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What is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) is a sedative medication that is most generally used to treat anxiety. Other accepted uses include treating insomnia, symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal, relieving serial seizures in children (sublingual form), as a muscle relaxant, and reducing the suffering of chemotherapy patients who experience vomiting during treatment. Ativan is not generally recommended for long-term use, over 4 months duration, as this may increase the likelihood of physical withdrawal symptoms.
Ativan works by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which inhibits the nervous system, reducing states of mental and physical overexcitement. Lorazepam is a member of the benzodiazepine group of drugs, a class of antidepressants, anti-panic agents, sleep medications, and muscle relaxants.

Ativan is only available by prescription.

Ativan Side Effects

Ativan (lorazepam) is generally considered to be a safe medication with a low risk of adverse side effects. If side effects do occur, they are likely to happen at the beginning of treatment, and are typically reduced with continued treatment or lower dosages. If any side effect should persist, become bothersome, or if an allergic or paradoxical reaction should develop, contact your doctor.

Expected Ativan Side Effects: Drowsiness and mild nervous system depression during the day following use at bedtime are normal and expected side effects of this medication. Normal use may cause mild central nervous system depression, but dosage should be managed to minimize this. Do not drive or perform any other potentially hazardous activities until you are familiar with your reaction to this medication and know how long it takes to clear from your body.

Common Ativan Side Effects: Dizziness, poor coordination, sedation, and weakness, are the most common lorazepam side effects. These effects are usually mild, but you may want to speak to your doctor if they bother you or persist.

Mild Ativan Side Effects: Altered appetite, amnesia, blurred vision, confusion, constipation, decreased hearing, depression, slurred speech, and sweating occur rarely to infrequently. While these side effects are not generally serious, you should discuss them with your doctor to determine the best course of action. Hives or rash caused by Ativan treatment indicate an allergy to the medication, and possibly to all benzodiazepines. You should inform your doctor and discuss discontinuing treatment.

Serious Ativan Side Effects: Difficulty breathing, hallucinations, low blood pressure, low white blood cell count, excitement or anger, porphyria, and seizure or tremor are all rare but serious symptoms and you should contact your doctor or seek medical treatment. Yellow skin and eyes, while rare, indicate a severe allergic reaction and liver damage. Treatment should be discontinued immediately.

Withdrawal: If you take Ativan for longer than four weeks, or at higher dosages, physical withdrawal symptoms are a possible result. Ativan treatment should never be stopped abruptly; instead, you should gradually decrease your dose according to the advice of your doctor. Possible effects include insomnia, ringing in the ears, shaking, tremors, sweating, and nausea, depending on the dosage and length of use before withdrawal. These effects are not generally dangerous, but their likelihood and severity can be greatly decreased by following your doctor's advice.

Overdose: An overdose is possible with Ativan, though is much more likely in combination with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants. Symptoms range from drowsiness, weakness, or an unsteady walk, to depressed breathing, stupor, and various levels of coma. Very rarely, death is a possible outcome.

Ativan Dosages

Ativan (lorazepam) starting dosages in adults being treated for anxiety are usually 1-3 mg daily, divided into 2-3 doses. A typical maintenance dose is 2-6 mg daily, taken in divided doses, with a maximum dose of 10 mg per day. The usual amounts prescribed for insomnia are 2-4 mg taken at bedtime.

This medication is available in the following forms: