Ativan is a member of the benzodiazepine class of drugs and is also classified as a Schedule IV drug by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, indicating that it has a moderate potential for abuse and for the development of physical dependence. It is the potential for physical dependence that makes it a drug that will inevitably produce a withdrawal syndrome in chronic users and abusers who attempt to stop using it.
How Does It Affect Your System?
Benzodiazepines belong to the prescription sedative class of drugs. Although benzodiazepines have a calming effect, they are highly addictive, and a person who abuses them faces a host of symptoms. Some of the physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse include:
Poor judgment or thinking
Asking friends, family, colleagues, and/or classmates for their benzodiazepine pills
Wanting to cut back on the volume of abuse but not being able to do so
Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving after abusing benzodiazepines
Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or other drugs
What Are The Symptoms & Risk
Physical and Psychological Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse
A review of the physical and psychological symptoms associated with benzodiazepine use illuminates the many dangers inherent in abusing this type of prescription drug. Benzodiazepine abuse that approaches or is at the overdose mark may cause the following symptoms to emerge:
Poor decision-making abilities and poor judgment
Lack of motor coordination
Inability to defend oneself in the case of an attack or threat
Death (Rare when abused on its own, fatal overdose may occur when a benzodiazepine is mixed with alcohol.)
If a person chronically abuses benzodiazepines, the following symptoms may emerge:
Detoxing Symptoms (Withdrawl)
Physical dependence occurs as a result of an individual taking certain types of drugs over rather lengthy periods of time. When an individual chronically uses or abuses certain classes of drugs, the individual’s system becomes acclimated to having the drug present and learns to function at a steady level only when the drug is present in the individual’s tissues. The system automatically adjusts its own release of chemical substances, such as neurotransmitters, hormones, and so forth, to account for the presence of the drug. Once the individual abruptly stops taking the particular drug, the system is thrown off balance, and this produces a number of physical symptoms known as withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from a benzodiazepine like Ativan can be potentially dangerous and even fatal due to the potential to develop seizures during the withdrawal process. Ativan withdrawal usually occurs in two stages: an acute stage and a prolonged stage.
Ativan has a half-life of 10-12 hours on average, so withdrawal symptoms can start relatively quickly (within 24 hours) following the last dose. The average onset of withdrawal symptoms is 3-4 days. Acute withdrawal may begin with a rebound effects that consist of a rush of anxiety, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. Acute withdrawal phase symptoms may include:
Headache, sweating, tremors (especially in the hands), difficulty concentrating, and/or confusion
Increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, and a rapid heart rate
Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and/or weight loss
Irritability, feelings of anxiety, mood swings, and/or even panic attacks
Seizures can occur in rare cases
A protracted withdrawal syndrome occurs after the acute phase and typically lasts 10-14 days; however, in individuals who use very high doses of Ativan, it could last even longer. In this stage, individuals will continue to experience symptoms of anxiety, drug cravings, nausea, vomiting, headache, general malaise, and may even to begin to develop depression.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be eased via medical detox. The program should be supervised by a physician who can slowly taper down the dosage of Ativan for the individual, minimizing withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, the physician and other medical professionals can supervise the client and prescribe medications as needed to facilitate the process.
Certain drugs or substances can be given to assist in the process of withdrawal. Melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep, is sometimes used during Ativan detox. There is research to indicate that it can be useful in addressing insomnia in individuals withdrawing from Ativan and other benzodiazepines; however, the research is mixed.