Medications that are prescribed for a particular condition can often be misused or abused. Even when the drug is used as directed and supervised by a healthcare professional, it can cause unexpected results. A benzodiazepine called lorazepam is one of those drugs with a positive purpose; however, lorazepam side effects must be watched carefully.
What is Lorazepam?
The medicationlorazepam, also marketed under the brand name Ativan, is prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, or sleep issues associated with stress or anxiety. The drug can also be used to treat seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Primarily prescribed for anxiety, lorazepam has been proven effective for treating the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), including fatigue, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Lorazepam is safe and effective when taken properly, as prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional. However, as a benzodiazepine, it can produce a physical or emotional dependence or addiction, even when taken as directed. Dependence can develop after taking the medication for two or more weeks on a daily basis.
The risk of dependenceon the drug will increase with longer term use and with higher doses. The potential for becoming addicted is also increased in individuals who have a history of drug abuse or alcoholism or who have been diagnosed with significant personality disorders. These individuals should remain under careful supervision while taking lorazepam.
In addition, an individual should not take lorazepam if they have been diagnosed with narrow-angle glaucoma or have a history of an allergic reaction to the drug benzodiazepine, including Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, or diazepam. Since there are known lorazepam side effects that can affect breathing, the healthcare professional prescribing the drug should be aware if there have been breathing problems, including COPD and sleep apnea, kidney or liver disease, a history of depression or mood problems, an addiction to other drugs or alcohol, or suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Interactions with Other Substances
Dangerous lorazepam side effects can occur if it is taken with other substances, particularly alcohol and other opioid medications. Serious side effects when taking lorazepam with an opioid drug can include slowed and difficult breathing. In fact, the interaction can be fatal. Opioid drugs include medications used to treat pain such as oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and illegal drugs such as heroin. Cough syrup, sleeping pills, and muscle relaxers can contain medications that will result in potentially life-threatening side effects when combined with lorazepam.
Lorazepam Side Effects
Even when prescribedlegally and taken as directed by a healthcare professional, lorazepam can produce side effects in some people. Common side effects include a feeling of weakness, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, unsteadiness, loss of orientation, headaches, blurred vision, sleep issues, changes in appetite, amnesia, and sleep apnea. It can also cause depression in some individuals.
More serious lorazepam side effects include tremors, jerky movements, restlessness, and muscle spasms. The medication can also cause respiratory depression, seizures, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Since the drug has the potential for dependence or addiction, serious withdrawal symptoms can occur if an individual suddenly stops taking it, including agitation and a loss of a sense of self-worth. These withdrawal symptoms can appear when an individual stops using the medication, after as little as one week of taking lorazepam. Gradual tapering off the drug is a much safer approach.
It is possible to overdose when taking lorazepam. If this happens, call 911 or the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Overdose symptoms include impaired coordination, confusion, and slow reflexes. An overdose can result in a coma and death. A medicine to reverse the effects of lorazepam, in the case of an overdose, exists and must be given intravenously in a medical setting.
Help for Drug Abuse Issues
At Hope by the Sea, a southern California addiction treatment center, we work with you to begin the journey of recovery from drug abuse as well as mental health issues. We specialize in treating you as a whole individual, as well as your family members who are affected, so everyone can embrace recovery with as much support and momentum as possible.
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