Ativan addiction is more prevalent among women than you may think and it makes sense based on the stress and anxiety many women face. New data suggests that one in five women is taking a benzodiazepine for anxiety and other mental health issues. In this article, we will discuss the risks associated with taking this prescription medication and provide helpful information about Lorazepam dependence.  

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a legal prescription medication offered by doctors to those who suffer from issues related to anxiety, panic, PMS, alcohol withdrawal or sleep disorders. Sometimes this drug is prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy/seizures. It is often prescribed by primary care physicians, but it can also be prescribed by psychiatrists who are treating women seeking help for mental health problems.

Ativan is commonly referred to by its generic name, “Lorazepam.” This medication belongs to a classification of drugs called “benzodiazepines,” also known as “benzos.”

Similar Benzos include:

  • alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
  • clobazam (Onfi)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • estazolam (Prosom)
  • diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat)
  • oxazepam (Serax is a discontinued brand in the US)
  • triazolam (Halcion)
  • temazepam (Restoril)

What are Ativan Side Effects?

Just like with any other prescription medication, this drug comes with a number of potential side effects. Here are just a few:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems or “losing time”
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Muscle tensions
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of motor skills and coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Physical dependence

Those taking this medication may experience some or all of these side effects.

How Does Lorazepam Make You Feel?

Benzos have a sedative effect designed to produce a sense of calm and tranquility for the user. Most people report that the drug makes them feel peaceful, relaxed, and sleepy. This is why benzodiazepines are so commonly prescribed for people who have anxiety or panic attacks. They are fast-acting and generally wear off anywhere between two and four hours.

This is a very potent substance that can render a person unable to perform basic tasks or operate a motor vehicle. People who take higher doses of Ativan can appear intoxicated. They may slur their words, lose their balance, or having trouble remembering recent events and details.

Is Ativan Addictive?

Let’s be clear up front. Just like any other benzodiazepine, this medication is highly addictive. When it is abused, it can be dangerous and even deadly.

Many addiction specialists agree that taking this medication is risky business and should be avoided whenever possible. Those who have anxiety, panic attacks, or sleep disorders are generally encouraged to seek other ways to address these issues.

Addiction does not discriminate. Women of all ages and walks of life can become addicted to this benzo. Most women believe that Ativan is completely safe because it is prescribed by a doctor. However; if we have learned anything from the opioid crisis, it is that doctors often underestimate how dangerous and addictive certain medications can be.

If you are researching Lorazepam for yourself or someone you care about, please practice extreme caution if you choose to try this drug. Those who take this medication – whether it is for anxiety or sleep – often end up hopelessly addicted to it.

How Quickly Can You Get Hooked on a Benzo?

Ativan can be both physically and psychologically addictive. Statistics report 40% of prescribed users will be dependent both physically and/or psychology within six months time. 

However, it is reported that some users become dependent in as little as 14 – 21 days of regular use. This effect may be increased for females due to something called the Telescoping Effect (more below).

Is Lorazepam Addictive When Taken in Smaller Doses?

Ativan comes in 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg tablets. Generally, patients start on a lower dosage, which is increased over time under the direction of a doctor. The typical dosage range of this medication is two to six milligrams per day, divided into doses multiple doses taken throughout the day.

Even when taken in smaller doses, users can become addicted to Lorazepam in a very short period of time (three weeks or less). This means if you suddenly stop taking this medication after using it consistently for a few weeks, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. We will go into greater detail on withdrawal in just a moment.

Are Women at Greater Risk for Becoming Addicted to Benzos than Men?

Now that you know what Ativan is and that it is highly addictive, let’s talk about why so many women become hooked on benzos.

There is a phenomenon known as the Telescoping Effect. This term describes how quickly someone will go from the starting point of using a particular substance to the point that they need to be admitted for addiction treatment. This could be a period of a few weeks, months, or even years.

Studies have shown that generally, women become hooked on addictive substances more quickly than men. There is usually a smaller time gap between when women start using and when they end up in treatment. Also, the research suggests that when women arrive at an addiction treatment center, they are usually in much worse shape than a man would be. Women’s bodies process drugs and alcohol much differently then men’s do.

