Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse And Its Effects On The Brain

Ativan (lorazepam) is an anti-anxiety medication with a high potential for abuse. People who abuse Ativan may not realize the drug can significantly impact a person’s mood, mind, and memory.

Ativan is a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication. This drug is classified as a benzodiazepine, and is used to treat conditions like insomnia and seizures. Ativan can be highly addictive, and abusing this drug can have a major impact on the brain.

Ativan works as a sedative-hypnotic, and slows down the brain and body. If a person takes Ativan other than how it’s prescribed, they could risk damage to the brain.

Ativan abuse can cause long-term psychological effects. A person’s memory may be affected, as well as their perception of self, others, and reality.

Because Ativan is commonly prescribed, many people struggling with lorazepam abuse may not realize they are dependent on the drug. However, if a person is abusing Ativan, or taking the medication with other drugs, they may be suffering from Ativan addiction.

What Happens In The Brain When You Abuse Ativan (Lorazepam)?

Benzodiazepines like Ativan interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, and increase the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Ativan also changes the communication between nerve cells, which results in a person feeling relaxed and calm.

If a person snorts Ativan (insufflation), the drug hits the brain all at once. This causes a fleeting but powerful high. Snorting Ativan also causes people to more strongly experience the drug’s tranquilizing effects.

Even when taken as directed, Ativan has a high potential for abuse. Anyone taking Ativan is at risk for addiction, but the risk is greater if they abuse large amounts of the drug. When a person’s brain becomes dependent on Ativan, their body requires the drug in order to function.

Short Term Effects Of Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse On The Brain

Ativan has serious hypnotic properties, and may cause a brief period of euphoria before the relaxation period. This drug is usually taken as an oral tablet, and may take up to two hours for a person to feel its full effects.

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If a person snorts the drug or takes more than prescribed, the powerful sedation properties of Ativan will be much stronger. The tranquilizing effects of Ativan can lead to extreme drowsiness (semi-consciousness), which makes them vulnerable to many dangerous situations.

The hypnotic properties of Ativan can also cause a person to experience hallucinations or psychosis. Some people may have trouble discerning reality. Others may feel disconnected from their surroundings, like they are watching themselves in a dream state (depersonalization).

Long Term Effects Of Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse On The Brain

While Ativan can have immediate impacts on the brain, abusing this drug can also lead to more long-term side effects. People who abuse Ativan may suffer from brain damage, especially when it comes to their memory.

Ativan abuse has been reported to cause amnesia. People struggling with Ativan addiction may suffer from memory loss, or an inability to recall basic information about their lives.

Additionally, Ativan abuse can lead to dependence and withdrawal. Ativan withdrawal symptoms can cause confusion, agitation, and a significant change in a person’s perception of the world around them.

Other Side Effects Of Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse

Most drugs come with potential side effects, and benzodiazepines like Ativan carry additional risks. Especially if taken with other drugs, Ativan can lead to a host of risky and uncomfortable side effects.

Additional side effects of Ativan (lorazepam) abuse include:

  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • weakness
  • low energy
  • change in appetite
  • low blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • frequent or difficult urination
  • changes in sex drive or ability

If a person has been prescribed Ativan, their healthcare provider has deemed the drug to be more beneficial than risky. However, if a person abuses their Ativan prescription, they are at risk for more severe side effects.

Symptoms Of Ativan (Lorazepam) Overdose In The Brain

When a person abuses Ativan, their body becomes dependent on having the substance in order to properly function. This can lead a person to ingest larger and larger doses of the drug, which could result in an overdose (toxic levels of the drug in the bloodstream).

One of the ways Ativan sedates the brain is by depressing the central nervous system. This can slow down a person’s heart rate and breathing pattern. Slowed or stopped breathing is the number one cause of fatal overdose.

Ativan overdose can result in death. In 2017, benzodiazepines were involved in more than 11,000 deaths in the U.S.

Signs of Ativan (lorazepam) overdose in the brain include:

  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty breathing
  • seizure
  • loss of control of bodily functions
  • coma

Ativan is most hazardous when taken with other drugs, particularly opioids. In a recent study, more than 7,500 people who died of an opioid overdose were also taking benzodiazepines.

If you see someone showing signs of an Ativan overdose, call poison control (1-800-222-1222) or emergency services immediately.

Ativan Withdrawal And Detox

Many people who suffer from Ativan addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop use suddenly. Withdrawing from Ativan and other benzodiazepines can also cause a person to suffer further memory impairment.

Drug detoxification programs allow people to detox from Ativan in a safe, supportive environment. In a medical detox program, patients are provided supervision and medication-assisted treatment as they pass through the withdrawal stage.

Once a person successfully completes detox from Ativan, they are ready to begin formal addiction treatment.

Getting Treatment For Ativan (Lorazepam) Addiction

Over 6 million Americans have battled benzodiazepine addiction, including Ativan (lorazepam). Treatment centers across the U.S. specialize in treating withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with Ativan.

In an inpatient (residential) rehab center, patients engage in therapies such as individual and group counseling, equine therapy, and 12-step support. Outpatient programs are also available, for those who need treatment on a more flexible schedule.

For more information on Ativan abuse and its effects on the brain, reach out to one of our treatment specialists today.

MedlinePlus - Lorazepam

National Institutes of Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information - Lorazepam

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Benzodiazepines and Opioids

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Overdose Death Rates

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