What is Ativan?
Anxiety disorders are the common type of mental illness in the U. S., which is affecting approximately 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) each year. These individuals are unfortunately six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not have any anxiety disorders. Even though these conditions are highly treatable, less than half of those suffering receive treatment until their disease is out of control, requiring hospitalization. The exact source of anxiety is not known, but clinicians believe that these disorders are caused by a complex set of risk factors that include genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events or PTSD.
It is not uncommon for someone who has an anxiety disorder also to be diagnosed with depression; in fact, approximately one-half of those diagnosed with depression have an anxiety disorder. With such staggering statistics, there is no wonder the mental health community has been pushing for expanded research and treatment options for this population. Benzodiazepines are a group of medications designed to affect specific chemical imbalances in the brain.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are primarily used to treat anxiety disorders but may be useful in treating certain off-label conditions as well. The exact way in which benzos work is not fully understood, but it is believed that they affect specific neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that nerves release to communicate with other nerves. Researchers believe that anxiety causes include overactive nerves. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that performs the function of suppressing the activity of these nerves. Benzodiazepines are an effective treatment method because they reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of GABA.
Several benzodiazepines are marketed under various names, Lorazepam (generic name, Ativan) is one of them. Lorazepam was patented in 1963 and became available to the public in 1977 for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Since that time, Ativan has been proven to be very useful in the treatment of these complex and all too often debilitating diseases.
What is Ativan used for?
Ativan is primarily used to treat anxiety disorder but can also be used off-label for patients who have epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and chemotherapy-induced nausea or vomiting. In those with anxiety, Ativan is used as short-term management for severe anxiety. This fast-acting medication is useful in treating sudden panic attacks. Because it can effectively reduce agitation and induce sleep, Ativan is also an appropriate choice for the short-term treatment of insomnia due to severe anxiety or night terrors.
While Ativan is often prescribed to treat those who have an acute case of anxiety or panic attack rather than a long-term depression or anxiety, physicians typically look to something suitable for long term use if the disorder is chronic in nature. Long-term use of Ativan should be avoided because it can become habit-forming or abused. When Ativan is prescribed, it is usually combined with other forms of treatment, such as cognitive or behavioral therapy, so that the medication can be slowly weaned from the patient’s system.
How does Ativan work?
Lorazepam or Ativan works like most benzodiazepines by depressing brain activity. It is considered a sedative that specifically targets the central nervous system by targeting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that is found in the brain. Ativan has a relaxing effect that helps stress and anxiety sufferers reduce overactive thoughts and promotes an overall calming effect on the body. This calming effect is useful in bringing someone out of a panic attack.
What are the side effects of Ativan?
Lorazepam can be habit-forming and should only be used as a short-term treatment method. Currently, the FDA recommends that it is not used for longer than four weeks. Do not stop taking this medication without the advice of your doctor. A sudden change in use can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including seizures. Misuse of Ativan can cause addiction, overdose or even death. Do not drink alcohol while taking Ativan as it can increase the effects of alcohol.
Although Ativan is an effective treatment, some individuals should not use this medication. Those who have a history of narrow-angle glaucoma or myasthenia gravis or those who’ve had an allergic reaction to Valium or similar medicine should not be prescribed Lorazepam.
Any medication of this type should be treated with great care to prevent an accidental overdose which can be fatal. Symptoms of an overdose may include extreme drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness, loss of balance or coordination, feeling light-headed and fainting. If you have unusual changes in mood or behavior, confusion, aggression, hallucinations or thoughts of suicide, contact your medical provider immediately.
All medications can have side effects, the list below includes some, but not all, of the most common associated with Ativan:
- Dizziness, drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Lack of balance or coordination
- Memory issues
- Unsteady feeling
Ativan has long been used to treat certain types of anxiety and depressive disorders effectively. Although it is not appropriate for long-term use, many short-term users report that it has been useful to control the onset of sudden panic attacks and moderate anxiety. Because of the propensity for abuse, providers encourage patients to monitor their medications closely.
If you believe that Ativan may help control your anxiety, talk to your mental health professional today. For far too long anxiety disorders have been hidden and not talked about due to the stigma attached. It’s time to bring this and other disorders to the forefront of healthcare. You don’t have to suffer alone, EzCare Clinic in San Francisco can help you. Promising new treatments and therapies can help you take control of your life once again. Ativan is one of the most trusted medications available to help patients today.