There are several reasons for this. The most obvious reason is that women increase their drug or alcohol use at a much quicker rate than men do.

This is because women are more likely to have a mental illness, unresolved trauma, and other circumstances that aggravate a substance use disorder. These underlying issues can be the reason a woman starts using drugs or alcohol in the first place. A Co-Occurring Disorder (also known as a dual-diagnosis) compounds the addiction problem in women.

Why Do Women Use and Abuse Ativan?

A recent study reported that women are 75 percent more likely to report episodes of depression than men. The study also found that 60 percent of women were more likely to report an anxiety disorder.  Women with depression, anxiety, or any other co-occurring disorder are at a greater risk for Lorazepam addiction.

Is it any wonder that estimates suggest that 65 percent of all people taking benzos like Lorazepam are women?

The reality is that most women are under a tremendous amount of stress. They are working professionals with demanding jobs. They are busy raising children, often as a single parent. They experience financial problems, interact with difficult co-workers, maintain a household, and care for aging parents. These life situations can create anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Ativan can provide a sense of escape and relaxation for women who feel like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s no surprise that one in five women are taking benzos.

Are You Addicted to Ativan?

When it comes to benzos, there is a fine line between use and abuse. Typically, use leads to abuse, which leads to addiction. Once addiction takes over, most women find it impossible to stop taking this medication. Just like any other drug, this benzodiazepine can cause even the strongest woman to spiral downward and experience the kind of negative consequences that accompany a substance use disorder.  

If you think you might be addicted to Lorazepam, you probably are. The truth is that people who are not addicted do not usually sit around and wonder if they are addicted! Chances are, if you are concerned about your Ativan use, you at least have a sneaky suspicion that you might be in trouble.

Ideally, you should turn to an addiction expert for a proper assessment to determine if you are addicted to any substance. Nevertheless, we know you want answers now. Please take a moment for a self-assessment quiz. Answer the questions as honestly as you can.  

  • Are you taking Lorazepam without a prescription from a doctor?
  • Have you lied to a doctor to get this medication even though you do not have a legitimate medical need for it?
  • Are you taking a higher dose of Lorazepam than prescribed by your doctor?
  • Do you take your medication more frequently than you are supposed to?
  • Are you buying pills off the street?
  • When you miss more than one dose, do you feel like you are “not yourself?”
  • Do you obsess about the next time you can use Lorazepam when you are unable to take it?
  • Have you experienced legal consequences as a result of your use? (A DWI, for example?)
  • Are you spending a lot of money on this medication so you can maintain a buzz?
  • Have you been lying to your loved ones to hide your use of Lorazepam?
  • Have they expressed concern about your use or abuse of this medication?
  • Have you tried to stop using this drug, but find that you cannot quit on your own?
  • Do you feel like your life is out of control because of your use of this drug?

If you answered “yes”  to any ONE of these questions, you may very well be addicted to Ativan. If you are, you need help to stop using it and get your life back on track.

Still confused? This quiz might help you decide if you have a substance use disorder.

What is a Substance Use Disorder?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction (now commonly referred to as a substance use disorder/SUD) “is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.

Addiction is a disease. This may be difficult to understand if you have never conducted any research on how a substance use disorder affects the human brain. Nevertheless, every medical authority in the United States (including the American Medical Association) classifies addiction as an illness.

We want you to understand this because most women experience tremendous shame and guilt when they realize they are addicted to Ativan. We want you to know you are not a bad person. You are a sick person who needs to get well. Wellness happens when you receive addiction treatment and learn how to manage sobriety.

Lorazepam Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

It is important to understand what happens when you are addicted to Ativan. After prolonged use, your body needs the drug to function. If you suddenly stop taking this medication, your body will go into withdrawal and experience very painful and dangerous symptoms.

Here are a few of the many withdrawal symptoms associated with Lorazepam:

  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Depression
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Sweats and shakes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Memory and Concentration Problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Panic attacks
  • Delirium
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Racing pulse
  • Head to toe body aches
  • Seizures
  • Coma or death (in extreme cases)

These symptoms can be absolutely unbearable. Most people who try to quit this drug on their own are simply unable to do so because the withdrawal process is so painful.

