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Ativan

Generic name: lorazepam (oral) (lor A ze pam)
Brand name: Ativan
Drug class: Benzodiazepine anticonvulsants, Benzodiazepines, Miscellaneous antiemetics

Medically reviewed by Kaci Durbin, MD. Last updated on Dec 1, 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

Ativan can slow or stop your breathing, especially if you have recently used an opioid medication, alcohol, or other drugs that can slow your breathing.

MISUSE OF ATIVAN 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.

Do not stop using Ativan without asking your doctor. You may have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the medicine suddenly after long-term use. Some withdrawal symptoms may last up to 12 months or longer.

Get medical help right away if you stop using Ativan and have symptoms such as: unusual muscle movements, being more active or talkative, sudden and severe changes in mood or behavior, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, or thoughts about suicide.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Ativan if you have:

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. If you use Ativan during pregnancy, your baby could be born with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, and may need medical treatment for several weeks.

You should not breastfeed while you are taking Ativan.

If you do breastfeed, tell your doctor if you notice drowsiness, feeding problems, or slow weight gain 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 prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Never use Ativan 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.

Do not stop using Ativan without asking your doctor. You may have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the medicine suddenly after long-term use.

Store in tightly closed container at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.

Keep your medicine in a place where no one can use it improperly.

Dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Anxiety:

ORAL:
Initial dose: 2 to 3 mg orally per day, given 2 to 3 times per day
Maintenance dose: 1 to 2 mg orally 2 to 3 times a day..

Usual Geriatric Dose for Anxiety:

ORAL:
Older or debilitated patients:
-Initial dose: 1 to 2 mg orally per day, given in divided doses.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Anxiety:

ORAL:
12 years or older:
-Initial dose: 2 to 3 mg orally per day, given 2 to 3 times per day
-Maintenance dose: 1 to 2 mg orally 2 to 3 times a day

Comments:
-The daily dosage may vary from 1 to 10 mg/day.
-The dosage should be increased gradually when needed to help avoid adverse effects.
-When higher dosage is indicated, the evening dose should be increased before the daytime doses.
-Use of anxiolytic agents is typically not needed to treat anxiety/tension associated with the stress of everyday life.
-Clinical studies have not evaluated this drug for efficacy in long-term treatment (e.g., greater than 4 months).

Uses:
-Management of anxiety disorders
-Short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety or anxiety associated with depressive symptoms

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 severe 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 should I avoid while taking Ativan?

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 or alcohol. A person caring for you should seek emergency medical attention if you have slow breathing with long pauses, blue colored lips, or if you are hard to wake up.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe drowsiness;

  • unusual changes in mood or behavior, being agitated or talkative;

  • 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).

Drowsiness or dizziness may last longer in older adults. Use caution to avoid falling or accidental injury.

Common Ativan side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness;

  • weakness; or

  • feeling unsteady.

After you stop using Ativan, get medical help right away if you have symptoms such as: unusual muscle movements, being more active or talkative, sudden and severe changes in mood or behavior, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, suicidal thoughts or actions.

Some withdrawal symptoms may last up to 12 months or longer after stopping this medicine suddenly. Tell your doctor if you have ongoing anxiety, depression, problems with memory or thinking, trouble sleeping, ringing in your ears, a burning or prickly feeling, or a crawling sensation under your skin.

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, or medicine for anxiety or seizures.

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

  • probenecid, aminophylline, or theophylline;

  • medicine to treat mental illness; 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.