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By Kajal Jain

M. Pharm

17 December 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kajal Jain
M. Pharm
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Table of Contents

When your stomach gives you trouble or is upset, you might naturally think back to the last couple of meals to find out the cause. But apart from the food, it could even be your medication giving you gastrointestinal side effects. These medicines include prescription and nonprescription or over-the-counter (OTC) products. 

Although these medications are usually safe and effective, harmful effects may occur in some people. Such drugs can mess with the digestive system in various ways, leaving you backed up. It can irritate your stomach lining causing stomach bleeding and ulcers. 

Constipation is a gastrointestinal disorder in which stool is dry and hard to pass. With over 6 billion prescriptions dispensed in 2021 in the United States, such adverse drug reactions are high. Let us know if Ativan (Lorazepam) causes constipation or gastrointestinal disorders.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan, also well known as Lorazepam, is a sedative/hypnotic or anxiolytic drug from the benzodiazepine class. It helps to treat Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, generalized Anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social phobias. It is also used for the short-term relief of Anxiety symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, nervousness, trembling, excessive sweating, and weakness or lack of concentration.

This drug comes in two forms, i.e., 

  • A tablet suitable for children 12 years and older and adults to treat:
    • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    • Anxiety symptoms
  • A solution, given by IM or IV bolus, which is used in adults:
    • before surgery to make you sleep
    • to treat status epilepticus 

It can be taken by adults and children 13 years and older for Anxiety. It can also be taken by adults and children of 5 years or older as a "pre-medication."

How Does Ativan Work?

Ativan acts on the GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors) to slow down the Central Nervous System (CNS). This reduces excess excitement and agitation in the brain, inducing a calming and relaxing effect.

Ativan can also reduce the intensity of panic attacks and Anxiety by depressing the CNS. 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. It should only be consumed briefly to avoid any adverse consequences.

Is Ativan A Controlled Substance?

Although benzodiazepines are ranked as Schedule IV controlled substances, misusing them can still be dangerous. Abusing medications such as Ativan (Lorazepam) can easily cause dependence on the drug. Misuse is classified as taking more medicine than recommended or taking longer than intended.

Ativan is a benzodiazepine most commonly used as an anti-anxiety medication, but it may also be used to manage seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Ativan is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance because it has a relatively high potential for abuse compared to other substances.

Does Ativan Have Withdrawal Symptoms?

Suppose an individual has been using a drug with a high potential for dependency and discontinues taking it suddenly or abruptly. In that case, the person is likely to experience various withdrawal symptoms. 

The duration and intensity of these symptoms can vary widely, depending on the individual's biological capacity for the drug and the type consumed. Working closely with medical practitioners to safely detox from drugs like Ativan is essential.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with Ativan include-

  • Headache
  • Rebound Anxiety and insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Depersonalization
  • Confusion or cognitive problems
  • Derealization
  • Seizures
  • Depression or dysphoria
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Tremors
  • Tachycardia 
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia
  • Hyperthermia 

Why Does Constipation Happen After Consuming Medicine?

Constipation is a medical condition when you do not have the usual bowel movements, as your stool is painful and hard to pass. You may have cramps, nausea, feeling of fullness, mild pain in the abdomen, or it might cause bleeding or infection. 

Features defining constipation include 

  • A feeling of not emptying your abdomen.
  • Your stools are dry and hard.

Constipation is the most frequent gastrointestinal problem in the United States. At least 2.5 million people visit the doctor yearly due to this medical condition.

In general, and after consuming medicine, constipation may occur when the colon absorbs excess water from waste (stool), which dries out the chair, making it hard in consistency and difficult to pass from the body. Various causes of constipation include lifestyle choices, medical conditions, medications, and pregnancy.

Medications that cause constipation include-

  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen 
  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine
  • Strong analgesics such as codeine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone 
  • Antacids containing aluminum or calcium, such as Tums
  • Antinausea medications such as ondansetron 
  • Iron pills
  • Calcium channel blockers such as diltiazem, verapamil, and nifedipine 
  • Beta-blockers such as Atenolol
  • Tricyclic antidepressants such as Amitriptyline 

Does Ativan Cause Constipation?

