The use of drugs to treat mental health problems has helped patients reduce the debilitating effects of these illnesses. However, there are many drugs on the market today that make it hard for ordinary people to keep track. Not everyone has pharmaceutical knowledge in identifying and determining the side effects of drugs.
Even though some drugs are legal to use with a prescription, people who are unaware of long-term drug effects may get addicted. An example of this drug would be lorazepam. It can be purchased with a prescription but can lead to lorazepam addiction without proper guidance.
In this article, we’ll talk about this drug, its normal uses, its effects on the body, and how users can abuse it.
What Is Lorazepam?
Lorazepam is a drug that belongs to the benzodiazepine family, a group of drugs categorized as “tranquilizers.” The most popular benzodiazepine drugs are Valium and Xanax, commonly prescribed to patients with anxiety.
Lorazepam works by slowing brain activity to induce relaxation. It is widely used in different fields of medicine, not only in mental health treatments. It is known as “pre-med” because it can be used for relaxation before an operation or dental treatment. This drug comes as a tablet or liquid concentrate for oral ingestion. It also has an injectable formula for a faster onset in the body.
The brand name of lorazepam is Ativan. It is classified as a Schedule IV drug, meaning it is a prescription drug with a low potential for misuse or developing a substance use disorder. However, lorazepam’s addiction potential is significant because it can be “habit-forming,” leading to dependence and addiction with long-term use.
Where Is It Normally Used?
Lorazepam is a standard prescription for patients with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, it is also prescribed to patients with the following conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Vomiting due to cancer treatment
- Agitation control caused by alcohol withdrawal
- Adjunctive treatment for manic bipolar disorder
- Psychosis associated with alcohol withdrawal
Because lorazepam can relax the mind, it can be addictive if used for a prolonged time. The primary cause of lorazepam addiction is prolonged use that is beyond prescription. If you take lorazepam, do not take the drug beyond prescription requirements.
Who Cannot Take Lorazepam?
Lorazepam is not suitable for all patients. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any of the following illnesses or conditions.
- Allergy to lorazepam or any medication in the past
- Liver problems or diseases
- Kidney problems or diseases
- Breathing, chest, or lung problems
- Myasthenia gravis (muscle weakness)
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol addiction
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
It’s best to disclose any underlying conditions to your doctor before he prescribes anti-anxiety drugs to you.
Precautions When Taking Lorazepam
Lorazepam will usually make you drowsy. It is advised not to do activities that require mental alertness, like driving or operating machinery. Also, try not to do house chores like cleaning or cooking to avoid accidents. It’s best to stay in bed and wait until the peak effects wear off.
What Are The Side Effects of Lorazepam?
Aside from making you tired, lorazepam can also produce other side effects that might impair your daily activities. Take note that these side effects are not signs of lorazepam addiction. In the succeeding sections, we’ll talk about the common side effects. In the meantime, here are the side effects of lorazepam that can help in distinguishing them from addiction symptoms:
- Blurred vision and slurred speech
- Lack of coordination and confusion
- Difficulty breathing
Long-term use of lorazepam can produce the following symptoms:
- Headaches, and tremors
- Memory problems
- Anxiety and insomnia
How Long Does Lorazepam Stay In The Body?
Lorazepam stays in the body from eight hours to 30 days or even longer. Detection of lorazepam in the saliva lasts for eight hours. For urine, it can be detected for up to six days. Lorazepam can also appear in blood tests for up to three days and 30 days in a hair follicle test. Upon ingesting lorazepam tablets or liquid concentrates, peak effects are observed within two hours.
If lorazepam is injected intravenously, the effects start to kick in within 15 to 30 minutes and can last for 12 to 24 hours. Lorazepam interacts with the central nervous system and enhances the chemical GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body, and it is responsible for relaxation. Lorazepam amplifies GABA to help patients relax faster during episodes of anxiety attacks.
How Common Is Addiction To Lorazepam?
Lorazepam addiction symptoms usually start with physical dependence. The first sign of dependence is increased tolerance, wherein the patient will demand a higher dosage of lorazepam to get the desired “therapeutic” effect. That’s why it’s a must to take lorazepam as prescribed by the doctor or as needed.
