An Ativan overdose can occur when a person takes a larger amount of the drug than the body can readily process. Ativan (lorazepam) is a sedative medication that is liberally prescribed by doctors in the U.S. for the treatment of anxiety; other accepted uses may include insomnia or to relieve seizures in small children. Ativan has been classified with a group of drugs that are commonly referred to as benzodiazepines; these types of drugs affect chemicals in the brain in a way that creates the effect of reducing anxiety. Although Ativan is not recommended to be used for over 3-4 months in duration, it is not uncommon for doctors throughout the U.S. to prescribe this potent sedative to patients for a period of many years.
Although Ativan's potential for the relief of legitimate ailments such as anxiety and insomnia is high, so is its potential for abuse. The increasingly widespread availability of benzodiazepines such as Ativan is the reason that abuse of this medication has currently skyrocketed in the United States. What constitutes abuse of this medication is taking more of the drug than the prescribed dose, thus putting the user at risk for a potentially deadly Ativan overdose. Individuals who have used Ativan regularly, for a long period of time ,have reported developing both a psychological and physical dependence to the drug, making it difficult to discontinue the use of this medication, without some type of professional assistance. The sedative effects of Ativan have been reported to last significantly longer in geriatric patients; additionally, a much higher rate of Ativan overdose occurrences are reported in relation to elderly patients.
Ativan is listed as one of the three most commonly abused benzodiazepines and these types of drugs have accounted for over 50% of the drug-related suicide attempts involving pharmaceuticals. The potential for an addiction to Ativan is much higher than with many other types of similar drugs because the medications peak effects last longer, which can induce a strong craving for the next dose in the user. Because Ativan has been reported to be highly addictive and habit-forming, it should only be used by the person for whom it has been legitimately prescribed. A person who takes Ativan should not mix this drug with other medications that can cause drowsiness, such as antihistamines and cold medicines; additionally, Ativan should not be combined with alcohol, as this would intensify the drug's side effects, which may increase the likelihood of an Ativan overdose.
The side effects that are related to Ativan can include but are not limited to: drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, sleep disturbances, muscle weakness, lack of balance or coordination, forgetfulness or bouts with amnesia, difficulty in concentrating, noticeable changes in appetite, skin rash, and a feeling of light-headedness. The side effects of the drug that are more serious and less common may include: fainting, hallucinations, hyperactivity, agitation, hostility, depression, confusion, suicidal tendencies, and unusual thoughts or behavior. Ativan use has been reported to reduce a person's level of consciousness, which may hinder their ability to be fully aware of their present surroundings or actions; this side effect can increase the risk of the occurrence an accidental Ativan overdose, as the user may not remember that they have already taken the medication, and subsequently take another dose of the sedative.
A large body of medical literature has reported instances of severe psychosis when regular long term users of Ativan have attempted to withdraw from the drug without the benefit of professional guidance and support; additionally, deaths have been reported to occur from withdrawal-related seizures after user's have attempted to gradually reduce the dosage without professional withdrawal-related assistance. An Ativan user should never abruptly discontinue this medication, if they have taken it regularly for any significant amount of time, as severe and sometimes fatal side effects have been reported to occur.
It is imperative that a person seeks emergency medical assistance at the first hint of an Ativan overdose; the importance of this potentially life-saving action cannot be overstated. Ativan overdose symptoms may include, but are not limited to: confusion, drowsiness or comas, shakiness, slow pulse rate and heartbeat, slurred speech, staggering, trouble breathing, muscle weakness, convulsions, seizures, and in some instances, withdrawal from the drug has been reported to cause death.
The medical treatment that is related to an Ativan overdose will vary, and may include the administration of various medications, which could include a popular antidote that is known as Flumazenil (Romazicon) or pumping the individual's stomach; additional supportive medical treatments may be necessary based on the specific complications that occur.