While many disorders may be referenced as a silent killer, have you ever heard that phrase for anxiety? There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and many of them leave the person paralyzed by its effects. Maybe it is post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers or survivors of traumatic experiences go through, perhaps it’s agoraphobia in those who fear to leave their homes, or maybe it’s just generalized anxiety; either way, anxiety has its claws deep into members of our society.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, affecting around 40 million adults aged 18 years and older. Unfortunately, only one-third of those experiencing this crippling disorder are receiving the treatment they need. In addition to those statistics, women have double the risk for anxiety disorder than men do.
The high levels of anxiety the nation is crippled by has caused pharmaceutical companies to develop products that assist mental health professionals as well as their patients. One of these drugs that were developed is known as Ativan, which is the brand name for lorazepam. It helps relieve mental and physical health problems that are caused by an overactive nervous system. While the drug can be beneficial when used as prescribed, it can lead to an array of other issues that exacerbate anxiety symptoms and complicate the user’s life.
Panic attacks are intense periods of fear or feelings of doom that develop in a short time frame. In some cases, they can last 10 minutes, but for others, they can last much longer. During these attacks, which are accompanied by anxiety disorders, a person may reach for a pill and seek instant relief. On these occasions, drugs like Ativan are useful and can provide assistance to overcome the momentary panic attack.
The problem, however, is the anxiolytic and sedative feelings people experience bring on a sense of euphoria, and their brains start to recognize the medication as a life-sustaining necessity. Once this occurs, the person will become more dependent on Ativan, and they will begin to develop tolerance and continue using the drug even when they don’t feel anxiety.
Once a person has grown dependent on Ativan, it can lead to drug-seeking behavior to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms – it can also lead to someone using more of the drug that is safe. At a certain point, the dose you were using is going to be less effective and to experience those same effects; it’s common for people to take extreme doses.
Drugs like Ativan can be dangerous in high doses due to their ability to depress breathing, and it can lead to an overdose. If you or someone you know is using Ativan, even as prescribed, it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of an overdose so that you can act accordingly. Benzo overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and an estimated 30 percent of them involved benzodiazepine drugs. A recent study states that benzo overdose had increased from 0.58 per 100,000 adults in 1999 to 3.07 per 100,000 adults in 2010.
What is Ativan?
Ativan is a potent benzodiazepine drug that can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies the medication as a Schedule IV drug. Ativan is the brand name of lorazepam, and it is used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, though less common, can be used for sleep disorders. One of the benefits of the medicine is its quick onset and long half-life, and when consumed orally, can be felt in as little as 15 minutes. The effects of Ativan last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, and it makes it highly useful in treating severe sleep and anxiety conditions.
Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that falls in line with alcohol and barbiturate drugs. They all share the trait of slowing down brain activity and creating an influx of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) to flow in the brain. It’s the reason why Ativan will help those who struggle with sleep or anxiety disorders. It works by binding to receptors in our nervous system and increasing the efficiency of GABA in the brain. It is instrumental when used as prescribed.
While most benzos are not meant for long-term use, Ativan, in particular, should not be used long-term and is seldom prescribed for more than four weeks at a time. Using these drugs for longer than four weeks can lead to addiction. As was described above, the longer someone uses, and the more tolerant they become, lead to toxic doses that lead to overdose.
Using the drug, even as prescribed, can have several side effects that include:
- Impaired coordination
- Blurred vision
- Increased saliva production
- Intense Depression
- Changes in sex drive
- Increased urination
- Muscle and joint pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Suicidal ideation
How to Recognize an Ativan Overdose
Safe doses of drugs vary by users – for example, a safe dose for a 250-pound man is going to be a toxic dose for a petite woman. It’s entirely possible to overdose without intending to do so, and benzodiazepine presents many risks when this occurs. Those who use alcohol in conjunction with benzos put themselves at an elevated risk of overdose. Alcohol can mask the effects of benzos, and someone may take more until they pass out. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Ativan can cause a severe threat to bodily functions.
Common symptoms of Ativan overdose include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Extreme confusion
- Overwhelming dizziness
- Impaired cognitive functions
- Decreased coordination and reflexes
An Ativan overdose can interfere with your reaction time, which can lead to loss of consciousness, and slowed breathing to the point of death.
Side effects are expected when using potent medications, but they should never cause severe physical or mental impairments. If you experience any such side effects, either consult with a doctor or contact 911 immediately.
How to Treat an Ativan Overdose
If you believe that someone has overdosed on Ativan, you must not overreact, but you need to call 911 immediately. Ativan overdose can cause long-term damage to the brain if not treated in time, or it can lead to death. You must get emergency services quickly.
It’s common for those with a prescription to deny their addiction and hide behind their doctor’s willingness to prescribe the drug, but you must always be aware of the symptoms of overdose. Emergency responders will provide treatment to stabilize the patient and do their best to save a life. The longer you wait, the smaller the window is for survival.
The immediate actions you must take in the event of Ativan overdose include:
- Call 911
- Try to remain calm
- If the person is unconscious, place them on their side in a recovery position, and make sure their airway remains open by tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Check their breathing and monitor their condition
- Do not try to induce vomiting
- Do not give them any food or drink
- Bring the pill container to the hospital
- Even if the person seems ok, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers (800) 222-1222 for advice on what you can do
If you or someone you love has reached the point of overdosing on Ativan, it’s a reliable indicator you have developed an addiction. To avoid this occurrence from ever happening again, you must seek treatment immediately. If you would like to learn more about your treatment options, you can reach out to Serenity at Summit and speak to an addiction treatment specialist.