about your individual recovery needs and treatment timeline.


1 Roy-Burne, PP. “The GABA-Benzodiazepine Receptor Complex: Structure, Function, and Role in Anxiety.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2005. Accessed 25 Jul. 2017.

2 Longo, Lance; Johnson, Brian. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines–Side Effects, Abuse Risk, and Alternatives.” American Family Physician. 2000. Accessed 25 Jul. 2017.

3 Van Vliet, P; Van der Mast, RC; Van den Broek, M; Westendorp, R. “Use of Benzodiazepines, Depressive Symptoms, and Cognitive Function in Old Age.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. May 2009. Accessed 25 Jul. 2017.