Of the many mind-altering drugs that exist, few are as addictive and dangerous as the class of drug known as benzodiazepines. Although benzodiazepines can be used to great effect for a number of medical conditions, the abuse of benzodiazepines leaves individuals susceptible to catastrophic consequences. In particular, Ativan is one of the most common benzodiazepines prone to abuse as well as being among the most-prescribed of all benzodiazepines. For this reason, it’s important to be knowledge about Ativan, including what the drug is and what makes it such a dangerous benzodiazepine.
What is Ativan?
Ativan is the trade name of a drug called lorazepam, which is considered to be one of the “classical benzodiazepines”, a group of core drugs that includes many of the most well-known and widely used benzodiazepines; for reference, some of the other classical benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), flurazepam (Dalmane), and clorazepate (Tranxene). In fact, many of the benzodiazepines that have been introduced over the years were created through chemical experimentation with one or more of these classical benzodiazepines, many of which were discovered over the decade that followed the commercial release of Librium. Lorazepam, in particular, was first synthesized in 1963, just four years after the launch of the first benzodiazepine; its pharmaceutical patent was granted by the F.D.A. in 1967, but the drug wasn’t commercially available until it was launched by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 1977, a decade after it was patented.
Since the benzodiazepines that were being created were discovered to be quite effective as anxiolytics — in other words, they were effective in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and panic — Ativan was intended for similar uses. In fact, due to the intensity of its effects, Ativan was supposed to be used to treat severe anxiety, but only for short periods of time. The reason for this is because, similar to Xanax, Ativan is a relatively strong benzodiazepine with somewhat shorter duration of effects, making it most effective for as-needed management of anxiety. The drug was also found to have potential value for individuals who suffer from insomnia and conditions that involve seizures such as epilepsy. Of course, over time, individuals who used Ativan realized they could achieve feelings of intoxication or euphoria by taking the drug in doses much higher than advised, resulting in the abuse of Ativan, other forms or lorazepam, and virtually all other benzodiazepines becoming quite commonplace by the 1980s.
Why Ativan is Dangerous
Due to the fact that Ativan is both depressant and benzodiazepine, many of its effects involve an overall decrease an individual’s energy level, therefore, a decrease in efficacy of many bodily systems and functions. But how does it achieve this?
Ativan is known to have an extremely high affinity for the brain’s GABA receptors. In other words, once it reaches the bloodstream and makes its way to one’s central nervous system, Ativan creates exceptionally strong bonds to a person’s GABA receptors. As you may already be aware, GABA is a neurotransmitter that, in short, induces feelings of calm, which is helpful when an individual needs to calm down during times of high stress and anxiety. With an affinity for GABA receptors, this means that Ativan depresses a person’s central nervous system, which is a characteristic shared by all benzodiazepines. But in addition to bonding readily with GABA receptors, Ativan enhances the efficacy of GABA in the brain, further exacerbating these relaxing effects and accounting for the drug’s amnesiac tendencies. In other words, individuals who use Ativan sometimes have trouble remembering their experiences and behaviors while they were under the influence of lorazepam, similar to a “blackout” situation that alcoholics are known to experience.
When a person has taken Ativan continually over an extended period of time, he or she will feel intense discomfort during times when he or she goes without the drug, whether this means the individual ran out of a prescribed supply or was unable to obtain Ativan through more dubious channels. In any case, the drug’s withdrawal symptoms are in stark contrast to the drug’s actual effects when used appropriately. A person who is experiencing Ativan withdrawal will feel extremely anxious since the brain has lost its primary source of GABA; this is actually what makes Ativan withdrawal — and even benzodiazepine withdrawal in general — so dangerous. Meanwhile, there are a number of other symptoms, too, including sweating, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, severe insomnia, intense physical discomfort, mood swings, depression, twitching and shaking throughout the body, confusion, irritability, numbness or tingling in extremities, irregular heart rate and possible palpitations, and high blood pressure.
Overcoming Ativan Addiction at Malvern Institute
Due to Ativan withdrawal symptoms having the potential to become quite dangerous, any individual who is suffering from Ativan addiction is strongly encouraged to seek professional help. The most dangerous part of Ativan addiction rehabilitation is detoxification, which is why many consider Ativan detox to be the most important and tenuous part of the process. In short, Ativan detoxification treatment allows the individual to address the physical aspects of the addiction in a safe, supervised environment. Depending on the severity of the addiction, detoxification may involve a taper, which means a slow weaning off the drug over a period of time. Once the individual is no longer physically dependent on lorazepam, he or she can progress to the next treatment phase in the continuum of care.
At Malvern Institute, we mitigate the potential dangers inherent in Ativan addiction recovery with our Malvern Model of Care. Beginning with detoxification, a patient will proceed through induction and inpatient care before continuing with a period of outpatient treatment. The idea is to provide the most relevant and needed resources at each respective step in the overall recovery process. By making rehabilitation a graduated process, individuals can overcome Ativan addiction in a more manageable way while taking ample time to reinforce vital recovery skills. If you would like to learn more about Ativan addiction treatment at Malvern Institute, or if you have any other questions, please call us anytime at 610.MALVERN (610.625.8376).