More and more people are attending drug rehab centers for addiction to prescription medications. Ativan, the brand name for lorazepam, is a sedative medication that is prescribed for people who are diagnosed with anxiety or who have trouble sleeping. It is a benzodiazepine and it can lead to physical and psychological dependency and ultimately, to addiction. Addiction to benzodiazepines is a challenging one to overcome and it often requires the help of drug rehab facilities for treatment. It’s important to understand the difference between normal use of and dependency on Ativan.
Physical Dependence on Ativan
The biggest sign of physical dependence on Ativan is having withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer used, or the dose is significantly decreased. Another sign is developing a tolerance to the drug that requires that more and more be taken to achieve the same effects as previously.
When Ativan is used over a period of weeks, or longer, physical dependence on the medication will likely develop and drug rehab treatment may be needed, even when it is taken as prescribed.
Understanding Physical Dependence
When someone uses Ativan for a period of time, his or her body becomes used to functioning with it in the system. The chemicals in Ativan act on the brain and central nervous system, and in turn, the brain and nervous system work to stabilize and function normally with the added drug. Over time, they adapt to functioning with the drug present; this is the new normal for the user’s brain and nervous system – and it is physical dependence.
Once the body is physically dependent on Ativan, withdrawal symptoms will occur if the person tries to stop using it. That is the brain and nervous system again trying to stabilize, this time without the drug. Physiological dependence on Ativan has two symptoms: tolerance and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when discontinued or doses are lowered.
Dependence Versus Addiction
In most cases, physical dependence is the predecessor of addiction. People who become physically dependent on Ativan continue to use it so that they don’t suffer from withdrawal symptoms, or they begin taking more of the drug because they have developed an increased tolerance to its effects. In these situations, addiction can develop as a result of continued use. That means that it’s possible to become addicted to Ativan even when it was originally prescribed by a doctor.
What Is the Difference Between Physical Dependence and Addiction to Ativan?
Addiction to Ativan is very different than a physical dependence on the medication. With addiction, there are psychological symptoms as well as the physical symptoms of dependence. Those symptoms show an overall loss of control and/or obsessive-compulsive thoughts about using and drug-seeking behavior. The main signs of addiction to a drug are:
- Continued use despite negative consequences to a person’s health, relationships, work or school, or freedom (legal issues, arrests, etc.)
- Loss of control of the use of the drug (being unable to stop using even though you want to)
- Cravings and compulsive thinking about the drug
Becoming addicted means that the person cannot stop using the drug through sheer willpower, they need the assistance of a drug rehab program. There is a psychological need to use the drug and cravings for it. People who are physically dependent on Ativan are able to go through the withdrawal, and while they may be uncomfortable, once they have made it through, they have no desire (or craving) to use the drug again.
Signs of Ativan Addiction
Becoming addicted to Ativan doesn’t just happen because of the type of drug it is. There are many other factors that contribute to whether or not a person becomes addicted. How long they have used the drugs and in what amounts plays a part in the likelihood of addiction, as does genetic make-up and family history of addiction. The following behaviors may be present when someone is addicted to Ativan:
- They feel a strong need and urge to take Ativan.
- Their thoughts are consumed with taking Ativan.
- They cannot relax or feel calm without Ativan.
- They fear trying to function without Ativan.
- They obsess about obtaining and using Ativan.
- They have tried to stop taking Ativan on their own and failed.
If you or a loved one recognizes any of the above behaviors, it may be time for you to consult with your doctor, an addiction professional, or a drug rehabilitation center. If you are addicted, every day that you continue your use you will be more at risk for suffering the long-term side effects and negative consequences that accompany addiction to Ativan.
Treatment for Ativan Addiction
Treatment for and recovery from Ativan addiction is possible. Inpatient or residential, drug rehab treatment programs are often recommended when a person is addicted to benzodiazepines like Ativan.
Because of the seriousness of some of the symptoms of Ativan withdrawal, it is crucial that medical professionals at drug rehab facilities monitor the vital signs of patients until the symptoms pass. It may become necessary to use small dosages of benzodiazepines, instead of discontinuing them abruptly, to make detoxing more tolerable, and that can only be managed when you are medically-supervised in a drug rehabilitation center.