Ativan is a brand name of the generic drug lorazepam. Ativan is included in the class of drugs benzodiazepine, and is classified as a CNS (central nervous system) depressant. These are classified as sedative/hypnotic drugs. Ativan is prescribed for short-term use. Ideally, two to four weeks is the preferred length of time for prescribed use. Primarily taken for anxiety, it may also be prescribed as a treatment for insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, accompanying nausea and vomiting from radiation and chemotherapy, epilepsy, and alcohol withdrawal during detox.

Pre-existing conditions, diagnosed or underlying, such as depression or psychosis may emerge. Other symptoms may escalate when under the influence of benzodiazepines (Ativan). Inform your doctor of all current prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some medications may not work, or may respond differently, when taken with Ativan.

Ativan suppresses the central nervous system to produce a tranquillizing effect. This drug works by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Ativan comes in a tablet, and as a liquid, to be taken orally. Ativan is also administered by Intravenous injection. It is imperative that vital signs be strictly monitored in a medical setting if this medication is used intravenously.

Street names

Some street names used for Ativan are interchangeable with other benzodiazepine drugs (e.g. Benzos) and any other CNS depressant (e.g. “downers”).

  • Benzos
  • Downers
  • Nerve pills
  • Tranks
  • Roofies
  • Roches
  • R2
  • Goofballs
  • Stupefy

Drug Classification

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has classified Ativan as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Substances in this schedule have a low potential for abuse. In the short-term, the effects of Ativan are positive and include a lessening of anxiety and sleeplessness. If use continues beyond 4-6 months, the patient will develop a tolerance to the medication which will be marked by a sharp decline in its effectiveness. It is at this point that a patient is in danger of abusing the drug.

Effects of Use

Immediately noticeable effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Calm
  • Relaxed demeanor
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash

Severe reactions that may accompany Ativan use:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Agitation/hostility
  • Hallucinations
  • Fainting

Ativan used alone, or in combination with other depressants, can potentially lead to fatal respiratory distress.


Lorazepam was first produced in 1977 by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals using the brand names Ativan and Temesta. Developed by D.J. Richards, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals held the patent on the drug. Benzodiazepine drugs (e.g. Ativan) became widely prescribed by the end of the 1970’s, and quickly became the favored sedative/hypnotic medication as they were deemed to be a safer alternative to barbituates. Benzodiazepine has been produced and marketed under more than 70 brand names.

Signs of abuse

Ativan abuse will present with a wide range of social, psychological, and physical symptoms.

  • Problems at work (performance, attendance)
  • Family (avoidance, irritability, undependable, mood swings)
  • School (attendance, grades, social problems)
  • Personal relationships (isolation, mood swings, avoidance)
  • Financial instability (debt, impact on credit, eviction, foreclosure)
  • Confusion
  • Depression / Thoughts of suicide
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability & agitation
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Numbness & tingling of extremities
  • Vision Problems


Symptoms of withdrawal may be seen with in use for as little as one week. Signs and indications are often similar to those seen with alcohol withdrawal. The dosage and length of time that Ativan has been consumed on a regular basis will have an impact on the severity and duration of the withdrawal period.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Dysphoria
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and smell
  • Perceptual distortions
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Myalgia
  • Agitation
  • Palpitations
  • Tachycardia


General support and measures to counter-act withdrawal symptoms are utilized. Gradual, supervised tapering of Ativan use is currently the safest way to begin withdrawal. However, some patients need or desire to achieve immediate cessation and detox. These patients are given activated charcoal to limit the absorption of drugs left in their stomach. Patients are then admitted to the hospital and are held for observation and monitoring of vital signs. There may be further monitoring and treatment based upon the level of symptom severity. Do not attempt to self-treat or abstain without medical supervision. Abstinence syndrome, seen upon onset of immediate cessation, can result in coma, respiratory distress, and may be life-threatening.

Ativan withdrawal can be successfully managed by a specialized treatment facility. If you, or someone you know, have a problem with addiction please call any of our drug rehab treatment centers for further information. To locate a facility in your area that can provide the assistance you need, call 877-855-3470.

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