Long-Term Effects of Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse

Lorazepam is the generic form of Ativan, a powerful benzodiazepine that can treat anxiety, seizures, and sleep disorders. When used as prescribed by a doctor, lorazepam has been shown to be effective and safe. However, in addition to the potential for addiction, Ativan use can have detrimental short and long term effects.


Ativan was introduced as a safer alternative to barbiturates. Though it has a lower risk of overdose, it is considered addictive and its misuse can lead to harmful effects including physical and emotional problems related to the very symptoms it’s intended to treat. If used in excess, Ativan can worsen anxiety symptoms. Its depressive effect on the nervous system affects different systems of the body including cognitive processes, respiration and heart rate, and memory. When taken at high doses, these systems can be impacted.

Lorazepam and other benzodiazepines can cause confusion and memory loss. It may also result in impaired coordination and loss of balance that can lead to accidents that could cause bodily harm. When abused in conjunction with other substances like alcohol, the chance of harmful side effects increases.


Lorazepam acts on the central nervous system, causing the following short term effects:

  • Feelings of relaxation and calmness
  • Reduced stress, worry, and anxiety
  • Feelings of well-being or euphoria

In addition to these effects, which may desirable or necessary for reducing the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety, Ativan may also cause the following short term side effects:

  • Tiredness or drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Depressed mood


The risk of using Ativan long-term has been studied to uncover problematic side effects. These are typically compounded with long-term use of the drug since it has an effect on an important neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid). In some cases, these effects may outweigh the drug’s utility in treating certain disorders.

Mental Effects Of Ativan Use

Chronic lorazepam use can have a detrimental effect on several important cognitive processes. For instance, Ativan has been associated with memory loss and cognitive deficits including impaired learning and processing speed. Some of these issues can persist even after Ativan use has been discontinued. Other mental effects of Ativan use may include:

  • Reduced attention span
  • Psychomotor and visuomotor problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood disturbances
  • Mania Psychosis

Physical Effects Of Ativan Use

Long term Ativan use may also cause physical changes such as changes in appetite, sex drive, or weight. Due to its effects on the enzymes in the liver, Ativan use can lead to an inflamed or damaged liver and jaundice, wherein the skin yellows as a result of liver damage. Its sedative effects have also linked long term Ativan use to vertigo and loss of body control and coordination.

When paired with alcohol or other nervous system depressants, Ativan can also lead to severe respiratory depression that may result in coma or death. The depressant effects are synergistic and can be unpredictable when abused with other drugs.

Ativan Abuse And Overdose Risk

Ativan overdose can occur in one of two ways: when it is taken at a higher dose than prescribed or when it’s taken more frequently than directed so that the drug builds up before the previous dose has been metabolized. Ativan has a particularly high risk of overdose because lorazepam and other benzodiazepines are stored in fat cells where they can accumulate over a long period of time.

Overdose also becomes more likely when Ativan is abused along with other substances such as opioids or alcohol. When combined with other depressants, the effect of each drug is amplified, potentially leading to a dangerously depressed nervous system and loss of consciousness or death.

When Ativan is mixed with a nervous system stimulant such as cocaine, its sedative effects may be masked, leading users to take dangerously high doses of Ativan to get the same effects.


Long-term Ativan use may lead to tolerance and dependence, which makes addiction more likely. With higher tolerance, individuals may need higher or more frequent doses to achieve the same effects. Addiction may begin slowly and is typically marked by several behavioral signs including:

  • Taking the substance at higher doses or higher frequency than prescribed
  • Ongoing attempts to obtain more of the drug including forged prescriptions or doctor shopping
  • Neglect of work, social, or family responsibilities due to Ativan use
  • Legal or social repercussions caused by attempts to obtain Ativan
  • Inability to stop using Ativan even after repeated attempts to quit

Ativan Dependence And Withdrawal

Dependence develops when the body becomes accustomed to a substance like Ativan, requiring higher doses for it to have the same effect or any effect at all. Prolonged use increases the likelihood of Ativan dependence, and once physical dependence is established, attempts to quit will lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal occurs when the body is deprived of a substance it has become used to functioning with. When the substance is suddenly removed, the body undergoes a withdrawal period as it attempts to restore normal functioning without the use of the drug. The resulting physical symptoms make it difficult for individuals to quit a drug once dependence has been established.

Ativan withdrawal symptoms

Ativan withdrawal symptoms begin shortly after the last dose. These symptoms can include:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and other sensations
  • Delirium
  • Tremors or seizures

Long-term symptoms of withdrawal may also develop even after short-term symptoms have improved. These include mood and anxiety disorders as well as insomnia. Since Ativan is used to treat anxiety disorders, discontinuing its use can bring back some of the symptoms of the disorder the medication was prescribed to treat.

Ativan Long-Term Effects FAQs

Ativan Abuse Treatment at Riverwalk Ranch
A Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center

At Riverwalk Ranch, we can treat the long term effects of Ativan and other benzodiazepine use as part of our comprehensive addiction treatment services. Our medical professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area use a variety of research-based interventions to treat Ativan addiction and withdrawal along with other substance use issues and co-occurring disorders. Among other supportive peers and addiction experts, you will find a safe and comfortable place to undergo treatment.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Ativan abuse or addiction, contact our addiction treatment center today at (877) 863-3869. Whether you call Texas home or you want a change of scenery, Riverwalk Ranch can provide a therapeutic and supportive oasis for you. Everyone deserves a happy and healthy life free from addiction, and overcoming the long term effects of abuse can help you achieve it.

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