Many of us live with high levels of anxiety. Often, stressful living conditions are seen as common causes for most anxieties. If left untreated, these stresses can soon turn into anxiety disorders. These may soon lead to being overwhelmed by seemingly mundane incidents or events. There are many types of such anxiety related disorders. Of the various types of mental conditions, the most common ones are social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorders (also, referred as GADs), phobia, etc. These conditions may be managed with a combination of multiple therapies such as medications, psychotherapy, workouts, limiting the intake of caffeine, etc. Among medications administered for treating these conditions, lorazepam is a widely prescribed drug. Though it may cause a few undesired side effects, doctors administer it to people who lead an extremely restless or nervous lifestyle. When your medical team prescribes lorazepam, always ensure to seek needful inputs to understand the side effects this drug may trigger.
Medical conditions such as anxiety disorders do not have tests to diagnose their incidence or severity levels. It often takes a qualified mental health professional to understand its onset as well as intensity of the condition. The approaches used by mental health professionals include a lot of questions along with some special reasoning tools. Most common symptoms of high levels of anxiety include increase in heartbeats, problems associated with sleeping (insomnia), dryness of mouth, pain in your chest, respiratory problems such as gasping, etc. A few people have also reported signs such as sweating profusely, pain in muscles, excessive levels of tiredness, dizziness, etc.
The reasons behind these mental conditions can often be misleading. Mental health professionals attribute them to (1) a prior event, (2) meeting with a specific person or (3) visiting a place. In some cases, the role of genetic conditioning or your gene make-up is attributed as a likely reason. At the end of it all, this branch of mental health is still evolving and more scientific breakthroughs are keenly awaited to understand its likely triggers.
Anxiety can be treated by (1) psychotherapy – health professionals employ cognitive behavioral therapy to understand the likely triggers and also how to keep them at bay; (2) prescribing a medication plan – this involves intake of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, antidepressants, etc. and (3) pursuing physical activities such as workouts, sleeping well and having a balanced diet, etc. Above all, it is considered a good practice to make a visit to a qualified mental health professional when your life is becoming restless or is filled with anxieties.
Lorazepam – Dosage and side effects
This drug belongs to a family of medications called as benzodiazepines; its main function is to work on your nerves as well as brain. Lorazepam helps achieve a proper balance of brain chemicals and enables relaxation due to its anxiolytic capabilities. It is also known for its ability to remain insoluble in fats or lipids. This is the main reason why – as compared to other anxiolytic medications – Lorazepam can have relatively more or prolonged treatment effects. This drug enhances both the presence as well as functioning of a neuro-transmitting substance called GABA (i.e., gamma-aminobutyric acid). Lorazepam is also known for its ability to relax your muscles.
Sudden discontinuation of this medication can lead to a few withdrawal-related discomforts; most common signs of withdrawal include nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, convulsions, decrease in appetite, pain in your lower abdomen, insomnia, etc. A few people who abruptly stopped taking this drug have also experienced fever, memory lapses and rapid heartbeats. Your physician may hence gradually lower the strength of its doses to avoid symptoms of withdrawal triggered by a sudden discontinuation of this drug. Those who have had prior episodes of mental disorders, substance abuse or an excessive dependence on alcohol are more likely to experience some of these withdrawal symptoms.
Common side effects of Lorazepam
This is a habit-forming medication. Hence, you are advised to take it strictly as per the advice of your treating doctor. Those who are taking this medicine for a fairly long time need to be cautious about getting addicted to it. If your lifestyle includes an excessive intake of alcohol, you may need to talk to your doctor about ways to avoid being addicted to lorazepam.
Most common side effects of lorazepam are blurring of eyesight, an altered libido, difficulties to pass stool, acid reflux, being drowsy or feeling dizzy and frequent spells of headache. In some people, this drug has triggered a few other adverse side effects such as slurring of speech-function, excessive tiredness, mental disorders including depression, mood shifts or symptoms of infections like soreness of throat, fever, common cold, etc. Other similarly serious side effects are discoloration of skin or eyes, convulsions, epileptic fits, respiratory problems such as slowdown of breathing cycle, etc. If you experience any of these adverse reactions or side effects, you are advised to talk to your physician without any further delay.
