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Ativan (Lorazepam) Overdose | Signs, Risk Factors, & Treatment

Published on December 22, 2020
round white pills Ativan Overdose

Ativan is a benzodiazepine (benzo) used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and alcohol withdrawal. It is commonly abused for its anti-anxiety effects, such as feelings of relaxation and euphoria. 

High doses can cause a life-threatening overdose, especially when combined with other drugs. The best way to prevent an overdose is by taking your prescription appropriately and communicating with your doctor about any medications you are taking. 

How Much Ativan Is Too Much?

A doctor will determine the best dose and frequency for you based on several factors. A starting dose is usually small, around 2 mg, and is increased as needed. The maximum recommended dose for lorazepam is 10 mg per day. 

Your doctor will determine the safest dose that relieves your anxiety and causes the least amount of adverse effects. Because it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, effects of Ativan may include sedation, relaxation, dizziness, and respiratory depression.

If you take higher doses than your doctor recommends or combine lorazepam with other drugs, you may increase the intensity and duration of side effects, as well as the risk for overdose.

Drug Interactions

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues a warning on each prescription of the dangers of combining these drugs with benzodiazepines. Even small doses of lorazepam are dangerous if they are mixed with other CNS depressants. 

CNS depressants include:

  • alcohol
  • opioids 
  • barbiturates
  • hypnotic sleep-aids

Inform your doctor of any other prescription medications you are taking when you are prescribed Ativan. 

Signs Of Ativan Overdose

Most fatal benzodiazepine overdoses occur when mixed with alcohol, opioids, and other CNS depressants. When combined, these drugs enhance respiratory depression, resulting in shallow breathing, reduced heart rate, and low blood pressure. 

Although it is not as common to experience a fatal overdose when lorazepam is taken by itself, symptoms can worsen if they are not treated in time.  

If you or a loved one takes Ativan, be aware of common warning signs of a benzo overdose. 

Signs of overdose include:

  • respiratory depression (slow or shallow breathing)
  • extreme drowsiness
  • unresponsiveness 
  • mental confusion
  • slurred speech
  • impaired coordination

Seek medical attention immediately if you witness any of these symptoms. 

Risk Factors For Ativan Overdose

As a Schedule IV controlled substance, Ativan has a risk for abuse, dependence, and addiction. Keep open communication with your doctor if you experience any of these risk factors to prevent a life-threatening overdose from occurring. 

Tolerance

After a while, you may notice lorazepam is not producing the same desired effects as when you started taking it. This increases the risk of self-medicating by taking higher doses of lorazepam. 

Recreational Use

At higher doses, lorazepam can produce euphoric effects along with a sense of calmness and relaxation. Taking lorazepam to seek a high or for reasons other than it was prescribed increases your risk of overdosing. 

Mixing With Other Drugs

Many individuals who abuse Ativan also abuse other substances. Respiratory depression and other adverse reactions are increased when taken with alcohol, opioids, and other depressants. 

Substance Use History

If you have a history of alcoholism or drug abuse, you have a greater risk of abusing lorazepam. Share your medical history with your prescribing doctor to help them make the best choice of treatment for your anxiety disorder. 

Ativan Overdose Treatment

During treatment for lorazepam overdose, doctors will monitor vital signs regularly to keep you stable. You may receive fluids and medication to treat low blood pressure or low heart rate. If respiratory depression has affected your airway, intubation may be necessary. 

Flumazenil, a benzo antagonist, may be used to reverse the effects of lorazepam. However, this medication will not reverse the effects if other drugs have been ingested.  

Ativan Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a chronic but treatable disease and most individuals benefit from long-term treatment. This may include inpatient or outpatient programs that provide a high level of care and support. 

Here are some addiction treatment options:

  • Detox provides you with supportive medical staff and medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Outpatient programs are a flexible treatment option if you have a solid support system and need to live at home.
  • Inpatient rehab is an intensive long-term program where you will learn more about your addiction, triggers, and healthy ways to cope.

To learn more about our addiction treatment programs, contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

DailyMed - Ativan (lorazepam) Tablet
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Benzodiazepine Toxicity
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Lorazepam

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