Lorazepam Addiction and Abuse

Many people become addicted to Lorazepam due to the relaxing feeling it induces. It is easily abused by people who wish to achieve this sensation as often as possible.

Because it’s a prescription drug, most people don’t set out to abuse Lorazepam from the onset. Doctors administer it to patients who suffer from anxiety or similar psychological health disorders. The drug acts by boosting the production of gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), which calms brain activity.

Unfortunately, people build a tolerance to it over time. Even those who don’t use it recreationally are still at risk of dependence if they don’t consult a physician for guidance. If you’re dependent on lorazepam or any other anxiety medication, talk to a professional today.

At Addiction Helper, we provide guidance and counseling to patients and their loved ones, so that they can receive proper treatment or learn to cope with others who are addicted. In this article, we shall discuss both issues.

What is Lorazepam?

Lorazepam is a popular counter-anxiety medication. A common brand name is Ativan. This benzodiazepine drug is not typically synthesized for long-term use, so many physicians often limit prescriptions to four to six months at a time.

The drug is available in 0.5mg, 1.0 mg and 2.0mg doses. It can be ingested orally as a pill or injected. Typical dosage involves taking 1mg – 2mg every 8 to 12 hours. The maximum dosage to be taken per day is 6mg – 8mg.

Although Lorazepam is essentially a prescription drug, some people do take it recreationally. If taken without a doctor’s recommendation, this is considered abuse. Under the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act (1971), it is classified as a Class C drug. Anybody caught in unlawful possession and dealing this substance will be prosecuted by law.

Other ailments that may be treated with Lorazepam include insomnia, seizures, and nausea.

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Other Names for Lorazepam

Lorazepam belongs to the categories of benzodiazepines, miscellaneous antiemetics, and benzodiazepine anticonvulsants. It is used to treat convulsions and similar conditions. Common brand names for the drug are Ativan and Lorazepam Intensol.

On the street, it has various slang names, applied by dealers and users to prevent people from knowing what they are trading.

Street names for Lorazepam (Ativan) include:

  • Benzos
  • Goofballs
  • Roofies
  • Tranks
  • Chill pills
  • R2

Lorazepam may also be called by its brand name, Ativan. However, some people still refer to it by its old marketed names, Tranquil, Alzapam or Duralozam.

What is Lorazepam Used For?

In 1977, Lorazepam was approved for treating anxiety, insomnia and in some cases, depression, following anxiety. It has also been used off-label to treat ailments such as psychosis, partial seizures and epilepsy symptoms.

Lorazepam works by enhancing the effect of GABA in the brain. This chemical (which is responsible for inhibiting the nervous transmission in the brain and spinal cord)

serves to calm the body’s impulses and reaction to external stimuli. The release of GABA in the brain automatically diminishes symptoms associated with anxiety.

Lorazepam is different from other medicines such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) because it is shorter-acting and does not build up in the body due to repeated ingestion.

Causes of Lorazepam Addiction

Benzodiazepines are naturally addictive, so any consistent usage can easily lead to dependence. Many people start out as patients taking the drug via a recommended prescription. Since they use it regularly, most don’t realize when they have crossed the safety threshold. People who use Lorazepam daily only discover they cannot function without it when they stop using it. By this point, dependence may have taken hold.

According to a study titled ‘Evidence-Based Diagnosis in Primary Care; Practical Solutions to Common Problems’, it was revealed that 40% of people addicted to benzodiazepines (such as Lorazepam) aren’t even aware that they’re addicted.

If you use ‘benzos’ and discover they are not as effective, you’re likely to increase the dosage until you once again achieve the desired feeling. The danger of increasing the dosage without consulting a doctor is what constitutes abuse and subsequently addiction.

Abuse and addiction are not limited to legal users alone. People take Lorazepam recreationally, without a medical prescription. Causes for such addictive behavior have been attributed to the following:

  • Genetic reasons (within the family)
  • Biological reasons (pleasure-seeking behaviour due to anomalies in brain structure)
  • Environmental reasons (influence of surroundings)
  • Social reasons

With social causes in mind, teens or university students may cave in to peer pressure and form a habit due to frequent abuse.

