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Ativan

Generic Name: lorazepam (oral) (lor A ze pam)
Brand Name: Ativan

Medically reviewed by Kaci Durbin, MD. Last updated on Feb 12, 2021.

What is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines (ben-zoe-dye-AZE-eh-peens). It is thought that lorazepam works by enhancing the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

Ativan is a prescription medicine used to treat anxiety disorders.

It is dangerous to purchase Ativan on the Internet or outside the United States. The sale and distribution of medicines outside the U.S. does not comply with safe-use regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications may contain dangerous ingredients, or may not be distributed by a licensed pharmacy.

Warnings

MISUSE OF THIS MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

You should not use Ativan if you have narrow-angle glaucoma, severe respiratory insufficiency, myasthenia gravis, or if you are allergic to Valium or a similar medicine.

Do not use Ativan if you are pregnant. Lorazepam can cause birth defects or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in a newborn.

Lorazepam may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Misuse of habit-forming medicine can cause addiction, overdose, or death. Ativan should never be shared with another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

Fatal side effects can occur if you take lorazepam with alcohol, opioid medicine, or other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

Before taking this medicine

You should not take Ativan if you have:

  • narrow-angle glaucoma; or

  • a history of allergic reaction to any benzodiazepine (lorazepam, alprazolam>, diazepam, Klonopin, Restoril, Tranxene, Valium, Versed, Xanax, and others).

To make sure Ativan is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Lorazepam may harm an unborn baby. Avoid taking this medicine during the first trimester of pregnancy.

If you use lorazepam while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks.

It may not be safe to breastfeed while using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risk.

If you are breastfeeding, tell your doctor if you notice drowsiness or fussiness in the nursing baby.

Ativan is not approved for use by anyone younger than 12 years old.

How should I take Ativan?

Take Ativan exactly as it was prescribed for you. Follow the directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides. Never use lorazepam in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Tell your doctor if you feel an increased urge to use more of this medicine.

Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. MISUSE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.

Measure liquid medicine carefully. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).

Do not take Ativan for longer than 4 months unless your doctor tells you to. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse.

If you use this medicine long-term, you may need frequent medical tests.

Do not stop using Ativan suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Follow your doctor's instructions about tapering your dose.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep track of your medicine. You should be aware if anyone is using it improperly or without a prescription.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of lorazepam can be fatal if you take it with alcohol, opioid medicine, or other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, feeling restless, muscle weakness, loss of balance or coordination, feeling light-headed, slow heartbeats, weak or shallow breathing, or coma.

What to avoid

Avoid drinking alcohol. Dangerous side effects or death could occur.

Avoid driving or hazardous activity until you know how this medicine will affect you. Dizziness or drowsiness can cause falls, accidents, or severe injuries.

Ativan side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Ativan: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Lorazepam can slow or stop your breathing, especially if you have recently used an opioid medication, alcohol, or other drugs that can slow your breathing. A person caring for you should seek emergency medical attention if you have weak or shallow breathing, if you are hard to wake up, or if you stop breathing.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe drowsiness;

  • unusual changes in mood or behavior;

  • sudden restless feeling or excitement;

  • thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;

  • confusion, aggression, hallucinations;

  • sleep problems;

  • vision changes; or

  • dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

The sedative effects of lorazepam may last longer in older adults. Accidental falls are common in elderly patients who take benzodiazepines. Use caution to avoid falling or accidental injury.

Common Ativan side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness;

  • weakness; or

  • feeling unsteady.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Ativan?

Taking Ativan with other drugs that make you sleepy or slow your breathing can cause dangerous side effects or death. Ask your doctor before using opioid medication, a sleeping pill, a muscle relaxer, prescription cough medicine, or medicine for depression or seizures.

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

  • probenecid, aminophylline, or theophylline;

  • any other medicines to treat anxiety;

  • medicine to treat mental illness;

  • seizure medicine; or

  • medicine that contains an antihistamine (such as sleep medicine, cold or allergy medicine).

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with lorazepam, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Frequently asked questions

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Ativan only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.