If I Am Recovering from Addiction, Should I Continue Taking Ativan?

Published On: March 19, 20243.9 min read776 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Addiction recovery is a challenging time for anyone who has faced the difficulties of drug abuse. It can be even harder for those who also struggle with a mental health disorder. 

A large number of people who live with anxiety seek medical treatment to help manage symptoms, as anxiety often interferes with the elements of a peaceful life. But when these same individuals taking anxiety medications also pursue addiction recovery, other challenges may arise.

Taking prescription medications like Ativan while detoxing from other addictive substances can do more harm than good. Because of this it is increasingly important to have open communication with your counselor and medical doctor to ensure your best chance at lasting sobriety.

What is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription medication most often used to treat anxiety, and has also been cleared for treatment of insomnia as a result of anxiety or other stressful situations; in some cases, Ativan is prescribed to treat nausea in cancer patients and to help with certain symptoms of alcohol use withdrawal. 

Ativan is a benzodiazepine and a Schedule 4 drug, meaning it “[h]as a low potential for abuse relative to those in Schedule 3. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 3.”

As a benzodiazepine, Ativan works on the brain and the central nervous system to produce a sense of calm by enhancing the effects of GABA, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. However, this is believed to also slow down the neurotransmitter which keeps dopamine production in check, i.e. increasing the feel-good effect of the drug. 

This increased release of dopamine, combined with the calming effect of Ativan is the reason for the abuse potential of the drug. When taken without adherence to the prescription instructions, Ativan, as with all benzodiazepines, can cause unwanted changes in brain chemistry resulting in addiction. 

What are the side effects of taking Ativan?

When taking any medication, your body adjusts to the influx of chemicals, whether the medication was approved by your doctor or not. Even medications with no abuse potential change the chemical levels in your body. This is not always a bad thing, but needs to be a serious factor when it comes to medications with abuse potential. 

For example, Ativan changes the chemicals affecting the central nervous system, which is why stopping Ativan use suddenly is never recommended. When you are using Ativan routinely and the time comes to stop use, you need to work closely with your doctor to wean you off the medication. 

This is because quitting Ativan use “cold turkey” can lead to several unwanted side effects. These side effects may be significantly worse if Ativan is being abused or misused. 

Withdrawal effects of Ativan include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Slowed breathing (combining Ativan with opioid use can significantly increase this risk) 
  • Worsened anxiety and an inability to tolerate the symptoms of anxiety or panic
  • Increased heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion

Additional side effects of Ativan may be experienced when used in combination with other medication, illicit drugs and alcohol. 

Can I take Ativan if I’m in addiction recovery?

Addiction recovery starts with detoxing from drugs in your body’s system for the sake of a fresh slate on which to begin healing the whole person – mind, body and spirit. This does not mean that you have to be completely and entirely medication-free to complete detox, but it does mean certain medications should be avoided during this process. 

Ultimately, it will be up to you, your counselor and your medical doctor to determine whether or not you should continue using Ativan while you are in addiction recovery. For some individuals, addiction recovery means including prescription medication as part of a successful treatment plan, and medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) should not always be used in conjunction with Ativan.

You should not be concerned, however. There are plenty of medication options for treating anxiety that are not benzodiazepines. This is where close communication with your doctor and therapist is key – they will be able to guide you toward other medications for anxiety that do not compromise the success of your recovery. 

In pursuit of addiction treatment?

If you are looking to enroll in treatment for addiction, struggle with anxiety and need support or are looking for medication management guidance, resources are available for you. 

To begin your journey to freedom of mind and freedom from addiction, reach out to Freedom Detox today by calling 800-475-2312 or contacting us online to learn more about our addiction treatment programs today. 

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