If you suffer from anxiety or sleep problems, you’re not alone. In the United States, an estimated 50-70 million adults struggle with some type of sleep disorder.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It affects 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives, while 10 percent deal with chronic insomnia. Lack of sleep affects one-third of Americans.
Meanwhile, 40 million Americans fight a crippling disorder known as anxiety, which makes it the most common mental health illness in the United States.
A recent survey showed that 41 percent of employees from a range of industries reported high levels of anxiety in the workplace. Since these numbers are so staggering, they almost escalate this problem to the level of a crisis.
Individuals who deal with these problems on a daily basis can understand and empathize with each other. Sleep is the fuel for life, and lying in bed all night without being able to sleep can make one feel defeated.
The same can be said for anxiety, as it is a crippling disorder that can steal an individual’s life away.
Cue medications like Ativan. Benzodiazepine drugs (or benzos) were created with these disorders in mind. The beneficiaries of these drugs are people who have stopped being as productive at work due to sleep disorders or who have anxiety so severe they can’t leave the house.
In the 1980s, benzos were introduced as an alternative to barbiturates, which are powerful and addictive. At that time, pharmaceutical companies implied benzos would solve a massive problem plaguing society, but medical practitioners soon realized they were actually going to pose a threat.
It’s hard to dispute the success stories of benzo users, but it’s also hard to ignore the facts and statistics that back up its addictive qualities. There’s a fine line between getting relief and becoming addicted. Since addiction is a serious disease that requires treatment to begin the healing process, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of Ativan addiction.
Lorazepam is the brand name of Ativan, which is used to treat sleep and anxiety disorders. Less commonly, it’s used to treat epilepsy and seizures and alleviate nausea and vomiting in chemo patients.
Through intravenous injections, Ativan can provide relief in as little as five minutes. When used in pill form, it can start bringing relief in as little as fifteen minutes, depending on the user.
Since it boasts a long duration of 12 to 24 hours, it can help the user fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer.
Similar to alcohol and barbiturates, Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It works by suppressing brain activity, binding specific receptors in the nervous system, and increasing the efficiency of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When this chemical joins with receptors in the brain, it produces anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), hypnotic, sedative, and muscle-relaxing effects.
ndividuals who suffer from anxiety and sleep disorders could possibly have a chemical imbalance that makes the GABA in their brain less efficient.
Generally, benzos are prescribed in short-term bouts for no longer than four weeks at a time. Within a month, your body starts becoming physically dependent on the drug. Dependence can lead to very serious withdrawal symptoms that are associated with this class of drugs, and it can be deadly without medical supervision. Using Ativan in high doses or mixing it with other substances that suppress the CNS can lead to overdose, which can be fatal.
Ativan can be extremely addictive if the drug is misused. Unfortunately, even when an individual uses the medication as prescribed, it can lead to a long road of addiction. One reason it can become habit-forming is because of its potency and how fast-acting the drug works in the body. It’s not typically prescribed for more than a few months at a time, and the maximum period a patient will use the drug is no more than four months.
It’s no secret that Ativan is potent, even when it is compared to other benzodiazepines. Even those who use the medication as prescribed have a higher likelihood of developing a tolerance to the drug. It is one of the contributing factors to Ativan addiction. Withdrawal from Ativan can lead to intense cravings compared to stopping other benzodiazepines.
It may be easy to think that someone who takes small doses of Ativan will not have the same potential of becoming addicted as someone who uses it in excess – this is not true. Everyone is different, and because of the drug’s potency, there is a chance that Ativan addiction can occur even when using small doses.
Addiction to Ativan is a chronic disease that might not show signs in the earlier stages. When an individual is prescribed a medication that cures their ailments, they don’t believe it’s possible to become addicted. It improves their lives, and it’s hard to determine when medicinal use turns into an addiction.
However, there are a few warning signs of tolerance and dependence. Tolerance occurs when the drug becomes less effective at the standard dose, so continuing use or increasing the dose can lead to dependence. At this point, the body relies on the drug for normalcy, so it can experience withdrawal symptoms in its absence.
The final phase is addiction. Addiction has many behavioral signs that friends and family will be able to notice, including:
Some physical signs of Ativan addiction can include:
Heavy use of Ativan will magnify the conventional effects of the drug, and someone using Ativan is large doses may experience:
While addiction is a serious disease that plagues millions of Americans every year, it is very treatable. Individuals diagnosed with an addiction or a substance use disorder can still live a full, healthy life after they get past active addiction. Since evidence-based therapies have access to the highest quality of testing and statistics, they have become extremely reliable. These therapies have helped boost long-term sobriety for those suffering at a higher rate. Most of the time, substance use disorders that involve benzos and Ativan require you start at the highest, most intensive level of care: medical detoxification.
During medical detox, the immediate needs of the client will be met. They include medication that manages the symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you’ll become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.
There are three major levels of care after detox, which are all dependent on the severity of the client’s addiction, dual diagnosis, and other factors. The three levels of care include residential inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services.
If the team determines that you require additional medical care, they will place you in residential treatment. You’ll receive care tailored to your needs, and you’ll go through therapies that will help find the root of your addiction and educate you about ways to change your behavior.
In order for treatment to be effective, it must be customized to fit your specific needs. When you begin treatment, you must be able to sit down with a therapist and devise a long-term plan that is suitable for you.
American Sleep Association. (n.d.). Sleep Statistics: Research & Treatments. from https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Facts & Statistics. from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
Lorazepam: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682053.html
Bierer, M. (2017, July 25). Is addiction a "brain disease"? from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-addiction-a-brain-disease-201603119260
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 6: Definition of tolerance. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/6-definition-tolerance