Ativan Addiction Rehab
The signs of Ativan, or lorazepam, abuse are not always clear, especially when the drug is prescribed for a legitimate medical need.
Everyone is different, but in general, someone who is struggling with Ativan abuse may take more than they are prescribed, combine the use of lorazepam with other addictive substances, seek multiple prescriptions for similar drugs from more than one doctor, or alter the pills before taking them.
The Appeal of Ativan
As a benzodiazepine, Ativan has a sedating effect on users. For that reason, it is frequently prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders and, in some cases, insomnia.
Even when used as directed by the prescribing physician, it is possible to develop a physical dependence on the drug. This issue can be addressed with a tapered detox under a doctor’s supervision on an outpatient basis. Since you are not misusing the drug, you are not struggling with addiction even if your body is physically dependent on it due to continued prescribed use.
When physical dependence is coupled with psychological dependence, a more intensive detox and addiction treatment plan are needed. It’s not enough to just address the physical dependence; the psychological dependence and misuse of the medication must be addressed to avoid relapse.
There are a number of different Ativan detox options: outpatient, inpatient, partial hospitalization, and combinations of these. Which one is right for you will be determined by the nature of your circumstance at home, your past experience with attempted detox and addiction, and whether or not you are living with a co-occurring mental health disorder.
How Do I Know if I Am Abusing Ativan?
It is not always easy to recognize the moment that your use of Ativan turns into abuse or when abuse turns into addiction, but an honest self-inventory can help to identify behaviors that can indicate a current or potential problem.
Everyone experiences Ativan abuse differently and the details may vary according to circumstance, but in general, the following behaviors indicate abuse of the drug:
- Using a larger dose of lorazepam than prescribed by the doctor
- Using any amount of Ativan without a doctor’s prescription
- Crushing Ativan pills before swallowing, snorting, or dissolving them in water and injecting them
- Purposefully taking lorazepam with alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs with the goal of increasing the effect
- Lying to others about whether or not you are under the influence of Ativan, lying about how many pills you have left or why you need refills, or lying about money or items stolen to pay for more pills
- Avoiding situations in which it would be difficult to get or stay high on Ativan
- Actively seeking out more Ativan pills or pills that have a similar effect to Ativan (other benzodiazepines), either purchasing them on the street or attempting to get prescriptions from multiple doctors
- Prioritizing the purchase of more pills over paying bills, buying food, and managing other financial responsibilities
- Trying to get your use of lorazepam under control, lower your dose, or stop using the drug altogether but finding it impossible to do so for any significant length of time.
If you have a history of substance abuse, or someone in your family does, talk to your doctor about this before taking Ativan. They may recommend an alternative medication or another form of treatment to address your issue.
How Do I Stop Taking Lorazepam Safely?
It is not uncommon to develop a physical dependence on any medication that is taken regularly for a long period of time. This physical dependence is defined by a tolerance, or a need to take an increasingly larger dose in order to achieve the same initial effects experienced.
Your lorazepam dose may rise incrementally, not only as you seek to find the therapeutic dose that works for your body type and metabolism but also to keep up with changes in your body’s tolerance level. Again, physical dependence is not the same as addiction.
Addiction is signified by compulsive behavior. You take lorazepam other than as prescribed, and you are unable to control that behavior even when you want to.
Suddenly stopping use of the drug can be medically dangerous. Thus, it is recommended that you undergo a slow and measured taper with the support of a prescribing physician.
In this way, your dose of lorazepam will be lowered slowly over time, giving your body time to adjust in between dose changes to decrease the experience of withdrawal symptoms and the risk of medical emergency.
When a psychological dependence on lorazepam is present (cravings for the drug compounded by compulsive use and a belief that it is not possible or desirable to be without it for any length of time), medical detox is required. The psychological component will make relapse inevitable if you attempt to quit use on your own, a dangerous prospect during a difficult time.
Medical detox includes stopping use of the drug with medical support on standby to manage any medical complications that develop. Usually an inpatient process, substance abuse treatment professionals are available to assist with the withdrawal symptoms that develop — both psychological and physical.
Tapering is often part of this process, but psychological support and medical care are available if complications arise. The tapering schedule is created and managed by a physician.
With support, lorazepam detox is a safe way to take the first step toward ending addiction to the benzodiazepine, but it is never recommended to take this step alone.
What Should I Expect From Withdrawal?
If you are living with a physical dependence only, what you experience during tapering will depend on the amount of lorazepam you are taking at the time you begin and how quickly you move from dose to dose.
As long as Ativan use is not immediately putting your life in danger, this is often a slow process, taking weeks or months to work down to a small enough dose that you can stop taking the drug completely. Some physical withdrawal symptoms may be part of the process along the way.
- Nausea and stomach cramps
- Increased anxiety or panic, especially if use of the drug began as a means of managing these symptoms
These withdrawal symptoms should be minimal. If they become intrusive, the doctor may increase the dose so they are minor or pass relatively quickly. You should be in contact with your doctor during this weaning process. If something doesn’t feel right, give them a call.
With each decline in dosage, there may be some level of withdrawal symptoms that will be impacted by the following:
- Your health at that time
- Co-occurring mental health issues
- Current state of stress
- Use of other substances
If a tapered approach isn’t used, the withdrawal symptoms listed above may be more severe and long lasting as well as potentially compounded by other symptoms.
