What is Ativan?
Ativan is Biovail Pharmaceuticals’ brand name for lorazepam, a strong and moderately long-acting benzodiazepine. It is used in oral form to treat anxiety and in an injectable form to lower nervous tension and treat seizures. Ativan is also used for the short-term treatment of insomnia and for the sedation of hospital patients and aggressive patients. It has a relatively high potential for addiction and recreational abuse. It has achieved some notoriety as a date rape drug.
How does Ativan work?
Ativan is a classic benzodiazepine which acts at benzodiazepine sites on GABA receptors throughout the central nervous system. It is believed to have a high affinity for GABA receptors and this is thought to be the reason for its potent amnesic effect. Like all benzodiazepines, Ativan works by enhancing the effects of GABA, which is a naturally calming neurotransmitter.
What does Ativan look like?
Ativan is available in a number of different white pentagonal pills with strengths from 0.5 to 2 mg. It is also available in oral liquid and injectable liquid forms. Ativan may be taken with or without food.
Ativan dosing and administration
The typical starting dose of Ativan when taken for anxiety is 1 mg two to three times per day. When used to treat insomnia, the recommended initial dose is 2 to 4 mg once per day before bedtime. Elderly patients are more sensitive to Ativan and the recommended initial dose in these patients is 0.5 to 1 mg twice daily.
Common adverse effects from Ativan
Ativan is generally well tolerated and has less frequent side effects than other diazepines. The most common of these are sedation, vertigo, weakness and unsteadiness. Other possible side effects are lethargy, fatigue, memory loss, confusion, disorientation, visual disturbances, aphasia, nausea, constipation, changes in libido, erectile dysfunction, difficulty achieving orgasm, hair loss and slight hypotension. More serious side effects which occur infrequently may include depression, suicidal ideation, dyspnea, seizures, anxiety or aggression, insomnia, hallucinations and allergic reactions. If any of these effects occur while you are taking Ativan you should report them to your doctor immediately.
Ativan warnings and precautions
You should tell your doctor before taking Ativan if you suffer from glaucoma, depression, liver or kidney disease or any allergies. You should also inform your doctor if you have any history of drug or alcohol abuse. You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breastfeeding. Ativan has strong potential for both psychological dependence and physical addiction. The risk of dependence increases the longer the drug is taken and the higher the doses. Because of the dependence factor you should not cease taking Ativan abruptly, but seek the advice of your doctor in gradually tapering off your dosage. Ativan may cause respiratory depression which may become life-threatening if taken in combination with alcohol or narcotics.
Interactions with Ativan
Other drugs which may interact with Ativan include alcohol, anesthetics, all antidepressants, most antipsychotics, barbiturates and narcotics, divalproex sodium, other benzodiazepines, probenecid, seizure medications and sleep medications.