Ativan is a benzodiazepine commonly used as an anxiolytic and sedative in the inpatient owing to its fast onset of action (1 to 3 minutes) when administered as an IV bolus. It is also one of the few sedatives/hypnotics with a relatively clean side effect profile. Studies of the drug Ativan for Anxiety didn't evaluate whether taking it longer than four months is safe.

Some people who are taking Ativan report having constipation after administration. This drug may affect the colon's muscle activity or bind intestinal liquid, making the stool hard. However, this side effect might disappear after a specific period. Talk with your doctor if it doesn't get better or is bothersome.

What To Do: If You Are Constipated After Consuming Ativan

If an individual experiences symptoms of constipation caused by any medicine, say anti-anxiety or antidepressant, some self-care strategies can help you find relief:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol that can contribute to dehydration.
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Consume prunes or bran cereal
  • Eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Use stool softeners or laxatives if other measures to relieve constipation fails. Do not take laxatives for longer than two
  • weeks. The overuse of laxatives can make your symptoms worse.
  • Take fiber supplements
  • Limit your daily intake of fatty foods, including eggs, cheese, and meat
  • Do not read or use your phone or other devices while trying to move your bowels.

Does Ativan Affect Digestion?

Some medicines cause muscle activity and nerves to slow down in the stomach. This slow down of activity causes the contents of the abdomen to empty at a slower rate than usual. Drugs that may cause this delay include anticholinergic drugs.

Ativan is an anxiolytic drug that makes you feel calm and relaxed. You may also feel less worried or tense without the prescription. Ativan is addictive and can significantly impact appetite, eating habits, and weight fluctuations. Ativan can sometimes cause heartburn and nausea. If any of the conditions persist, speak to your doctor. Your doctor might prescribe another anti-anxiety medication for the same.

Possible Side Effects

Various severe side effects may occur with the use of Ativan. The side effects of Ativan tend to be more potent 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
Lightheadedness Agitation, aggression
Drowsiness or sleepiness Low blood pressure
Unsteadiness Suicidal thoughts
Sedation Convulsions or seizures
Dizziness Erectile dysfunction
Muscle weakness Allergic reactions
Depression Swelling on lips/tongue
Changes in libido (sex drive) Breathing difficulty

Precautions That Should Be Taken?

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

  • Kidney or liver problems: The renal or hepatic disease affects how your body breaks down medicine after taking a dose. You might be prescribed a different dose of Ativan.
  • Breathing disorders: Ativan can slow breathing rate. People with COPD, sleep apnea, or other breathing disorders should be cautious with this medicine.
  • Allergic reaction: Avoid taking Ativan if you are allergic to this drug or its ingredients.
  • Acute narrow-angle glaucoma: Ativan might increase eye pressure, worsening glaucoma. 
  • Depression: Ativan and other benzodiazepine drugs can worsen the symptoms of depression. 
  • Pregnancy: Ativan should be avoided during pregnancy; it might affect the newborn baby.
  • Breastfeeding: Ativan should be avoided while breastfeeding; Ativan can mix in breast milk.

Drugs That Interact With Ativan?

Ativan can interact with several medications. Different interactions can cause various effects and interfere with how well a drug acts. It should not be taken with other benzodiazepine medications such as alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam 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 
  • Sleeping medications such as zolpidem 
  • Narcotic pain medication such as morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol, clozapine, risperidone
  • Opioid cough medications such as codeine cough syrup
  • Barbiturates such as phenobarbital
  • Cannabis

Ativan can also interact with certain herbs, supplements, and foods such as Kava Kava, Lavender, and Melatonin.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Several medicines, although safe and effective, may affect the digestive system. Ativan is a benzodiazepine drug that helps to treat Anxiety and panic attacks. This drug causes some side effects that are more severe with high doses.
Some people who were taking Ativan reported having constipation after administration. However, side effects might go away after a specific period. Check with your medical practitioner if you have any concerns about your medicine or if your medical condition does not improve.

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