How Addictive is Lorazepam?

Lorazepam is moderately addictive. In fact, people abuse the drug because it enhances the ‘high’ they experience from abusing opiates. Because taking Lorazepam produces what many have described as a calming or relaxing effect, people tend to abuse the drug to maintain this feeling.

Furthermore, the government has listed it as a drug of concern under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Lorazepam is a class C drug, which means it is moderately addictive and that any unlawful possession or dealing will attract a jail term, unlimited fine or both.

Addictive Properties of Lorazepam

The risks attached to misusing the drug are quite high. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there is a 24% – 55% increased risk of severe consequences when Lorazepam is consumed with alcohol or any opioid drug than when used separately.

The drug takes hold by altering the structure of the brain to adapt to its sedative effects. Frequently enhancing GABA in the brain causes structural changes that in turn allow the body to build tolerance. With prolonged use, tolerance can lead to dependence.

When someone develops physical or psychological dependence to a substance, they are said to be addicted. This means, if Lorazepam is absent from the bloodstream, their body will react negatively and trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Methods of Use for Lorazepam

Lorazepam is found mainly in tablet form, though there’s also an injectable solution, a drinkable liquid and a skin patch available. When ingested orally, it may take up to 90 – 120 minutes to feel the full effect. However, it acts faster when injected, as the effect is usually felt in less than 15 minutes.

The sedative effect of Lorazepam usually lasts for 6 – 12 hours. Because of this, most doctors never prescribe more than two pills per day.

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What Does It Mean to Be Addicted to Lorazepam?

If you are taking more than the physician’s recommended dosage or using Lorazepam recreationally, you are abusing it. Most abusers do the former, because they feel the regular dosage no longer works for them. Abusing the drug frequently can lead to tolerance, which is when you take increased doses without necessarily feeling the effects, for which reason you continue.

After a prolonged period, dependence duly sets in. When the brain develops a fixation on Lorazepam, it cannot function normally without the drug. Subsequently, the brain displays a physical or psychological dependence to it.

This means within six to twelve hours since last using, your body will suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you don’t take any more Lorazepam. At this stage, it’s considered that you’re addicted to the substance.

Spotting Lorazepam Abuse

Addiction is a disease that has the potential to ruin a person’s life if they don’t receive treatment immediately. Unfortunately, most addicts are in denial and will not reach out for help, at least until things reach a critical point. It’s left for friends and loved ones to identify the signs early on and seek professional help for them.

Do you suspect a close friend or relative of abusing Lorazepam? They’re probably no longer as keen on family activities as they used to be. Perhaps, your colleague at work seems to be unusually relaxed most of the time or your partner has suddenly started displaying uncharacteristic changes in personality? Pay close attention to even the smallest details, as this can save them from a lifetime of regret.

Lorazepam Abuse Signs and Symptoms

How do you know if you’re abusing Lorazepam? If you’re unsure, then the following signs can help you:

  1. Your physician’s prescription no longer works effectively, so you’ve increased the dosage yourself.
  2. You feel uncomfortable/restless without Lorazepam in your system.
  3. You are obtaining Lorazepam unlawfully (‘shopping’ from multiple doctors or buying via street dealers).
  4. You borrow money to buy Lorazepam.

For people with loved ones who abuse the drug, the following symptoms can be observed:

  1. They seem fixated on their prescription, complaining constantly about how ineffective it is.
  2. They have multiple doctors with different prescriptions.
  3. They seem regularly unable to function (drowsy, dizzy or delayed reflexes).
  4. They display reduced inhibitions.
  5. Sudden personality changes; withdrawal from friends, borrowing money and isolation.

Health Risks of Lorazepam Addiction

Like all substance addictions, Lorazepam dependence poses a range of health risks. While the immediate effects of abusing the drug may be manageable in the short-term, it is the prolonged abuse that wreaks debilitating consequences on the mind and body.

