Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older annually. While the disorder is treatable, those who struggle with it seldom reach out for the help they need. Individuals with anxiety disorders are three to five times more likely to be hospitalized for other psychiatric disorders. As a result, the disorder stems from a set of complex risk factors that includes genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Traumatic events can trigger people with anxiety, affecting their ability to participate in daily life. Anxiety is crippling, and medications such as Ativan were created to help treat the disorder.
In the early 1900s, medications known as barbiturates saturated the markets as a means of treating anxiety, sleep disorders, and seizure disorders. The medicine, at the time, was revolutionary, but as time progressed, the real problem with barbiturates began.
The drugs were highly addictive and swept through the nation, causing addiction and heartache. The intentions were pure, but the results were devastating. When researchers and physicians realized what had been created, the rigorous search to find alternatives began. After many years of testing, new drugs that were touted as less addictive but just as effective were born. These were called benzodiazepines.
In 1955, a chemist named Leo Sternbach who worked at Hoffmann-La Roche identified the first benzodiazepine known as Librium. Initially, the drugs seemed to be less toxic and less likely to cause dependence than its predecessor, barbiturates, and the specific improvement was their ability not to cause respiratory depression.
The drugs were met with enthusiasm by the medical community, and their popularity skyrocketed as well as patient demand. In the 1970s, benzos were the most prescribed drug, but it wasn’t until the 1980s when the concern for dependence and addiction began to grow. The more information researchers could gather about the drug now having a few decades of history under its belt, the more the concerns grew.
Lorazepam, which is sold under the brand name Ativan, is a benzo that is used to treat anxiety disorders specifically but can be used for sleep disorders, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. The drug was initially patented in 1963, but it did not go into production until later in 1977. It ranks on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines and is one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Ativan is the 60th most prescribed medication in the United States with more than 14 million prescriptions.
Is Overdose Possible?
In short, yes. All benzodiazepines, including Ativan, pose the risk of potentially overdosing when consuming too much of the drug. It’s complicated and not always easy to determine if someone has overdosed on Ativan. Typically, there are more factors involved such as using other medications in conjunction with Ativan. One of the most deadly drug combinations is opioids and benzos, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines.
Benzos work to calm or sedate the individual using the medication, and it does this by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Since an Ativan overdose can cause severe complications and could potentially be fatal if left untreated, it’s essential to understand what to look for if someone you know is overdosing from Ativan. Recognizing the signs can be the difference between life and death.
Signs of an Ativan overdose include:
- Intense vertigo
- Blurry vision
- Extreme drowsiness
- Feelings of lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Diminished reflexes
- Cognitive impairment
- Slurred speech
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
If you believe either yourself or a loved one has overdosed as a result of Ativan use, it is imperative to call 911 immediately. If you see something, say something. Not calling for help in time during an overdose can lead to permanent damage to the user and potentially death. Reach out for help and do not wait.
How Much Will Make Me Overdose?
Those who use Ativan without a doctor’s prescription are more at risk of overdosing than individuals who follow what they are prescribed. Another factor for overdose is someone who combines other addictive substances with Ativan. Certain conditions and actions increase the chance of an Ativan overdose. If you stop using Ativan and your tolerance decreases throughout a few weeks, and you take the dose you’re accustomed to using, it can cause an accidental overdose.
There isn’t a specific dose that will cause an overdose on Ativan. Several factors are at play when it comes to drug use and overdoses. Some of these factors include:
- The user’s age
- How long Ativan has been used
- The user’s height
- The user’s weight
- History of substance abuse
- Medical conditions
- Polydrug use
These are to name a few, but saying a specific dose can cause an overdose is irresponsible. A dose for a large grown man will be much higher than one for a smaller man. Also, a smaller man who is tolerant of Ativan may be prescribed a higher dose than a man twice his size. Many variables are at play when it comes to a drug overdose, but you should always follow the doctor’s orders and take the prescription as it is prescribed to you.
Should I Detox From Ativan?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is among the most dangerous of all the drugs in existence. The way benzos interact with our brain makes it a cause for concern when abstaining from use. Doctors and addiction specialists alike strongly advise anyone who has been using benzos for an extended period to seek medical detoxification as a means to abstain from Ativan. Ativan withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and will affect everyone. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic Attacks
- Increased heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
During the detox period, clinicians can provide you with medications that alleviate the worst symptoms. They will create a taper schedule and wean you off Ativan gradually and could provide antidepressants to combat the depression or suicidal thoughts. It is a three- to seven-day process, but it could run longer if the team sees fit.
What is the Next Treatment Step for Ativan Addiction
Detox is vital when it comes to Ativan addiction, but it is merely the first step in a long process. Addiction treatment addresses the many issues that arise with addiction.
“Detox is designed for stabilizing the body before it can move onto the next stages. During the assessment phase of treatment, the clinicians will determine the next step for you. They could decide residential treatment, which is where you’ll live on-site in a facility for up to 90 days. ”
If the addiction is deemed less severe, you can be treated on an outpatient basis that allows you to attend therapy throughout the week and return home once the sessions have finished. Outpatient is an ideal choice for those who can’t take time off from their obligations, but the treatment allows them time in their schedule to work on their addictive behaviors.
Ativan addiction can be severe, but the sooner you decide you need help, the sooner you can jump on the road to recovery. If you are struggling with Ativan addiction, you must enter a treatment program immediately. Benzodiazepine addiction can not only ruin the quality of your life, but it can also be deadly.