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Is Ativan (Lorazepam) A Controlled Substance?

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 1, 2019

Ativan (lorazepam) is a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means it has a relatively low potential for abuse, compared to other substances, but it is still considered habit-forming.

What Are Controlled Substances?

In 1970, the United States officially recognized the potential for abuse and dependence that certain medications have. Although some prescription medications are abused, many of these medications, like Ativan are considered safe when used as directed.

In an effort to prevent abuse, Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a part of a comprehensive plan to gain better control over habit-forming medications and substances. The CSA categorizes known substances and medicines into “Schedules” to define their abuse potential and regulate their use.

Why Is Ativan (Lorazepam) Considered A Controlled Substance?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine most commonly used as an anti-anxiety medication, but may also be used to manage seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Ativan is considered a controlled substance because it has a relatively high potential for abuse compared to other substances.

Understanding The Different Schedules Of Controlled Substances

Controlled substances are divided into classes known as schedules. Each schedule is defined by the substances potential for abuse, medical value, and safety standards. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, compared to the substances in Schedules II through V.

  • Schedule I substance have the highest potential for abuse, do not have medical applications in the U.S. and lack usual safety standards.
  • Schedule II substances may have a high potential for abuse but are considered for use in medical applications. Without proper oversight, these substances can lead to psychological or physical dependence.
  • Schedule III substances have the potential for abuse, but their potential is ranked lower than that of the previous two schedules.
  • Schedule IV substances, such as Ativan, have an even lower potential for abuse, but may still cause moderate or low physical dependence or psychological dependence.
  • Schedule V substances are considered to have the lowest potential for abuse than all other substances. Some of these substances may even be obtained over-the-counter, such as cough medication.

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Possible Consequences Of Abusing Controlled Substances Like Ativan

Although benzodiazepines are ranked as a Schedule IV controlled substance, misusing them can still be dangerous. Abusing medications such as Ativan can easily cause dependence on the drug. Misuse is classified as taking more of the medication than recommended or take it for longer than intended.

Ativan (lorazepam) should only be taken as directed. Do not increase your dose or frequency of the medication without consulting your doctor first. It is also not considered safe to suddenly stop taking Ativan, as doing so may result in the sudden onset of withdrawal symptoms.

The Dangers Of Obtaining Ativan (Lorazepam) Illegally

Abuse of benzodiazepine medication is on the rise. Some research indicates that there is a “shadow crisis” of benzodiazepine abuse hidden beneath the opioid crisis in the U.S. Because of this, many doctors are attempting to cut back on the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions they write.

When someone who has become dependent on a drug like Ativan can no longer receive it from a doctor, they may try to obtain it illegally. This is particularly true if someone has become addicted to the substance.

Medications obtained on the street or by other illegal means, such as the dark web, are much less safe than those doled out by the pharmacy because they do not undergo the same strict safety regulations.

Often, these medications are laced with other additives that can be toxic or are entirely fake. Police departments across the country have reported findings of excessively potent drugs like fentanyl-laced OxyContin pills, fake Xanax bars, and counterfeit Ativan tablets.

Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Individuals struggling with Ativan (lorazepam) abuse and addiction may need the help of formal addiction treatment to break the cycle. People often believe that because they got the medication from their doctor, it is harmless, but this is not always the case.

Although many people may start using Ativan to combat their anxiety symptoms, one major facet to addiction treatment is to learn how to deal with these symptoms without the use of drugs. Reputable drug rehab programs use a combination of evidenced-based therapies to ensure a comprehensive treatment approach. This can include treatments such as yoga, proper nutrition, physical fitness, and individual or group counseling.

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