Kajak jain profile image
By Kajal Jain

M. Pharm

02 January 2023
Medically reviewed by
CAN ATIVAN CAUSE HALLUCINATION
Table of Contents

Drug use is likely to cause side effects even when taken as directed, and its abuse can be physically damaging, leading to irreversible health conditions. Most benzodiazepines cause depression, Anxiety, delusion, and other side effects. 

Ativan is one such benzo drug for the treatment of Anxiety. Ativan is FDA-approved and ranked 48 in 2012 on a list of the 200 most frequently prescribed medications. In 2017, physicians wrote almost 26.5 million prescriptions for Ativan alone.

Hallucinations are unreal perceptions that can occur due to several reasons. Numerous drugs can cause hallucinations. Heavy drug use results in hallucinations most of the time. Opioids, including

Vicodin and Percocet commonly treat pain and other conditions and cause terrifying hallucinations in their users, significantly when misused.

Since Ativan is approved for Anxiety, does it also cause hallucinations? Let us know more about it further.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan, containing Lorazepam as its active ingredient, belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this medicine in 1977. It is a sedative/hypnotic or anxiolytic drug approved for the short-term management of Anxiety disorders, such as generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobias, panic attacks, or immediate relief of Anxiety symptoms in adults and children 12 and older. It can also be taken by adults and children of 5 years or older as a "pre-medication." 

Use of Ativan:

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Schizophrenia symptoms
  • Nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy
  • Improve post-operative symptoms
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

How Does Ativan Work?

Ativan acts on the GABA receptor to slow down the Central Nervous System. This reduces agitation and excess excitement in the brain, inducing a calming and relaxing effect. Ativan also reduces the intensity of Anxiety and panic attacks. The drug has fast-acting compounds that make it an effective solution to manage panic symptoms temporarily. 

The drug enters your system rapidly and lasts a few hours. Systematic clinical studies have not assessed the effectiveness of Ativan for more than 4 months. Thus, physicians or concerned medical practitioners should occasionally evaluate the drug's efficacy for the individual patient.

Ativan can rarely have the opposite of its usual calming effect. Symptoms of such effects may include agitation, irritability, violent behavior, confusion, and restlessness.
Ativan is a benzo drug that is a controlled medicine for Anxiety. It can also cause dry mouth due to anticholinergic effects.
Studies on Ativan use have documented that it can affect appetite and weight gain/loss. A decrease in appetite and weight loss are more common side effects of Ativan when the drug is taken short-term, whereas long-term Ativan use is more likely to result in weight gain.
Like many benzodiazepines, Ativan can elicit depression, confusion, and memory loss in those taking it.

What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are sensations or perceptions that aren't real. These perceptions are created in an individual's mind and can assure them of a reality that doesn't exist. Hallucinations can make someone believe they're seeing, hearing, feeling, or smelling things that aren't real. Seeing people, hearing voices, handling bugs crawling on their skin, and smelling odors are common hallucinations.

Different types of hallucinations include:

  • Visual hallucinations (seeing things)
  • Auditory hallucinations (hearing things)
  • Olfactory hallucinations (smelling things)
  • Tactile or somatic hallucinations (feeling things)

Hallucinations can be caused due to different health conditions. Common causes of hallucinations include

  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
  • Anxiety, depression, or grief
  • After surgery and anesthesia
  • A change or loss of vision, such as Charles Bonnet syndrome
  • Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease
  • Side effects from medicines

Sometimes hallucinations can be temporary. They can occur if you have a high temperature, migraines, or just as you wake up or fall asleep.

Can Ativan Cause Hallucinations?

Yes, there are chances of you getting hallucinations through the use of Ativan medication. This happens due to the active ingredients and the person's mental stability toward the medicine. Not everyone taking Ativan will experience the same side effects, but a few may get hallucinations.

Hallucinations refer to experiencing things that aren't real. Individuals have rarely experienced hallucinations in clinical trials of Ativan tablets and injections. If you experience hallucinations while taking Ativan, consult your doctor. They'll likely recommend a different medication for your condition.

What Can You Do For Hallucinations?

The treatment for hallucinations depends on their cause. Your medical practitioner might recommend lifestyle changes to reduce your hallucinations, like drinking less alcohol, avoiding drugs, and getting more sleep.

Apart from this, certain medications and therapies also help treat hallucinations, and these include the following: 

  1. First-generation (Typical) and Second-generation (Atypical) antipsychotic drugs help reduce the severity and frequency of hallucinations in people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
  2. Repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) helps reduce auditory hallucinations that don't respond to antipsychotic medicines.
  3. Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors or anti-cholinesterases may reduce hallucinations or delusions in the individual with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

What Are The Side Effects?

Various side effects may occur with Ativan, which tend to be more severe with high doses. If it appears that someone is in an overdose state due to taking Ativan or other benzodiazepines, get emergency medical help immediately. 

