Ativan is used to treat the two most common ailments that affect many Americans every year—insomnia and anxiety. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the United States. There are 15 variations of these medications available.
These drugs can treat a wide array of physical and psychological ailments, but they are most often used to treat sleep and anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines can slow down an overactive nervous system, which occurs naturally in some individuals. Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is on occasion used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy.
An estimated 40 million Americans struggle with chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and another 20 million report occasional sleeping problems. Sleep disorders and anxiety are two problems that can exacerbate each other, making the problem even worse.
A sleep disorder is made up of abnormal sleep patterns that will interfere with physical and emotional functioning. Sleep disorders can create destructive patterns in an individual’s life and affect them on several different levels. It can interfere with their career or education by not allowing them to function at the level they’re accustomed to.
The problem is trying to determine when taking a sleeping pill crosses that slippery slope between being useful and becoming a crutch.
People with sleep disorders can attest that a drug like Ativan is life-changing, but at what cost? Sleep disorders can leave the person waking up feeling restless and tired each day. Their sleep patterns have become tossing and turning all night, and some have given up trying to sleep altogether. If there were a magical substance that could cure it all, it’s safe to say it would be used.
This is where tolerance, dependence, and addiction enter into the equation. These magical drugs start to lose their magic and cause more of a problem than what their users experienced before. It may have put the person to sleep or cure their anxiety. Now they rely more and more on the pill to get to sleep or cure their anxiety and find themselves with worse anxiety and sleep problems without the drug.
People who are prescribed Ativan must become aware of the signs and symptoms of dependence. Addiction is a deadly disease that must be managed over one’s lifetime. Is it worth it?
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Ativan is a Schedule IV benzodiazepine that can only be obtained with a prescription. Leo Sternbach created benzodiazepines in 1930 during his time at the Hoffman-LaRoche Company. Due to rigorous testing of the drug, they were not introduced to the public until 1957. These medications were created with the sole purpose of replacing highly addicted drugs called barbiturates.
Benzodiazepines, unfortunately, posed the same dangers of the barbiturates they replaced, and in the 1980s, physicians addressed benzo addiction because of how detrimental it could be to one’s health.
Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam and is used in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders. It is also used, less commonly, in the treatment of epilepsy and seizures. While it is less common, there are cases where the drug has been used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemo patients.
One of the main benefits of this benzo is its quick onset and long half-life. When administered intravenously, the drug can affect the body in as little as five minutes, and when consumed orally, it’s as little as 15 minutes. It lasts anywhere from 12 hours to 24 hours, making it highly sought out in the treatment of severe sleep or anxiety conditions.
Ativan, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, is in the same class of drugs as barbiturates and alcohol. What all of these have in common their ability to slow down brain activity and better manage gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) that function at higher levels.
This is why those with sleep disorders and anxiety have success with Ativan. It binds to the receptors in the nervous system and increases the efficiency of GABA on the activity of chloride channels.
Chloride is a negative ion that makes cells less excitable. Once activated, it invokes anxiolytic feelings like sedation and the muscles becoming relaxed. Ativan can be very effective when used as prescribed.
This particular benzodiazepine is not meant for long-term use and is rarely prescribed for more than four weeks at a time. Consuming benzo drugs for longer than four weeks at a time can lead to undesirable outcomes like addiction. When Ativan dependence becomes a problem, the user will experience withdrawal symptoms. Another issue with Ativan is most people who use the drug also ingest other substances. Polydrug use is deadly, and 30 percent of drug overdoses occur when opioids and benzos are combined.
Understanding what addiction actually will better prepare someone to recognize the signs. In the early stages of addiction, it is often difficult to make sense of what is happening. With benzo use, though, some apparent signs are recognizable.
The first stage of addiction is tolerance as your body grows dependent on the drug. Tolerance can then lead to dependence. This is made up of consistent use with the continued urge to maintain what is beginning to feel normal.
The final step is addiction. Addiction is a disease that is defined as the continued use of a substance despite the consequences. If your work obligations have been suffering as a result of Ativan use, this can be a sign pointing toward addiction.
Other signs linked to Ativan abuse include:
Addiction treatment is a series of intensive care and therapies that must be tailored to your needs. Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the medical staff who admit you must be willing to cater to your specific needs. Always look for treatment centers that are accredited and offer the highest standard of care. Addiction is a disease that will continue to affect your mind throughout life, but it is treatable with the right behavior therapies and support.
Addiction science is the most in-depth it has ever been, and the most up-to-date techniques have emerged boasting higher success rates than in years past. This has led to more access to treatment and insurance companies willing to cover costs. This has allowed many the opportunity to gain traction back in their lives.
The first step in the continuum of care is medical detoxification. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan require a medically supervised detox to ensure safety and mitigation of extreme withdrawal symptoms that can occur. During detox, users usually undergo a three- to seven-day stint that is monitored 24 hours a day while the toxins are removed from the body. This will allow the body to stabilize and prepare for the next stage of care.
Detox allows the person to get through the process comfortably and safe. Safety is always the staff’s top priority. Medication may be given if anything unexpected occurs. Ativan can cause seizures due to overactive GABA, and the team will determine the appropriate course of action for the client.”
The next step in treatment will either be residential or outpatient care. This will be determined by the severity of addiction, polydrug use, length of use, and other factors. In the case of benzo addiction, clients are typically placed into residential care. The client will live on-site for up to 90 days, which allows them to regain control of their lives.
During this time, sessions for several therapies are held, including group therapy, individual therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These are designed to help alter behaviors, understand triggers, and learn coping mechanisms that get to the root of the actual addiction.
Prescription drugs are widely considered safe because trusted physicians prescribe them. This is entirely untrue, and Ativan is no exception. How Ativan and other benzodiazepines affect our brains is problematic. Once the body grows tolerant and stops producing its own GABA, it relies strictly on the pill to do its job. Benzodiazepines are classified as very dangerous drugs.
They are also dangerous because of their withdrawal phase. If you suddenly stop using the drug, you risk seizures and a more severe condition called delirium tremens. This can ultimately result in death if not treated properly. Medical professionals advise against the cold turkey method of stopping drug use.
Addiction is a serious disease that can affect the lives of not just the person using but their entire family dynamic. If you or a loved one is going through an addiction to Ativan, just remember that no one is alone in this process. Serenity offers care that can meet all the needs of someone going through addiction.
Sleep Disorders. (n.d.). from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
Treatment Name: Lorazepam (Ativan®). (n.d.). from https://www.chemoexperts.com/lorazepam-ativan.html
(May, 2017). Lorazepam. Medline Plus. from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682053.html