You need to remember that lorazepam is unlikely to cause major or life-threatening side effects. A majority of people who have consumed it has not experienced or reported near-fatal reactions. Also, your treating physician has prescribed this drug because of the benefits accrued from it outweigh the likely risks of side effects this drug may trigger.
Above all, you need to know that the aforementioned side effects or discomforts do not represent an entire list. So, if you experience any other side effects, allergies or adverse reactions – i.e., apart from those listed here – you need to talk to your doctor immediately. If you are living in Canada, you are advised to quickly reach out to Health Canada or contact a nearest poison control center. On the other hand, if you are a resident of the US, you need to get in touch with the emergency helpline numbers of food and drug administration (FDA) or call a poison control center closer to your home.
How to ensure safer intake of lorazepam?
People may be allergic to a few foods or drugs. Some of these allergies may be known to us while a few may remain unknown. If you have any known allergies or hypersensitivity to lorazepam, it is a good practice to tell your doctor as well as the pharmacist about such pre-existing conditions. You may either be allergic to the whole genre of drugs categorized under benzodiazepines – which includes medications like diazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam, etc. – or you may be allergic only to a few inactive substances present in these drugs.
In very remote instances, lorazepam has triggered a few acute allergies like inflammation of face or throat, severe respiratory problems as well as extreme spells of dizziness or other reactions like rashes on your skin. In all such cases, it is strongly recommended to take needful medical assistance as quickly as possible.
Prior clinical conditions
In order to ensure added safety, you also need to share details about your prior clinical conditions with your medical team. While sharing such details, make sure to include your family’s medical history as well as your own clinical history. You need to tell about all such prior conditions, especially ailments such as respiratory disorders (especially, lung-related conditions), hepatic problems like cirrhosis of the liver, renal diseases, sleep related disorders – mainly, sleep apnea or mental illnesses such as psychosis, depression, hallucinations, etc. Above all, if you have habit of taking intoxicants such as alcohol or have a record of abusing substances, you need to report about such habits to your physician and the pharmacist.
Risks of drowsiness
Lorazepam can make you drowsy and dizzy. As a result, your eyesight is likely to get blurred. In such instances, intake of cannabis (marijuana) or other intoxicating substances such as alcohol may lead to added spells of drowsiness. As a safety measure, you are not advised to engage in activities that may demand a high level of mental agility or nimbleness. Such activities include work done on heavy machinery, driving or any other tasks where alertness and a better coordination of eyesight with muscles are needed. Your treating physician will advise you to stop taking alcohol or limit the quantum of daily intake.
Your age and intake of lorazepam
If you are aged more than 60 years you may be more vulnerable to the side effects and a few adverse reactions triggered by this drug. Elderly people are more susceptible to adverse reactions of lorazepam – especially, side effects such as dizziness, lack of coordination, blurring of vision, etc.
In some elderly people, intake of lorazepam has produced counterproductive effects; for example – some elders have experienced an increased level of anxieties. A few older people have also reported problems like insomnia, frequent spells of nightmares or hallucinations, mental health conditions like depression, changes in libido, etc. A small section of older people have experienced accidental falls due to risks of fainting; such falls are often attributed to dizziness, lack of muscular coordination, insomnia and a few other adverse reactions.
Planning to undergo a surgical intervention?
The side effects of lorazepam – such as dizziness or drowsiness – have the ability to interfere with anesthesia administered prior to surgical procedures. Hence, you are advised to tell your surgical team about intake of anxiolytic medicines such as lorazepam. In general, you need to share needful details on all the other medications that you may be presently taking. The same precaution applies if you are planning to undergo a dental procedure or an intervention. As local or general anesthesia is often administered prior to a dental procedure, lorazepam’s dizzy effects may influence or interfere with pre-operative, anesthetic protocols. For this reason, your dentist needs to know about the intake of sedatives or medicines like lorazepam.
Are doses of lorazepam administered to children?
This drug may have limited or almost no effects on children. It is hence not administered to reduce anxiety levels among children. In fact, you might be surprised to detect counterproductive effects on children; the drug may actually increase their anxiety levels. Apart from making children more anxious, this drug can also lead to hallucinations, tremors or shakes as well as restlessness in them. For these reasons, your children’s doctor (pediatrician) may not prescribe this drug to them.
Is it safe to administer lorazepam to pregnant or breastfeeding women?
