The world is a stressful place.
It is only natural to feel the occasional sense of anxiety—or even panic—when things at home, work, or school are not going well. Generally, once the immediate cause of the stress has been dealt with, we are able to put that anxiety behind us and return to a much calmer state of mind.
But for some people, feelings of anxiety and panic never seem to subside, even when they cannot identify a cause or reason for the anxiety. If that sounds familiar, you would likely benefit from talking with a doctor or therapist. Getting anxiety under control can improve your overall quality of life.
To that end, your doctor might suggest trying one of the pharmaceuticals known as benzodiazepines—or benzos—in an effort to help you find a lasting sense of calm. Xanax (the generic name is alprazolam), for example, is an effective benzo for treating anxiety disorders. It is also one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States (if you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone!).
In a perfect world, people who deal with chronic anxiety could safely turn to benzos for relief and all would be well. But benzos come with some significant dangers that must be kept in mind.
Let’s look at how benzos work—and the ways in which things can go wrong.
Slowing Down the Racing Mind
A number of drugs fall into the benzo category, including (but not limited to) Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, Valium, and Xanax. But no matter what any given benzo is called, they all work the same way.
Benzos are central nervous system depressants—they work by reducing the amount of activity in the brain. Those who struggle with panic and anxiety frequently describe the experience in terms of their minds racing, flitting from one issue to another without pause. Benzos work by applying the brakes to the runaway brain.
So far, so good. The relief provided by a benzo can feel absolutely amazing to an individual whose daily experience has been colored by ongoing anxiety. But that euphoric feeling can be very seductive, indeed. And so it is sometimes all too easy to start using benzos in inappropriate ways—ways that can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
Examining Ativan Addiction
Ativan (the generic name is lorazepam) is among the more powerful of the benzos. A person might develop a dependence on the drug if they take more than prescribed or find a way to extend their use beyond the original prescription. In some cases, a person who follows the instructions faithfully may still find themselves developing a tolerance for the drug—and a need to take more of it to find the calm they so desperately desire.
The markers of a problem with Ativan can be divided into two categories: physical symptoms and psychological symptoms.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite and/or nausea and vomiting
- Headaches, tremors, and/or excessive sweating
- Confusion, dizziness, and/or hallucinations
- Fainting and/or excessive sleeping
Psychological symptoms may include:
- So-called “doctor-shopping” in search of multiple prescriptions
- A lack of interest in activities that were formerly enjoyed
- Lying about Ativan use or using the drug as a coping mechanism all of the time
- Broken relationships and/or legal and financial problems related to drug use
If you start recognizing any combination of these symptoms in yourself—or if someone who cares about you brings them to your attention—it is well past time to stop taking Ativan.
Unfortunately, stopping is not simply a matter of setting the drug aside. If you have been misusing Ativan, you have set yourself up for a challenging period of withdrawal.
Wrestling with Withdrawal
Ironically, one of the symptoms of withdrawal from Ativan—a drug intended to help calm anxiety—is, in fact, increased feelings of anxiety. That anxiety is likely to be accompanied by strong cravings for the drug as well as an increased danger that you will develop a depression-centered mental health disorder in addition to the anxiety/panic disorder you have been attempting to overcome.
The physical symptoms of withdrawal are similar to those listed above, but may also include:
- Heart palpitations, an increased heart rate, and/or increased blood pressure
- Abdominal cramping
- Seizures (in rare cases)
If you are struggling with Ativan or one of the other benzos, you may feel stuck between the dangers of continuing to take the drug and the dangers of quitting. It might feel hopeless.
But it isn’t.
The Aviary Recovery Center Can Help
The team at The Aviary Recovery Center can help you overcome a substance use disorder. From medically supervised detoxification to a robust rehabilitation program, we have the expertise and compassion necessary to help you regain your sobriety and build a strong foundation for your ongoing recovery.
We can also address any co-occurring mental health disorders—including the feelings of panic or anxiety that led you to seek relief via a benzo in the first place. Good mental health and long-term sobriety are strongly linked to one another, so we are committed to helping you gain and maintain both. If you are struggling, we are ready to help.