Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine drug that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Because Ativan is manufactured by a major pharmaceutical company and prescribed by doctors, it is often believed to be safer than illicit drugs like marijuana or cocaine.

Ativan can be addictive even when used as prescribed and it is always dangerous when it is used for nonmedical reasons. Recreational users are more likely to lose track of how much lorazepam they’ve taken, especially if they are also abusing alcohol or illicit drugs. Misuse or overuse of psychoactive drugs like Ativan can put you at risk for addiction, overdose, and accidental death.

What Happens Right After Using Ativan?

As an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine, Ativan reaches its peak effect within two hours after it is taken. In prescribed doses, Ativan can make you feel calmer, less anxious, and sleepier. The drug works by activating receptor cells in the central nervous system that react to GABA, a naturally produced brain chemical that promotes restfulness and sleep.

When you take too much Ativan or use this drug incorrectly, you expose yourself to the following health risks:
  • Cognitive impairment and forgetfulness
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Respiratory suppression
  • Risk of falls and accidents1

If you keep abusing Ativan, it won’t be long before you see its negative effects on your health. Prolonged Ativan abuse can make you feel tired, weak, depressed or irritable. It can even have the paradoxical effect of making you more anxious and interfering with your sleep. Some recreational users report that they have abnormal muscle movements, changes in appetite, constipation, difficulty urinating and sexual dysfunction.

Overdose is a big risk with almost any drug. An Ativan overdose can be fatal. Unfortunately, many people who misuse Ativan also take other drugs at the same time, such as narcotic pain relievers, sleeping pills, marijuana or alcohol. Multidrug use compounds the sedative effects of Ativan, making it more likely that you will lose consciousness, be involved in an accident, overdose or die.

Accidental Drug-Related Deaths

Benzodiazepines like Ativan have been found in over 30% of all prescription drug deaths. Nearly all of other 70% of prescription drug deaths involve prescription opioid painkillers. Often, Ativan leads to death after it is combined with other drugs or alcohol. Between the years 1999 and 2010, benzodiazepine overdose deaths more than quadrupled in the US.2

Jessica’s Story

“My old psychiatrist added Ativan to help with panic attacks. I was so empty, but the drugs masked it for a while. I never got out of the house or off the couch, unless it was extremely necessary. Showers were not a priority, and I gained a massive amount of weight.

As I was in and out of withdrawal symptoms constantly, I drank alcohol to try to relieve the tremors…Today, recovery has given me freedom and joy and allowed me to be the person I was to be from the start. Today I am blown away at how my life has turned around.” —Jessica,


Calm woman looking out a windowTolerance, withdrawal syndrome, and addiction are three of the most serious short-term effects of Ativan abuse. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that even at medically appropriate doses, tolerance to benzodiazepines starts quickly.

Once you start taking Ativan, especially in recreational doses, it only takes a week or two for your brain to adapt to the changes in neurotransmitter levels. As your system becomes tolerant to the effects of lorazepam, you’ll need to raise the dose in order to get the sensations of drowsiness or contentment that you’re looking for.

Withdrawing from Ativan can be an uncomfortable and even dangerous experience for the recreational user. If your brain is accustomed to high doses of benzodiazepines, you may experience seizures if you try to quit too abruptly. Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  •  Agitation
  •  Irritability
  •  Cravings
  •  Nausea
  •  Muscle cramps
  •  Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness

How Long Will Ativan Affect Me?

Ativan abuse can have a long-term effect on your mental and physical health. Long-term users may have tremors, dizziness, a staggering gait and cognitive impairment. Depression, suicidal thinking and rebound anxiety affect many users. As you continue to abuse Ativan, the risk of withdrawal-induced seizures increases.

How Can I Stop Abusing Ativan?

Black Bear’s luxury rehab facility offers peace, solace and healing in the foothills of northern Georgia. Our experienced, licensed, and compassionate addiction treatment specialists are here to help you recover safely from Ativan abuse. At Black Bear Lodge, we provide the supportive atmosphere you need to regain your emotional and physical health. Please call our admissions coordinators at 706-914-2327 for more information about our individualized treatment plans.


1 Johnson, B., Streltzer, J. Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. American Family Physician. Vol 88, 4. Aug 2013. 225-226. Web. Accessed 28 Jul 2017.

2 Storrs, C. Benzodiazepine Overdose Deaths Soared in Recent Years. CNN. 18 Feb 2016.Web. Accessed 28 Jul 2017.