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Ativan Side Effects | Short-Term & Long-Term Effects Of Lorazepam

Published on December 23, 2020
young woman experiencing side effects of Ativan

Ativan (generic name lorazepam) is a prescription benzodiazepine that can treat anxiety disorders and seizures. It can also treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms and insomnia.

Lorazepam is a Schedule IV controlled substance. While it has a lower abuse potential than other prescription drugs, it is still potentially habit-forming. Ativan has many potential side effects in both the short-term and long-term.

How Ativan Works

Benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilizers, are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which reduce overall brain activity. 

Popular benzodiazepines include diazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam, and lorazepam, and they all work on the brain in the same way.

Ativan causes feelings of sedation and impairment when taken. While it can effectively manage certain disorders and symptoms, it can also cause many side effects of its own.

Ativan Side Effects

Ativan can cause side effects from the very first dose. Potential side effects include:

  • drowsiness or sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • unsteadiness
  • disorientation
  • memory loss
  • rapid changes in mental health (especially in patients with a history of depression)
  • suicidal ideation
  • hypothermia
  • hypotension (chronically low blood pressure)

Serious side effects become more common if Ativan is taken in high doses, and Ativan can make some preexisting medical conditions worse. If you find your mental health worsening, you may need to consider stopping Ativan use. 

Lorazepam should always be taken as recommended to minimize risks. Even after a missed dose, taking a high amount next time to “make up” the amount missed is not recommended.

Long-Term Effects & Risks Of Ativan Abuse

Lorazepam is meant to manage anxiety and other disorders in the short-term, not to cure them. Taking Lorazepam for longer than directed can cause additional problems.

Physical Dependence

Ativan is not approved for use for longer than four months at a time. Taking benzos (like brand-name Xanax, Valium, or Ativan) for longer than four months can result in physical dependence and eventual withdrawal. 

Your doctor should check in on your condition regularly if you are planning on continuing Ativan for the long-term.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is more likely to occur if you have been on Ativan for a long time, or take it in higher doses than directed. It can bring back effects that Ativan is supposed to prevent, including symptoms of anxiety. 

Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe and amy include:

  • tremors
  • hallucinations
  • sleep disturbances
  • worsened sleep apnea
  • panic attacks

Symptoms can start about one week after the last dose, and can persist for months or even years. Professional medical treatment may be required to treat severe withdrawal cases.

Other Health Effects

Some effects of Ativan can happen in either the short-term or long-term.

Lorazepam For Nursing Mothers

Lorazepam can make its way into breast milk, which means it should not be recommended for mothers who are breastfeeding.

Infants who drink milk with lorazepam can develop dependence and show withdrawal symptoms after birth, which is known as neonatal withdrawal syndrome (NAS).

Drug Interactions

Mixing Ativan with opioids can result in a fatal overdose. Their combined effect on the central nervous system can cause extreme respiratory depression.

Other depressants, like alcohol and barbiturates, can cause excessive sedation when mixed with Ativan. Antidepressants can also create the same effect. Your healthcare provider or doctor should know which medications you’re on to avoid any dangerous interactions.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions can occur at any time when taking Ativan. Reported allergies are rare, but can be life-threatening. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • skin rash
  • trouble breathing
  • hives
  • swelling of lips, tongue, or throat

If you see these signs in yourself or a loved one, get medical attention immediately.

Benzodiazepines have seen widespread use in the United States, but they have many risks. Recognizing the risks and adverse effects of Ativan can also help you recognize and treat potential problems.

To learn more about potential treatment options, talk to your healthcare professional or contact us today.

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

National Institutes of Health - Lorazepam | C15H10CI2N2O2 - PubChem
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Ativan (lorazepam) - FDA
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Lorazepam

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