As lorazepam can harm the fetus, it is not prescribed to pregnant women. If you had taken lorazepam while you are pregnant, your baby – soon after delivery – may experience persistent spell of crying, respiratory problems such as slow down of breathing cycles, etc. Upon detecting these signs in your newly born baby you are advised to immediately talk to your doctor for needful advice. Also, this medication may make its way into your breastmilk. Hence, you are advised to talk to your physician if you are nursing a baby.
Risks of possible interactions of lorazepam with other medicines
Co-administration of lorazepam with a few drugs can lead to adverse side effects. For this reason, you are advised to share the list of all medications you are currently consuming. When you prepare this list, you need to include over the counter (OTC) drugs, prescription medications, herbal supplements, dietary-aids, nutraceuticals, etc. Once you have shared this list, it is not a good practice to stop taking any of these listed drugs without telling your treating physician.
Lorazepam is known to work adversely if taken along with kava, clozapine or sodium oxybate. Also, you need to stay cautious about taking lorazepam with medications that may cause drowsiness, respiratory problems or an intense spell of dizziness. Such medications include pain relievers of the opioid genre – like hydrocodone or codeine; anxiety-reducers or sleep-enhancers like zolpidem, alprazolam, etc. If taken with alcohol, you may experience an acute spell of dizziness or drowsiness. In general, your physician may tell you to either minimize or completely stop taking intoxicants. Your pharmacist may advise you to stay away from muscle-relaxing drugs as well as medications like diphenhydramine or cetirizine (which are broadly classified as anti-histamines).
As a general precaution to avoid risks and discomforts, it is highly recommended to read the instructions printed on the pack as well as ensure to stay aware of the presence of a few inactive substances. If you need additional information on such ingredients, you need to talk to your physician or pharmacist about the likely interactions as well as possible risks.
Risks and side effects of an overdose of lorazepam
Some people may forget taking a dose and may try to make it up by taking a double-dose of lorazepam. This is not a good practice. This practice can lead to overdosing and can result in several adverse side effects. So, if you have forgotten to take a dose of lorazepam and if the next dose is already round the corner, never take the missed dose. Instead, you are advised to skip the dose you missed. This is one easy way to prevent a likely overdose of lorazepam.
Some people have reported to have missed a few doses and can often find it difficult to come back to the dosage regime prescribed to them. Upon such instances, you are advised to talk to the pharmacist in order to reschedule your dosage plan. You can identify a possible overdosed situation through a few types of symptoms; the most common among the symptoms of an overdose of lorazepam include respiratory problems such as gasping, wheezing or being in a confused state of mind as well as a marked drop in consciousness. A few people have reported other serious side effects like fainting, slowdown of muscular reflexes, loss of coordination, fainting or passing out.
If you are starting a lifestyle change program that helps manage your stress levels or anxieties, it can lead to an increased level of efficacy of lorazepam. So, when you sign up with such programs, you need to inform your treating physician and pharmacist. They can help alter the dosage levels – for instance, with a reduced strength or frequency of intake – i.e., in line with the changes in your lifestyle.
How to store lorazepam safely and avoid likely risks of side effects?
It is important to know how to store lorazepam. Talk to your pharmacist to know about proper storage practices. It is not a good practice to store it in a place which is exposed to an excessive level of moisture, heat or light. For these reasons, it is also not recommended to keep lorazepam in your bathrooms. It is important to keep this drug far away from the reach of your pets as well as children.
It is not a good practice to give this drug to your family members, friends or colleagues at work who may have similar conditions. Such practice may put them to greater risks, and also it is not lawful to share this drug with others. Last but not the least, regular doses of lorazepam can change the working condition of your liver; hence, you are advised to monitor its working through a liver function test or through complete count of blood cells. Your physician may advise monitoring these essential parameters on a regular basis to prevent likely risks.
In sum, the common side effects lorazepam may trigger include acid reflux or heartburn, drowsiness, feeling dizzy, headaches, blurred eyesight, changes in libido and constipation. In a few people, adverse side effects may include slurring of speech, tiredness, depression, fever, soreness of throat, etc. In some rare instances, yellowing of eyes, seizures and respiratory disorders like slowdown of breathing may occur. Upon noticing any of these side effects or adverse reactions, it is strongly recommended to contact your treating doctor as quickly as possible.