It is possible to overdose on Ativan. Most people who take too much Ativan will not die from it, but mixing it with other substances can be fatal.
How Ativan Works
Lorazepam is a medication that is best known as Ativan, the brand name under which it is sold.
It belongs to a family of drugs called benzodiazepines. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says benzodiazepines work by relaxing the brain when it is flooded with anxiety.
Other well-known benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
Often prescribed to help people with anxiety, Ativan has also been criticized because it can cause dependency and even addiction.
What We Know About Who Misuses Ativan
The reasons for misusing any drug vary depending on the person, but an August 2018 report from CNBCprovides reasons for the rise in Ativan use.
- Anxiety is the most diagnosed mental illness in the United States today, with one out of 40 Americans affected by some form of anxiety disorder.
- Per NIDA, 23 percent of people who overdosed on opioids in 2015 had also taken benzodiazepines.
- NIDA also mentions that veterans who are prescribed benzodiazepines are at higher risk of overdosing on them.
- Benzodiazepines are often prescribed by primary care doctors who have little connection to psychotherapy options that could help their patients.
- Between 2002 and 2015, overdose fatalities involving a benzodiazepine increased fourfold.
- Between 10 to 15 percent of those who have prescribed a benzodiazepine will develop a psychological dependence on the drug and even addiction.
A 2016 report from the New York Post mentions that some people turn to the dark web — unlawful internet stores — to buy benzodiazepines without the need for a prescription.
It is easy to buy a pill press that can make counterfeit tablets that look like the real thing. This means people often buy counterfeit Ativan that is a different drug altogether.
Overdosing on Ativan is possible, as mentioned on MedlinePlus. The National Institutes of Health cautions that people who overdose on Ativan have usually taken other substances as well.
MedlinePlus warns that people who take Ativan should not drink alcohol or take illicit substances.
It is important to understand what the correct dosages are for Ativan. Doctors will adjust doses if needed.
The Mayo Clinic provides a few baselines:
- The use of Ativan for children under 12 should be determined by a physician.
- Children who are 12 or older and adults who use Ativan for anxiety are usually prescribed:
- 2 to 6 mg of the oral solution per day, in increments.
- 2 to 3 mg in tablets per day, in increments.
- Older adults who use Ativan for anxiety are usually prescribed 1 to 2 mg of either form per day, in increments.
- A person who uses Ativan without a prescription runs the risk of buying counterfeit pills or tablets with a much higher dose than what doctors would typically recommend.
- If a person takes a much higher dose than those listed above, it’s possible that overdose could occur. It’s not likely the dose will be fatal, but if it is mixed with other substances of abuse, it could be.
A person who uses Ativan without a prescription runs the risk of buying counterfeit pills or tablets with a much higher dose than what doctors would typically recommend.
If a person takes a much higher dose than those listed above, it’s possible that overdose could occur. It’s not likely the dose will be fatal, but if it is mixed with other substances of abuse, it could be.
Some people may try to stop using Ativan suddenly. This could cause them to feel symptoms of withdrawal. Per Psychology Today, withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines could be fatal.
Recognizing Signs of an Overdose
There are some signs a person is overdosing on Ativan.
- Problems with breathing
- Inability to wake up
- Extreme agitation or confusion
If a person is exhibiting any of these signs, call 911 or Poison Control.
Do not try to force the person to vomit.
How to Help With an Overdose
People may overdose because they take too many pills by accident, or on purpose (as a suicide attempt), or because they take another substance. A person who has overdosed needs emergency medical help immediately.
If the person is alert, call Poison Control first as they can offer assistance.
If the person is unconscious, having difficulty breathing, or shaking, call 911 immediately.
Gather information about the person who is overdosing. Better Health Channel suggests the following:
- The amount of whatever they took
- Any known allergies
- Any recent trips abroad
- Any known health issues
- Any medication the individual has been prescribed
- If they are pregnant or breastfeeding
Fast action is the best course of action if an overdose is suspected. A fatal dose of Ativan is one that is more than prescribed, taken with alcohol or an illicit substance. If you suspect this of someone, get the person help as soon as possible.
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