- Cognitive impairment, especially issues with memory
- Heart palpitations or arrhythmia
- Extreme irritability, aggression, and/or panic
In serious medical emergency, seizure, heart attack, or stroke may occur if there are underlying medical disorders or complications. For this reason, medical supervision is always recommended for any benzodiazepine detox.
Where Can I Get Help With Detox?
Addiction treatment programs with access to medical facilities and those that offer a partial hospitalization program are best equipped to manage the nuances of lorazepam detox.
It is important to ask the right questions before embarking on detox. Make sure that the program you choose has the capability to support you all the way through the detox process and beyond. For example, you might ask:
- How do you address detox? Do you use any medications to ease withdrawal symptoms?
- What mental health treatment and support do you offer during detox and beyond?
- What credentials do your substance abuse treatment professionals hold?
- How do you handle medical emergency?
- How will you help me manage my chronic health problem, chronic pain, or co-occurring mental health disorder?
- How do you develop your treatment plan and what information goes into developing a care plan that is designed specifically to meet my needs?
- Do you work with my insurance company? If not, how do you manage financing and payments?
- What medical facilities and support do you have in the event of an emergency?
- What treatment services and support options do you provide when detox is over?
What Happens After I Finish Detox?
Detox is an important first step in recovery from lorazepam addiction, but it is by no means a complete treatment unto itself. If you simply withdraw from Ativan and end your physical dependence, without addressing the underlying addiction issue, relapse is almost guaranteed.
Addressing the physical dependence through detox will help you get to a place where you have the mental and physical energy to do the therapeutic work necessary to determine not only why and how addiction began in the first place but the changes you will need to make and sustain in order to build a strong new life in recovery.
All of the following components will play a role in the choices you make in treatment programs in the months after detox:
Just as the details of your detox experience were chosen based on your personal circumstances, experience with addiction, and related medical and mental health disorders, your progression through addiction treatment should also be mapped out in advance and tailored to meet your needs.
You should play a role in the development of your treatment plan, sharing your medical and mental health history, related circumstances at home, and your goals for your treatment experience. You are encouraged to talk about your past attempts at recovery as well, describing the treatments that have worked for you and the therapies that you are interested in trying.
Your treatment team should be able to guide you in connecting with the services that are most likely to have a positive impact on your experience in treatment. They should meet with you regularly throughout your recovery process to make changes as you meet your various treatment goals.
Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Most people begin an Ativan prescription to formally address an anxiety disorder. As a sedative, the drug can help to ameliorate physical and mental symptoms associated with panic and anxiety.
After detox, treatment often focuses heavily on how to manage those symptoms of anxiety. It can seem like those symptoms are even more disruptive after detox, so it is especially important to take advantage of all opportunities to manage the disorder without relapse. This may include the use of nonaddictive medication, lifestyle changes, and coping mechanisms that can be utilized in the moment.
Comorbid Medical Diagnoses
Anxiety can often manifest as physical symptoms and chronic disorders. It is not uncommon for someone living with anxiety to experience chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and other illnesses. In some cases, the anxiety is caused or exacerbated by the difficulties of living with a chronic disease.
In addition to addressing that anxiety through mental health treatment, it is important to also get treatment for co-occurring medical disorders. Physical therapy, nonaddictive medications, and lifestyle changes can all help to lessen physical symptoms, thereby decreasing anxiety and cravings for Ativan.
Most treatment plans will include traditional therapies like one-on-one therapy, group therapy sessions, and 12-step meetings or something similar to create the foundation of recovery post detox. However, alternative therapies and holistic treatment options can round out your treatment plan and help you find creative and experiential ways of addressing past trauma and discerning a path forward in recovery.
Some alternative therapies that may be of value include:
- Cultural-specific therapies.
- Skills training.
- Expressive therapies, like music therapy or art therapy.
- Mindfulness-based therapies.
- Movement-based therapies, like dance therapy or sports therapies.
- Holistic treatments like acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, and tai chi.
The objective is to choose therapies that will have a positive impact on every area of your life that could potentially throw roadblocks in your path in recovery. In therapy, you’ll address anxiety, depression, family relationships, work and career, self-esteem and confidence, pain, trauma, and addiction.
Long-Term Aftercare & Support
Addiction is a lifelong disease, and though there are effective treatment options available, there is no cure. This means that active attention to recovery is recommended in the years following detox. Learning how to live without Ativan means learning how to live without the use of alcohol, marijuana, or any addictive substance, and it can take time to develop a lifestyle that truly supports ongoing sobriety.
Connecting with a community of peers in recovery can help you to feel less isolated and give you continual insight into how others are making it work without drug or alcohol use. Knowing that you have people to call, meetings to attend regularly, and places to go with people who are also sober is essential to making it work for the long term in recovery.
The Ativan recovery program you choose should provide you with an ongoing plan to address treatment as you transition back home. As with all aspects of recovery, your treatment plan after addiction treatment should be uniquely designed to suit your needs, but may include:
- Referrals for local therapists or a case manager to meet with regularly.
- Dates and times of local group meetings, like 12-step meetings.
- Ideas for continued therapies that were effective for you during drug rehab.
- Some outpatient options if transitioning from a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program.
- Aftercare support or alumni groups that meet after the completion of treatment.