The second sign of dependence is withdrawal symptoms. When the patient discontinues lorazepam, a potentially dependent patient will likely experience withdrawal symptoms.
Another cause of addiction is its conjunctive use with other drugs. This condition is called “polydrug abuse.” In the study Polydrug abuse: A review of opioid and benzodiazepine combination use, abusers use benzodiazepine (lorazepam) to enhance the effects of opioids. Hence, lorazepam is not entirely used to target a symptom of GAD or any mental health illness. Instead, abuses use lorazepam to enhance the euphoria brought by opioids.
To avoid abuse, doctors prescribe lorazepam as a short-term drug that lasts only three to four months.
What Are The Addiction Symptoms Of Lorazepam?
Lorazepam in itself has a low risk of addiction. However, the practice of polydrug abuse makes lorazepam a life-threatening drug due to overdose. A typical overdose case of this drug is when it is taken with alcohol or opioids like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone). The common signs of lorazepam overdose are the following:
- Feeling unusually dizzy
- Difficulty breathing
- Cessation of breathing
- Unresponsiveness for an extended period of time
Signs Of Lorazepam Addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) classifies lorazepam addiction as a substance use disorder. To be diagnosed with substance use disorder, the person must exhibit at least two of the 11 elements in determining the disorder:
- Taking too much lorazepam for a longer period than expected.
- Cravings to take lorazepam.
- Lack of initiative to stop taking lorazepam.
- The person is spending a disproportionate amount of time using, getting, or recovering from the use of lorazepam.
- Inability to perform at work, school, or home
- Continued use of the lorazepam even if it causes interpersonal problems
- Willful non-participation in work events or activities and disregard of social events
- Continued use of lorazepam, even if it causes life-threatening dangers
- Continued use of lorazepam even if it worsens existing mental health conditions
- Development of lorazepam tolerance
- Development of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuance of lorazepam
Symptoms of lorazepam can co-occur with its side effects. However, lorazepam addiction time depends on the patient’s constant usage of lorazepam until dependence on the drug develops.
What To Do In A Lorazepam Overdose?
As enumerated in the previous section, the symptoms of addiction to lorazepam are identical to overdose symptoms. More notably, a person overdosing on lorazepam may also experience loss of muscle control (involuntary contractions), decreased muscle strength, or cessation of breathing. If you notice someone having these symptoms, fast reaction time is vital to the patient’s survival.
Here are the steps you should do in case of an overdose:
- Call 911 or drive your friend or relative to the nearest emergency room.
- Bring the patient’s drug kit or any evidence of ingesting drugs (plastic containers, films, etc.). Present these to the EMT upon arrival.
- Tell the emergency room physician the patient’s doctor.
- If the patient is unconscious, talk to them and try to get their attention. Communicate with the patient until the nurses take over.
- Inform hospital personnel about the history of drug abuse.
- Answer truthfully and accurately the questions that the hospital personnel will ask. Don’t try to withhold any information that might put the patient’s life in danger.
Once the doctors confirm that it’s a lorazepam overdose, they will usually prescribe flumazenil to the patient. However, the antidote will differ if the patient has taken opioid drugs.
How To Treat Lorazepam Addiction?
The only way to treat this addiction is through rehab. Addiction rehab programs usually range in 30, 60, and 90-day programs depending on the prescribed treatment. However, in-patient programs are intended only for patients with severe cases of addiction to lorazepam. Those with mild abuse problems can take outpatient programs where they can go home after a series of activities in the rehab center. Patients with co-occurring disorders will most likely qualify for inpatient treatment.
Lorazepam is a popular anti-anxiety drug that can help reduce the effects of anxiety and related disorders on patients. While not addictive by itself, patients may develop a dependency on the drug, especially when co-used with other mental health medications like opioids. Reversing the effects of lorazepam overdose and addiction takes time but coupling the treatment regimen with rehab can speed up the recovery process.
Restore Rehab LA offers lorazepam drug rehab for patients with mild to severe addiction cases. Our treatment plans are tailor-made to the patient’s medical history and current condition. At Restore Drug Treatment Center, we can help you make the first step in drug abuse recovery. Are you ready to begin your healing journey? Call our 24/7 admissions hotline at (818) 651-8084 now to get started.