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Lorazepam Abuse


Lorazepam (brand name: Ativan) is a benzodiazepine drug that is often prescribed to manage a range of anxiety disorders and related issues. This drug is not typically indicated for long-term use—many practitioners will limit prescriptions to several weeks at most. However, even after relatively short durations, people may become unable to function without the drug and begin displaying symptoms of addiction. Even when it is taken as prescribed, lorazepam can be abused. Users can quickly develop tolerance and dependence, and they may soon find themselves struggling with addictions.

Abuse of lorazepam is associated with a number of medical health issues, ranging from mild skin irritation to impaired muscular coordination, accidental injury, profound memory loss and more.

Signs and Symptoms

Lorazepam abuse is a serious issue in the US. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that more than 20 million people have abused drugs like lorazepam in their lifetimes. Gaining awareness of the drug’s signs and symptoms can improve your ability to manage your use.

Signs and symptoms of lorazepam abuse include the following:

  • Your prescribed dose no longer works to provide expected symptoms of relief and you increase your dose on your own. Over time, your body may develop tolerance to lorazepam. This means that you will need a higher dose of your medication to experience the same effects that you would normally experience at your originally prescribed dose.
  • You feel unable to function without the drug. You may have started out taking lorazepam occasionally to help you deal with panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, but if you then progress to needing it on a daily or more than daily basis, you could be dealing with addiction. Inability to function normally without the drug is an indicator of dependence, as well.
  • You are trying to obtain more of the drug illegally. Individuals with benzodiazepine addictions often become desperate when their prescriptions run out and may try to obtain the drug by any means possible. They may buy it online, off the street, seek multiple prescriptions from doctors, or forge prescriptions to try to get more. If you are engaging in these kinds of behaviors, you likely have a problem with the drug.
  • You spend money you don’t have on lorazepam. Part of addiction is that you prioritize continued and uninterrupted use of the drug above almost everything else in your life. If you neglect bills or other important financial obligations in order to purchase lorazepam, you may need help.

Effects of Lorazepam Abuse

Many people become addicted to the way lorazepam makes them feel because this drug causes people to become relaxed. This is accomplished through lorazepam’s ability to boost the influence of a brain chemical called GABA.


Increased GABA helps to calm brain activity, which results in a more tranquil physical and mental status. Effects provided by a lorazepam high can include:

  • Increased ability to sleep.
  • Feelings of euphoria.
  • Improved feelings of satisfaction with life.
  • Decreased worry and stress.
  • Reduced inhibitions.

It’s important to know that effects aren’t all desirable. Furthermore, the fact that a drug is legal does not make it safe—especially when it is abused. Negative effects of lorazepam abuse include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Slowed reaction time.
  • Depressed respiratory rate.
  • Impaired decision-making abilities and poor judgment.
  • Skin irritation or rash.
  • Speaking problems.
  • Memory issues.
  • Personality changes.
  • Agitation, depression, and suicidal thoughts during comedown off the drug.

Over time, the compulsive cycle of abuse and intermittent withdrawal may also lead to increased depression and worsening anxiety.

Lorazepam Abuse Treatment


Abuse of lorazepam is a serious issue that deserves professional treatment. Most treatment for lorazepam abuse begins with a visit to a detox center.

Detoxification is a process in which patients gradually withdraw from a drug while under the supervision of medical professionals. Professionals can help reduce benzodiazepine withdrawal effects and help people feel as comfortable as possible during detoxification.

Addiction Treatment

man on hospital bed

After completing detoxification, patients will likely transition to some type of treatment program or be referred to a rehab center. Rehabilitation programs are housed in inpatient, residential settings—meaning the patient will live at the rehabilitation center so that he or she can take advantage of intense treatment for addiction to lorazepam. Rehab programs may last anywhere from 30 days to one year—depending on the severity of an addiction—and throughout the treatment period patients undergo both individual counseling and group therapy, and are given the opportunity to attend ongoing support groups—such as 12-step programs—related to their addictions.

After rehabilitation, patients have a choice between going to a sober living facility and returning home. Sober living facilities help their residents transition back to life outside of treatment. They typically provide more freedoms than rehab programs but will still require patients to follow house rules and submit to random drug tests. These are sometimes called halfway houses, because they provide the structure and consistency of rehabs with some of the freedoms of home. These programs are good choices for people without strong supports or histories of relapse.

If someone chooses to bypass sober living, they can engage in other methods of aftercare—including outpatient mental health follow-ups, drug and alcohol counseling, and community-based treatment while they acclimatize to life back at home. Beneficial outpatient treatment will focus on:

  • Identifying factors leading to the abuse of lorazepam.
  • Addressing underlying mental health concerns—including non-pharmacologic methods of anxiety management.
  • Improving healthy coping skills.
  • Planning relapse prevention strategies to minimize the risk of relapse.


Lorazepam Statistics

Lorazepam is one of the most commonly abused drugs because it is so frequently prescribed for anxiety and related disorders. In fact, lorazepam was the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine after alprazolam (Xanax) in 2011, with almost 28 million prescriptions written and dispensed. Here are some other facts and statistics about lorazepam abuse:

man with a headache

  • Research shows that 12.9% of people who primarily abuse lorazepam also abuse another drug, and 82.1% of people who primarily abuse another drug also abuse lorazepam.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, the number of hospitalizations related to lorazepam and other benzodiazepines increased by 300%, while the number of overall hospitalizations in the United States increased by only 11%.
  • Nearly 350,000 ER visits were related to benzodiazepine drugs in 2010, marking a sizable increase from 100,000 visits in 2002.
  • Of the 350,000 ER visits in 2010, lorazepam was responsible for more than 35,000.

The likelihood of having a medical emergency while on lorazepam increases substantially if you mix it with other substances, such as alcohol. Since alcohol and opioids have similarly depressing effects, combined use can end in overdose, coma, or death.

Teen Lorazepam Abuse

Many teens take lorazepam to get high, not because of anxiety. Although parents might not expect teens to have problems with lorazepam and other prescription drugs, abuse of lorazepam continues to be a problem among teenagers. Teenagers can easily access these drugs if their parents have prescriptions for them, and they may have the technical know-how to forge prescriptions or otherwise illegally obtain these drugs. Many teens are able to obtain prescription benzodiazepines for little or no cost.

To a new user, lorazepam can have an extreme sedative and euphoric effect that some teens find appealing. Teens also are often unaware of the drug’s potential for physical addiction and the dangers to their health when they get high on these drugs, which makes them more likely to make themselves seriously ill by experimenting.

It’s important to learn the signs of lorazepam abuse so that you can monitor your teen for potential problems. If your teen is acting unusually sedated or seems confused, he or she may be abusing a sedative drug like lorazepam. This is especially true if you seem to have less of your lorazepam pills than you thought you did. Many rehabilitation centers operate separate teen substance abuse programs—please call free at if you think your teen may have a lorazepam problem and could benefit from treatment.

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