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By Kajal Jain

M. Pharm

03 January 2023
Medically reviewed by
CAN ATIVAN CAUSE DEPRESSION
Table of Contents

Ativan, the commercial name for the generic drug Lorazepam, is FDA-approved to treat Anxiety disorders and depression. Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% affected within the population. This includes a 5.0% rate among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60.

Throughout history, Anxiety has plagued humans. Although the symptoms of Anxiety disorders certainly have yet to change. How we treat this problem has seen numerous changes through time.

During the Middle Ages, Anxiety disorders were cured by bloodletting, dipping in a frigid river, or using a staggering number of herbs, balms, elixirs, and potions. Today, one of the medical treatments for Anxiety is Ativan.

However, an important research question remains: Are Ativan and depression connected? Let's discuss Ativan first.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is a brand-name prescription medication from the category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines or benzo drugs are "sedatives" or "tranquilizers." It is available in two forms: an oral tablet or an injection. The Food and Drug

Association (FDA) has approved the following:

  • Ativan tablets to treat Anxiety and Anxiety disorders related to depression. Ativan is approved for use in adults and children 13 years and older for these conditions.
  • Ativan injection to treat status epilepticus and help with adults' anesthesia. 

Facts About Ativan

Drug Forms:

  • Oral tablet
  • Solution for IV or IM injection given by your doctor or certified healthcare professionals.

It is a controlled substance and a Schedule IV drug, which means it has limited abuse potential and accepted medical uses.

Licensed medical professionals sometimes prescribe Ativan off-label. This means it is sometimes used to treat other specific health conditions which are not FDA-approved. However, some anecdotal evidence has been found helpful. These conditions include:

  • Panic disorders
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome and delirium
  • Preventing nausea during cancer treatment
  • Status epilepticus seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Psychogenic catatonia
  • Short-term use for insomnia
  • Relaxation and sedation before anesthesia

Ativan is quick-acting and is typically prescribed as a short-term treatment. When taken orally, most people who begin consuming Ativan will feel the effects in 20 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, it is effective within 1 to 3 minutes when given intravenously. 

How Does Ativan Work?

Ativan regulates the levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. It is an "inhibitory neurotransmitter." This chemical reduces the activity of other neurons in the brain and slows down the central nervous system (CNS). GABA reduces Anxiety by producing an immediate calming effect. 

Ativan can also reduce the intensity of panic attacks and Anxiety by depressing the CNS. It is a fast-acting drug. This makes Ativan an effective solution to manage panic symptoms temporarily. The drug enters your system relatively rapidly and lasts a few hours.

Can Ativan Cause Depression?

Depression is a medical condition that affects your mood, ability to function, and quality of life. Depressive symptoms include feeling anxious, sad, or hopeless. The condition can also cause difficulty with eating, thinking, memory, and sleeping.

Various factors can cause depression, including medical conditions, genetics, life events, personality, or brain chemistry. Ativan was found to exacerbate depression symptoms in some people. As stated earlier, it is a CNS depressant.

When it builds up in your system or if you take it at high doses, depression can worsen and even result in suicidal thoughts or feelings. Healthcare professionals should consider possible adverse effects associated with antidepressants, the ability to deliver either intervention, and individual preferences.

Benzodiazepines like Ativan may produce dependence (and possible addiction) even when recommended. It is NOT recommended to be consumed for more than 4 weeks.
Ativan tablets work in nearly 20 to 30 minutes, while the IV solution works in 1 to 3 minutes when given as an injection. Its sedating effect lasts for around 6 to 8 hours.
The half-life of Ativan is about 12 hours. It takes five half-lives for a drug to be removed from your body. Thus, it will take about 60 hours (5 days) to leave your system entirely.

How To Prevent And Manage Depression?