Common side effects

Severe side effects

Sedation

Convulsions or seizures

Lightheadedness

Aggression, agitation

Muscle weakness

Allergic reactions

Drowsiness or sleepiness

Low blood pressure

Dizziness

Erectile dysfunction

Unsteadiness

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

Swelling of lips/tongue

Changes in libido (sex drive)

Breathing difficulty (or respiratory failure)

Amnesia

Memory impairment

What Are The Precautions Of Ativan?

Before taking Ativan, please inform your doctor about your medical history or any medications, as they might interfere with the drug's performance.

  • Personal or family history of substance Abuse or addiction: Risks for Abuse, misuse, and addiction increase for those prone to addiction. Your healthcare provider may opt not to prescribe Ativan based on these added risks, or careful monitoring may be needed during treatment.
  • Acute narrow-angle glaucoma: Ativan might raise eye pressure, which leads to worsening glaucoma. 
  • Allergic reaction: Avoid taking Ativan if you are allergic to this drug or its ingredients.
  • Kidney or liver problems: Renal or hepatic disease affects how your body breaks down medications. Depending on your medical history, you might be prescribed a different dose of Ativan.
  • History of depression or suicidal ideation: Pre-existing depression may emerge or worsen during the use of benzo drugs. Your healthcare provider may opt not to prescribe Ativan due to these risks, or you may need careful monitoring and antidepressant medicines while taking this medication.
  • Breathing disorders: Ativan can slow breathing rate. People with COPD, sleep apnea, or other breathing disorders should be cautious with this medicine.
  • Breastfeeding: Ativan should be avoided while breastfeeding; Ativan can mix in breast milk.
  • Pregnancy: Ativan should be avoided during pregnancy. It might affect the newborn baby.

Does Ativan Cause Withdrawal?

Ativan was intended for short-term use only, but prolonged usage of Ativan for Anxiety and insomnia has become common. Taking Ativan for about three to six weeks daily, at prescribed doses, can cause dependence and mild withdrawal symptoms.

Ativan withdrawal is a challenging task. Around 40% of people on benzodiazepines for longer than six months are likely to experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue taking it abruptly. The remaining 60% will have mild symptoms. When your daily dose of Ativan is stopped suddenly or significantly reduced, withdrawal symptoms can appear in less than 8 to 12 hours.

Potential withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli like light and touch
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Hand tremors
  • Auditory, tactile, or visual hallucinations
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Headache
  • Abnormal bodily sensations (skin-crawling, goosebumps)
  • Hyperventilation
  • Panic attacks
  • Racing pulse

Is Ativan An Addictive Drug?

Ativan is a potent benzodiazepine with a higher potential for addiction and abuse. People with a history of substance or alcohol abuse or untreated mental health disorders are at higher risk of developing Ativan addiction. 

As a pharmacotherapeutic agent, Ativan is intended for short-term use. The usual Ativan dose for Anxiety is 2 mg - 3 mg/day, given in two or three divided doses. 2 mg - 4 mg is recommended for insomnia given at bedtime.

The standard dosage will typically have lasting effects for 10-20 hours. If taken beyond the point when it should be discontinued, the medication is unlikely to retain its efficacy.

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

  1. Withdrawal
  2. Increased intolerance
  3. An inability to fulfill work/school/domestic obligations without Ativan
  4. Spending a lot of time to get more Ativan (and to recover from its effects)

To ensure safe and easy recovery, all benzo drugs should be tapered gradually rather than quitting abruptly, regardless of the dose and duration of use. 

Ativan Drug Interactions

Ativan can interact with several medicines. Several interactions can cause varying effects and interfere with the performance of a drug. It should not be taken with benzodiazepine medications such as Diazepam, Clonazepam, Alprazolam, and Midazolam. 

Ativan causes drowsiness, so caution should be taken in combination with other sedatives. These include:

  • Other anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotic medications, certain anticonvulsant medications, and tricyclic antidepressant medications (such as amitriptyline)
  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine
  • Narcotic pain medication such as morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol, clozapine, risperidone
  • Sleeping medications such as zolpidem 
  • Cannabis
  • Barbiturates such as phenobarbital
  • Opioid cough medications such as codeine cough syrup
  • Ativan can also interact with certain herbs, supplements, and foods such as Kava Kava, Lavender, and Melatonin. 

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions1

Ativan is a potent benzo drug for the short-term treatment of Anxiety. Ativan, like other medicines, has a beneficial effect and a range of side effects, including hallucination.

Suppose an individual describes visual hallucinations or any visual disturbance to you. In that case, evaluating the nature of the hallucinations and the individual's medication use as you go for a treatment plan is essential. 

It should be noted that even drugs not usually associated with hallucinations can cause CNS toxicity in rare cases. Work with your doctor to decide on an adequate treatment for you.

What's on your mind?

Start a conversation, Post with kindness.