Lorazepam binds to receptors in the brain, inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. When this happens, the chemical remains in the brain longer than is necessary.

This prolongs the ‘high’ experienced by the abuser, whilst exposing them to a host of psychological complications.

Researchers have also linked Lorazepam abuse to conditions such as:

  • Loss of brain mass
  • Dementia
  • Cardiac problems
  • Mental health disorders

Since many people combine benzos and alcohol, there is a high risk of liver cirrhosis and alcohol poisoning caused by excess tolerance to Lorazepam.

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Short-term Effects of Lorazepam

People who abuse Lorazepam tend to appear generally satisfied with life in the first few minutes or hours of taking the drug. They may display feelings of euphoria and reduced inhibitions. However, as the drug wears off, its less-desirable side begins to take effect:

  • Irritability
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slurred speech
  • Depression
  • Cravings and restlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Feelings of depression and cravings will force the user to seek the drug for further consumption. When they do, the cycle continues.

Long-term Effects of Lorazepam

Abusing Lorazepam over a protracted period often results in addiction. This can cause various physical and mental health complications, from co-occurrent medical disorders to physically-debilitating ailments, including:

  • Impaired decision making (lost brain mass)
  • Skin irritation rash
  • Memory problems
  • Bleeding nostrils (from snorting powdered benzos)
  • Skin abscesses (frequent injection)
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Mental disturbances
  • Liver complications

Combining Lorazepam and substances like alcohol can shut the body down, because they are both depressants capable of slowing down bodily functions. In severe cases, overdosing leads to coma or death.

Withdrawal Effects of Lorazepam Abuse

This varies with the level of dependence. When you develop dependence, your brain is unable to function normally without Lorazepam. This sends it into shock and the effect is a physical or psychological reaction.

Where a person is highly dependent on Lorazepam, sudden discontinuation will trigger severe withdrawal symptoms. If they aren’t overly dependent, the symptoms will be mild. Either way, it can be unbearable and is responsible for making it difficult to quit.

Common withdrawal symptoms include seizures, psychotic episodes, depression, insomnia, depersonalisation, photosensitivity, dizziness, restlessness and other psychosomatic ailments.

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Co-occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders comprise associated mental health problems that occur because of a person’s drug abuse behavior. Some disorders are generally used to diagnose a person’s addiction habits.

For example, people who abuse benzos such as Lorazepam tend to also abuse alcohol, so they may in turn become alcoholics. Also known as dual diagnosis, doctors must consider a co-occurring disorder when treating addicted patients.

Other co-occurrent disorders include:

  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression

In cases of addiction, the reverse of ingesting Lorazepam occurs, so that when it is absent from the bloodstream, an individual suffers anxiety attacks, causing them to further seek and abuse the drug.

Who is at Risk of Lorazepam Abuse?

The first line of individuals at risk are those who take it for medical purposes. So, if you suffer from anxiety attacks and your physician recommends Lorazepam, ensure you use it with caution. See them regularly for guidance on how to avoid tolerance and dependence.

Recreational users are also at risk. Teenagers and young adults who seek the ‘high’ associated with benzos take Lorazepam recreationally. As such, this group are also at risk of forming dependence. Babies in pregnant women who use benzos might also be exposed to certain risks.

Teen Lorazepam Abuse and Addiction

Many teenagers take Lorazepam for recreational purposes and not because they suffer from anxiety. It’s easy for them to access these drugs if a parent already uses them. Unknown to many parents, their children can forge prescriptions or obtain these drugs by purchasing them on the street.

The initial euphoric effect can throw any young person into a life of addiction, as they then try to relive the experience repeatedly. In addition, many users are unaware of the addictive properties of Lorazepam; when they do come to realise the danger, it’s usually too late. If you use benzos for medical purposes, ensure you keep it out of reach.

The Cost of Lorazepam Addiction

As is common with most addictions, you could find yourself spending money you don’t have to keep up the expensive habit. However, Lorazepam addiction can cost you in many ways beyond financial repercussions.