Depression influences the way people feel, think, and act. It can also affect physical health and other aspects of an individual's life. Depression can impact anyone and can occur at any age. Still, people are more likely to experience depressive symptoms if they:

  • have a physical illness, such as cancer
  • have experienced stress, trauma, or a life-changing event
  • have a family history of depression
  • are using certain medications or other substances

Many people take antidepressants to relieve depression, but various natural methods also help manage depression symptoms and reduce the risk of future episodes.

Avoiding or preventing depression is not always possible. However, some lifestyle choices can help manage symptoms and prevent their recurrence. The following activities may help individuals with risk factors or those living with depression manage or avoid symptoms:

  1. Avoid stressful situations
  2. Regular exercise can act as an antidepressant, including breathing or relaxation exercises before sleeping.
  3. A healthy diet can help prevent depression and boost mental well-being
  4. Adequate sleep of 7–8 hours can ease depression
  5. Avoiding alcohol and recreational drug use can relieve depression
  6. Talk therapy or psychotherapy can help people identify the root cause of depression and find practical solutions

Is Ativan Addictive?

Ativan is a potent benzo drug with a high potential for addiction and Abuse. Taking Ativan for any period leads to physical and psychological dependence based on various factors, including personal history, method of misuse, and genetics.

In 2020, 4.8 million (1.7%) U.S. residents of 12 years and older misused benzodiazepines. Among these, 1.2 million people were diagnosed with a prescription sedative use disorder. 

An individual's risk for addiction to Ativan increases with the following:

  • Taking prescription opioids simultaneously
  • Taking higher doses of Ativan over a long period
  • Personal or family history of drug use disorder

The following criteria may be warning signs for a developing Ativan addiction:

  • Having cravings to take Ativan
  • Taking more Ativan or taking it longer than initially intended
  • Spending a lot of time to get more Ativan (and to recover from its effects)
  • Developing tolerance to Ativan 
  • Giving up activities you previously valued due to Ativan use
  • An inability to fulfill work, school, or domestic obligations without Ativan
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Taking Ativan despite knowing it persistently causes or worsens relational or social problems
  • Repeated Ativan use in physically dangerous situations

In many cases, the risks of severe withdrawal require vigilant observation. To be safe, all benzo drugs should be tapered gradually rather than quitting abruptly, regardless of the dose and duration of use. This process is known as medical detox, an early treatment for Ativan addiction to ensure safe and easy recovery.

Does Ativan Overdose Cause Depression?

Different people overdose on different amounts of Ativan. Responsible healthcare professionals determine the appropriate dosage for Ativan based on the individual's medical history and their use of other medicines. Therefore, individuals must take Ativan precisely as prescribed to avoid overdose.

The signs of Ativan overdose are similar to overdose with other CNS depressants, such as opioids or other benzodiazepines. Ativan's most common overdose symptoms include respiratory depression, which causes an individual to have abnormally short and labored breathing. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Shallow blood pressure
  • Severe drowsiness and fatigue
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of reflexes and coordination

While these symptoms may not seem life-threatening, people must receive immediate medical treatment to prevent complications from an Ativan overdose. 
Ativan can also create specific side effects with continuous use. Common Ativan side effects that are not dangerous can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slight drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Calmness
  • Dizziness

It is also possible for people to experience confusion, memory problems, and fatigue while taking Ativan. It is essential to be aware of any side effects that appear extreme or markedly different from a person's usual behavior. 

Ativan Effects on Mind

Ativan interacts with the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain and increases the amount of GABA in the brain. Ativan also alters the communication between nerve cells, making a person feel relaxed and calm.

If an individual snorts Ativan (insufflation), the drug simultaneously hits the brain. This causes a fleeting but powerful high. Aside from that, the tranquilizing effect of Ativan is more substantial when snorted.

Ativan has severe hypnotic properties and may cause a brief episode of euphoria before the relaxation period. It is usually taken orally and may take up to 2 hours for a person to feel its full effects. The hypnotic properties of Ativan can also cause an individual to experience psychosis or hallucinations.