How Long Does Ativan Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal generally lasts from three to ten days with the most intense symptoms in the first five. However; most people addicted to Lorazepam also experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Most addicted people are unfamiliar with PAWS. It can last up to six months beyond the last dose.

During PAWS, withdrawal symptoms persist, but are not nearly as intense as they are during the first two weeks. Nevertheless, recovery can be quite difficult because of lagging sense of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other withdrawal symptoms. Many people who try quitting on their own relapse within the first year of sobriety because they cannot withstand the discomfort.

This is why effective addiction treatment is so vital to the recovery process. People who have been addicted to Ativan need to be equipped with the tools of sobriety. Staying sober is about so much more than just stopping the use of drugs or alcohol. It requires a daily commitment to remaining abstinent, no matter what.  

How to Taper off Ativan

First, weaning or tapering off of Ativan should be supervised by your doctor or an addiction professional. Here is an example of a common taper schedule. Please note that we cannot provide medical advice of any kind and we do NOT encourage this be done without expert oversight to ensure your safety and success.

  • Week 1 – Start Taper  – No Reduction
  • Week 2 – Lower dose by 25%
  • Week 3- Lower does by another 25%
  • Week 4 – Sustain the lowered dose (half of original by week 4) for 4 weeks.
  • Week 9 – Continue to lower dose by 25% until 0mg of Ativan is reached

Can I Detox From Ativan at Home?

You should never suddenly stop the use of this benzodiazepine without consulting an addiction expert or your doctor. Detoxing at home can be dangerous and even deadly. Withdrawals may cause seizures and can result in coma or death. Don’t be fooled by at-home detox kits or online detox remedies. These are simply not worth the risk. 

Furthermore, detoxing on your own is not conducive to long-term, ongoing sobriety. Those who think they can stop on their own successfully are in for a fight. Most people find that they are powerless to control the compulsion to return to the drug after stopping for a short period of time.

Plus, let’s be honest. If you could stop on your own, you would have done so by now. You have probably tried to quit on your own more than once and you have failed. This is not because you are weak. This is because addiction is a complex brain disease that requires treatment from an addiction expert.

Addiction: When You Can’t Stop Abusing Ativan

If you think you may be hooked on benzos, we want you to know there is no shame in admitting you are addicted. In fact, it takes great strength to get honest with yourself and face your problems head on.

Addiction thrives in the darkness of denial. Denial lies to you and tells you that things aren’t that bad. It insists that you can stop anytime you want. It asserts that the people in your life are just nags – you don’t really have a problem. Stepping out of denial into the light of truth requires incredible courage. It is also the first step toward healing.

As long as you stay in the grips of denial, you will remain addicted to Ativan. Things will only continue to get worse. And, the truth is, you could die of a fatal overdose. By acknowledging that you have a problem and need help, you can begin your journey toward recovery.

Ready to Stop Taking Lorazepam?

There is only one way to stop taking this drug and that is simply to quit taking it. This may seem obvious, but sobriety is actually quite involved. There is a lot more to addiction treatment than simple abstinence. Recovering people have to learn how to navigate triggers, manage the stress of everyday life, and address underlying issues that led to addiction in the first place.

If you want to stop taking Ativan, we encourage you to reach out for help. You should undergo a professional addiction assessment. This will be conducted by an addiction expert to determine what level of care would be appropriate for you. You may need mental health treatment or other individualized services to ensure that you are addressing all aspects of your illness.

Also, you should know that outpatient services are available. Many women shy away from seeking treatment because they automatically think they will have to go to an inpatient facility for a month. Working moms especially cannot afford to be away from work and their families for an extended period of time. Outpatient is a great way to get sober with minimal disruption to your everyday life.  

You Can Recover From Ativan Addiction at Women’s Recovery

If you want to stop the vicious cycle of addiction, we ask that you consider reaching out to Women’s Recovery. We are a gender-specific addiction treatment center committed to the health and wellness of women struggling with addiction and mental health issues. Our program has been designed by women for women.   

At Women’s Recovery, you can get MORE than just sober, you can get well. When you are ready, we are here to help.