Other problem areas include:

  • Your job; low productivity and inability to deliver
  • Your relationship; addiction strains romance and friendship
  • Access to your children; You can lose custody because you’re deemed unfit to take care of them
  • Social isolation
  • Good health (addiction is accompanied by several physical and mental health complications)

Some centres charge between £500 – £700 per week stay in rehab until you are fully recovered. While it may sound expensive, it is a price worth paying.

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The Effects of Lorazepam Abuse on The Brain and Body

Many people develop dependence to Lorazepam because it produces a calming effect, which they pleasurable. To continue feeling this way, they repeatedly use the drug until they start abusing it.

The ‘euphoria’ is caused by the abnormal retention of dopamine in the brain, instead of taking it back via the receptors. The longer this neurotransmitter is present, the longer the pleasurable feeling persists. However, the side effect results in loss of brain mass, cognitive impairment and a high risk of dementia.

Lorazepam abuse also takes its toll on the body by placing the lungs under extra pressure. Respiratory depression, liver failure and cardiac complications are common physical ailments of Lorazepam abuse.

Relationship Between Lorazepam and Other Substances

The liver is the main organ where most drugs are metabolised in the body. Mixing substances increases the chances of interaction, as they’ll most likely be metabolised in the same pathway. The consequences can present potential danger to the user.

For example, Lorazepam and alcohol are both depressants, yet some people take them to ‘intensify the high’ of drinking. Unfortunately, depressants serve to slow down body functions, so taking two substances with this same property can shut down your system.

Likewise, mixing Lorazepam with a stimulant like cocaine can produce a chemical conflict, as cocaine serves to enhance body functions, whereas Lorazepam is a relaxant. In both cases, the danger of overdosing is considerably high.

Lorazepam Overdose explained

People who mix Lorazepam with other intoxicating substances are at risk of overdosing, because each drug can negate the effect of the other. When this happens, a user will then take more to feel intoxicated.

However, excess ingestion can go beyond healthy thresholds and send the user’s body into shock. While Lorazepam overdose is not considered fatal, it can cause severe respiratory depression if combined with

alcohol. Symptoms may include seizures, headaches, nausea or coma, in worst case scenarios. If you suspect someone is overdosing, call for medical attention immediately.

What to Do If You Need Help Quitting

Quitting Lorazepam is usually difficult, but not impossible. With the right treatment and support, you should be able to recover and attain full sobriety. However, it will require a strong commitment on your part to do so.

Start by contacting an addiction expert or counsellor. They will ask about your abuse history and determine your level of dependence. After that, you’ll be referred to a physician, who will plan the detoxification process. They will also recommend an inpatient or outpatient rehab programme, depending on the severity of your dependence.

Lorazepam Withdrawal

Detoxification is the first stage of treatment. It is the process of purging your body of the toxic remnants of Lorazepam. The doctor will induce withdrawal, as this is a necessary aspect of detox.

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Symptoms of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms often manifest in two ways; physically and psychologically. This reflects the effects of the drug on the mind and body.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Light sensitivity
  • Dizziness

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Tension

Depersonalisation is another psychological symptom where the patient’s thoughts will seem disconnected from their body.

Duration and Timeline of Lorazepam Withdrawal

The duration of withdrawal usually depends on the severity of the addiction. People with less dependence often experience a shorter withdrawal period. Conversely, those with a higher level of dependence will likely go through extended periods of withdrawal. A standard timeline may last 14 – 30 days or more.

Withdrawal typically starts 36 – 48 hours after the last dose has been consumed. It begins with severe physical symptoms, which peak on the third day and gradually abate. However, psychological symptoms follow shortly afterwards. People who suffer a longer withdrawal period must deal with issues such as depression, tinnitus, anxiety, neuromuscular problems and paraesthesia.

If you’re detoxing in an accredited facility, a doctor will prescribe medication for any discomfort. Avoid detoxing on your own or without a professional to hand.