While Ativan can immediately impact the brain, abusing it may lead to long-term side effects. This includes permanent brain damage or memory problem such as amnesia. People struggling with Ativan addiction might suffer from memory loss or an inability to recall basic details about their lives.

Possible Side Effects Of Ativan 

Mild, moderate, or severe side effects may occur with the use of Ativan. The side effects of Ativan tend to be more potent with high doses. Many people experience mild side effects as they get addicted to the medicine, but these usually pass on their own.

If severe side effects occur, contact the doctor immediately. If it appears that someone is in an overdose state due to taking Ativan or other benzodiazepines, get emergency medical help directly.

Side effects of Ativan include

Common Side Effects

Severe Side Effects

Drowsiness

Allergic reactions such as hives, rash, or swelling on lips/tongue

Unsteadiness

Convulsions or seizures

Dizziness

Suicidal thoughts

Dry mouth

Erectile dysfunction

Changes in libido

Low blood pressure

Reduced ability to concentrate

Paradoxical reactions such as agitation, aggression, hostility, or rage

Lightheadedness

Breathing difficulty (or respiratory failure)

Muscle weakness

Life-threatening side effects if taken with opioids

In people who receive the Ativan injection, pain at the application site, redness, or deep skin color can occur.

Some of these side effects might disappear within a few days or weeks. Contact your prescribing doctor immediately if the side effects become more severe or disappear. 

What Are The Precautions For Using Ativan?

Let your doctor know about any other medical conditions you are suffering from. This is important since Ativan might not be appropriate for you if you have these conditions:

  • Allergic Reactions: Avoid taking Ativan if you are allergic to this drug or its ingredients.
  • Breathing Disorders: Ativan can slow breathing rate. People with COPD, sleep apnea, or other breathing disorders should be cautious with this medicine.
  • Acute narrow-angle Glaucoma: Ativan might increase eye pressure, worsening glaucoma. 
  • Kidney or Liver Problems: The renal or hepatic disease affects how your body breaks down medicine after taking a dose. Your doctor might prescribe a different dose of Ativan in this case.
  • Depression: Ativan and other benzodiazepine drugs can worsen the symptoms of depression. 
  • Taking Ativan in combination with opioid medications can result in life-threatening side effects. 
  • Using Ativan, even in a prescribed manner, can cause physical dependence and withdrawal if you abruptly discontinue taking the drug. Withdrawal of Ativan can be life-threatening, and its misuse can increase the risk of overdose and death. 
  • Pregnancy: Ativan should be avoided during pregnancy. 
  • Breastfeeding: Ativan should be avoided while breastfeeding.  

Ativan Drug Interaction

Ativan can interact with several medications. It should not be taken with benzodiazepine medications such as alprazolam, Clonazepam, and diazepam. 

Different interactions can cause various effects. For instance, some medications can interfere with how well a drug acts, while others can cause increased side effects.

Ativan causes drowsiness. Therefore, utmost precaution should be taken in combination with other medications that cause drowsiness. These medications include:

  • Other anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, and tricyclic antidepressant medications (such as amitriptyline)
  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine 
  • Antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol, clozapine, risperidone
  • Narcotic pain medication such as morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Sleeping medications such as zolpidem 
  • Opioid cough medicines such as codeine cough syrup
  • Barbiturates such as phenobarbital

Ativan can also interact with certain supplements and foods. Taking Ativan with herbs or other sedative supplements can cause excessive drowsiness. These include: 

  • Lavender
  • Kava
  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Melatonin

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Ativan is a benzodiazepine medication for short-term use to cope with extreme Anxiety symptoms. It has powerful effects on the brain, precisely its chemical composition. However, many users experience "rebound" products or worsening of the same symptoms that the drug is designed to treat. It could also exacerbate depression symptoms for some individuals.

When it builds up in your system, depression can worsen and even result in suicidal thoughts. Seek advice from a licensed medical professional for adequate treatment, and consult with your doctor immediately if you have any concerns about the medication or if your medical condition does not improve.

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