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Concurrent Alcohol and Ativan Abuse

man holding alcohol bottle and pills

Ativan is a sedative anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety medication, with effects similar to those of other drugs in its class, such as Valium and Xanax. Ativan is the trade name for lorazepam, which is part of a class of drug called “benzodiazepines” (also known as “benzos”). These drugs work to dampen excitatory brain signaling—essentially depressing the nervous system and sedating the user.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these drugs can lead to addiction just like many other abused substances, including opioids. Aside from being used to treat anxiety disorders, they are also useful in managing the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal. They are effective in this capacity because they share many similar effects with alcohol, which may be why someone with a history of alcohol abuse has a higher chance of abusing Ativan (Licata & Rowlett, 2008). The sedative effects of each separate substance are increased when combining the two, making concurrent alcohol and Ativan abuse extremely dangerous. Without question, using alcohol and Ativan together increases the risk for an overdose.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol With Ativan

Ativan works by modulating GABA neurotransmission in the brain in order to provide anxiety relief. Alcohol acts on similar neural receptor sites as benzodiazepines and influences overlapping neurotransmitter activity, which is why it commonly causes sedation and anxiety relief as well. When the two substances are combined, the sedation effects are enhanced, increasing drowsiness and decreasing motor skills. The combined effects of alcohol and benzodiazepine drugs are quite similar across the range of different specific benzos. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of someone who has mixed Ativan and alcohol will be quite similar to those of someone mixing Xanax and alcohol.

Users will have clouded thoughts and may behave similarly to people who are drunk. It should also be noted that Ativan belongs to the same class of drug as the so-called date rape drug flunitrazepam—also known as Rohypnol. Both substances depress the central nervous and respiratory systems, leading to lower functioning and lowered inhibitions.

Abusers have limited capacity to judge dangerous situations around them and are a danger to themselves and others. When combining alcohol and Ativan, the user can become extremely intoxicated, and it should be clear that something is wrong to both the user and to those observing the combined effects. Signs of concurrent alcohol abuse and Ativan abuse include:


  • Memory impairment.
  • Intense drowsiness.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Stupor.
  • Coma.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The onset of withdrawal symptoms when this combination of substances hasn’t been used for a certain time could be another signal of concurrent abuse. Some withdrawal symptoms that result following prolonged alcohol and Ativan abuse are as follows:

  • Sweating.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Hand tremors.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Delirium.
  • Seizures.

Combined Effects of Ativan and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol and Ativan can exert similar effects on the body. Abuse of either drug alone can lead to serious injury and death. Combined, the risks grow exponentially.

Further, a review of the literature on benzodiazepines like Ativan was published in the Journal for Clinical Psychiatry. It found that long-term use of these drug can disrupt the brain’s normal functioning permanently. In the short-term, Ativan and other benzodiazepines affect memory and the user’s ability to think clearly. The physical effects of overdosing on alcohol and Ativan are even more serious. Problems that may be caused by the concurrent use of alcohol and Ativan include:

  • Sadness.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased risk of accidents, violence, and suicide.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Stroke.
  • Irregular heart beat.
  • Mouth and throat cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Dangerously low breathing.
  • Lowered heart rate.
  • Coma.
  • Increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease .
  • Death.

If you’re concerned about your or a loved one’s addiction to alcohol and Ativan, call for free at to discuss treatment options.

You can also learn more about the effects of alcohol use and Ativan use.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Alcohol and Ativan Addiction

Alcohol and Ativan abuse, while dangerous, is treatable. As stated, withdrawal from alcohol and Ativan can be life-threatening, which is why it is highly recommended that you receive medically supervised detoxification. The body is allowed to remove the harmful substances from your system, while access to pharmaceutical intervention for safety and comfort is provided, should it be required.

Various formal treatment options for poly-substance abuse include:

  • Inpatient treatment: You reside at the rehab center for a set period of time and receive comprehensive care that typically includes an intake evaluation, monitored detoxification, individual therapy, group counseling, and aftercare planning. Residential or inpatient treatment allows you to remove yourself from the toxic situation in your life and focus solely on your recovery without the added stress of triggers.
  • Outpatient treatment: You live at home while you receive treatment that works with your schedule. Outpatient treatment is known to be a highly effective recovery option for those who have a good social support network in place, who demonstrate insight into their disease, and who show predicted compliance with the treatment program (Barthwell and Brown, 2009). On average, it is much less expensive than inpatient treatment, and may be a valuable option for those who have home, school, or work responsibilities.
  • 12-Step programs: Fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous and Pills Anonymous host meetings that are free to join and provide a safe, supportive environment in which members can listen to one another and share experiences. They typically have a sponsorship program in which you choose a fellow member as your confidant throughout the recovery process.
  • Individual therapy: You will meet one-on-one with a therapist who will uncover the underlying reasons for your Ativan and alcohol addiction and teach positive coping skills to use in the presence of triggers.
  • Group counseling: A certified mental health professional facilitates group counseling sessions in which patients share their experiences with others and develop useful coping skills.

If you are seeking treatment for a poly-drug addiction to Ativan and alcohol, call for free at to learn more about your treatment options.

Statistics for Alcohol and Ativan Use

Teen Drinking and Ativan Abuse

group-of-teens-in-bedroom-hanging-out-drinking-alcoholTeens may be particularly vulnerable to benzodiazepine abuse because of the misconception that prescription drugs are safe since they are legal. They may be able to obtain these prescription sedatives fairly easily if they are present in the family household or their friends have access.

Adolescents may be unaware of the dangers of abusing these central nervous system depressants, especially while drinking.

NIDA reports that an estimated 7% of high school seniors have abused prescription depressants and an estimated 64% have reported drinking alcohol. While this may seem alarming, current alcohol use and binge drinking by underage people has declined since 2001.

Learn more about teen alcohol and drug misuse.

Resources, Articles, and More Information

For further reading on alcohol and Ativan, see the following:

If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol and Ativan abuse, call us for free at . We have representatives who will help work you through your addiction treatment options. Call today to begin your path to recovery.

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