Lorazepam Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Lorazepam occurs immediately after detox and follows a successful detoxification. There are two major types of rehab; the inpatient service (where you’ll check in for 30 days or more) and the outpatient service (where you’re able to resume home and work responsibilities, whilst being treated). We often recommend the former, as it provides scope for complete treatment and full recovery.

Therapy for Lorazepam Recovery

During rehab, you’ll have regular meetings with an addiction counsellor, who will help you understand the root cause of your addiction and how to avoid relapse. The counsellor will also use specialised methods to help you change your orientation towards Lorazepam.

Common techniques include:

  • Motivational therapy
  • Behavioural therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Some centres use alternative methods such as meditation therapy, acupuncture, group exercise therapy and pet therapy.

Possible Complications

Complications such as mental disturbances and uncontrollable seizures may occur if you don’t get help from the right professionals. Therefore, quitting ‘cold-turkey’ is ill-advised.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you or someone you care about is showing signs of abuse, get help immediately. Whether you’re seeking increased dosage or suffering from cravings, find out how serious the situation is. If you’re unsure, book an appointment with your doctor.

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Lorazepam Recovery Plan and Detox

Once a doctor establishes that you are dependent, they will initiate a recovery plan. This is an itemised calendar of events for activities you will undergo from treatment through to recovery. Such a plan usually starts with detox, where you’ll gradually be weaned off Lorazepam until you are considered ‘clean’. Then, you will undergo therapy and additional support, even after you’ve left rehabilitation.

Medical Detox for Lorazepam

During detoxification, you’ll go through withdrawal. This stage triggers various forms of discomfort that will often be treated with medication. From flu symptoms to psychological disturbances such as depression, psychosis and paranoia, only a qualified doctor should help you through this process.

Common medications to ease Lorazepam withdrawal are:

  • Suboxone
  • Methadone

However, it is important that the doctor administers medication with caution to avoid substituting one addictive drug with another.

Lorazepam Addiction Statistics

Lorazepam is one of the most abused prescription medicines, as it is frequently issued for anxiety and similar disorders. In 2011, it was reported that a total of 24 million prescriptions were dispensed.

According to a survey, 12.9% of people who misuse Lorazepam also misuse another drug. Meanwhile, 82.1% of those who misuse another drug also misuse Lorazepam.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lorazepam?

Lorazepam (Ativan) is a prescription benzodiazepine, prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety, insomnia and sometimes convulsion. However, it’s addictive due to being a CNS depressant.

How is Lorazepam Used?

It exists in pill form, so is usually taken orally. However, Lorazepam also exists in liquid form for injection and as a body patch. Some abusers crush the drug to snort it, as the effect can be felt instantly this way.

Is Lorazepam Addictive?

Yes, it is. It stimulates the brain’s pleasure pathway by inhibiting dopamine reuptake. This causes the user to repeat usage for a prolonged ‘satisfying’ effect.

Who Abuses Lorazepam?

Mostly people who take it as a prescription drug for anxiety. However, recreational users also abuse the drug for its relaxing properties; they include teens and younger adults.

How Can I Spot Lorazepam Addiction?

Common signs include: taking more than the recommended dosage, seeing multiple doctors for prescriptions, seeking the drug illegally, constant mood swings and being overly relaxed.

Is Lorazepam Harmful?

Yes, it is, especially when you abuse it (via excess dosage) and mix it with other substances like cocaine or alcohol.

Where Else Can I Find Help?

You can consult a physician for advice. For a more specialised solution, contact Addiction Helper via any of our helplines. A representative will be happy to help you.

How Do People Abuse Lorazepam?

People Abuse Lorazepam when taking more than prescribed by their doctor or by using it without any prescription at all.

What is Lorazepam Dependence?

When somebody abuses Lorazepam over a long period of time, their brain develops a fixation to the drug. This is a psychological dependence that triggers uncomfortable symptoms if they don’t take the drug after some time.

Why is This Drug Addictive?

Lorazepam is addictive because it is a CNS depressant. It influences the pleasure pathway and causes the user to feel relaxed. However, the side-effects of abuse are equally harmful.

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