The current times are quite stressful. There are many facets of our lives that can lead to anxieties. These facets are our work life, relationships at home as well as office, etc. Modern medications help us tackle the resultant anxieties. But what are the side effects of such anxiety reducing drugs? Read on for more.
Ativan is a brand name of a medicine (whose generic name is lorazepam) administered for the treatment of stress and anxiety. This drug is categorized under a class of medications known as benzodiazepine medicines. Not stopping with anxieties, the drug is also prescribed for insomnia (for those having problems sleeping), cramping or seizures triggered by chemotherapy-related vomiting, etc. This drug also finds an added use while sedating patients under ventilator support.
So, what are the uses of ativan?
Ativan (a brand name of lorazepam) is used as a good substitute for antipsychotic medicines such as haloperidol, etc. These medicines are used in treating mental disorders such as schizophrenia, mood shifts, hallucinations and psychosis. Ativan sedates those displaying violent, aggressive and agitated behavior.
Ativan is given as a premedication to people who are mechanically ventilated. Its main use rests in its ability to inhibit formation of new memories. Its dose helps reduce the quantum of anesthesia needed to sedate patients. It is generally administered before procedures such as endoscopy, tooth extraction and other dental treatments. In such instances, ativan through intravenous route is administered nearly 15 minutes before these procedures; if administration is through oral route, the drug is administered at least 90 minutes ahead of the treatment.
Ativan is used as part of treatment plans for convulsions. It is considered to be more efficient than conventional anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin or diazepam) in offering treatments to epileptic seizures. However, more powerful drugs belonging to the barbital genre of medications are found to be more effective than ativan.
This drug is also used as a stress busting medication. However, FDA recommends against the use of lorazepam (and other benzodiazepines) as their effect is found to last for more than 30 days. But, certain benefits such as quicker action – especially against faster incidence of panic make lorazepam’s intake a good thing to reduce stress and anxieties.
What are the side effects of lorazepam?
No doubt, lorazepam has unique strengths like amnesic, sedative and anti-stress effects. But, it also triggers a few side effects. Commonly observed side effects of consuming lorazepam include confusion, drop in blood pressure, hangover, etc.
Long term use of lorazepam is discouraged because it can cause loss of cognitive abilities in people. Studies confirm that it may take no less than five to six months to reclaim one’s cognitive function from the time of stopping its intake. Clinical specialists note that the dosage levels of lorazepam can influence the severity of these side effects. Often, a minor dose of this drug is found to reduce the risk factors associated with its long term use.
Precautions to be taken before consuming ativan
Medical experts advise people with the following conditions not to consume this drug. These conditions are – patients with chronic renal problems, those with high level of dependence on alcohol, ophthalmic patients with narrow-angle glaucoma, etc. Those with known allergies or hypersensitivity to lorazepam are also advised not to take this medicine. Moreover, it is not recommended for people with prior history of muscular cramping and those suffering from sleep apnea. Women who are planning to get pregnant, already pregnant or those who are nursing a baby must inform about it to their treating doctor.
If you are suffering from renal or hepatic dysfunction, you need to inform of it to your physician even prior to starting the medication plan. If your health history or family’s medical history has mood related disorders or mental problems, such facts also need to be communicated to your doctor well in advance.
In terms of age of patients, intake of lorazepam is not advised for elderly patients as well as children. Loss of cognition experienced among elders is only partially reversed, and hence dosages to elders need to be in as smaller doses as possible. This drug can trigger accidental falls among elderly patients. In some instances, such falls may lead to fractures or other serious bone-related injuries or displacements. Similarly, it has to be ensured that children are not taking this drug. As a common precaution, patients need to be aged at least 18 years.
Given the risk factors, dosages administered for elders are in general for a shorter duration (less than 15 days) and the dose is a fraction of the normal dose if given to younger patients.
Addiction to this drug
A longer spell of doses coupled with higher dosage levels can cause an addictive effect among patients. As the half-life of benzodiazepines is nearly 12 hours, drugs such as alprazolam, lorazepam, etc may create dependence. Over a course of time, your body builds a natural level of tolerance to this drug. As a result, symptoms such as insomnia, stress and anxiety may come back to the earlier levels. In essence, lorazepam can be a habit-forming drug. Also, it is categorized as a schedule IV medicine; it has a potential (though at a lower level than schedule II or III medications) to be abused.
People who have been treated with lorazepam for more than 30 days may show some withdrawal symptoms. In general, a long term use of lorazepam – say, for about 6 months – has been found to deteriorate the efficacy of the drug. So, the initial doses may help reduce the anxiety levels. But, when this drug is continued for more than 3 weeks, other side effects and signs of dependence start to set in. These signs include sleeplessness, confusion, headache, dizziness, etc.
Drug interactions with lorazepam
Lorazepam can interact with alcohol, and hence those who have drinking habits need to be more careful about dosage levels. Your doctor may advise you to stop taking alcohol while taking lorazepam. Apart from alcohol, lorazepam can interact with hypnotic drugs (also called as sleeping pills / soporific medications) or opioids (drugs that can cause morphine-type outcomes). Lorazepam can lead to intensive sleep or deep sedation when given with drugs such as carbamazepine, phenytoin or carbamazepine. This effect is also more pronounced if it is consumed with antipsychotic medicines or sedative drugs – especially antihistamines. The drug may also interact with medicines – such as rifabutin – which are administered to treat respiratory disorders.
How long does lorazepam stay in your system?
As mentioned, its half-life is 12 hours. It takes 12 hours for its traces to get halved. The metabolism is done by your liver, and your kidneys help eliminate this drug from your system.
Traces of lorazepam can be detected by testing plasma or blood samples. Those who consume this drug for treatment purposes may have traces to the tune of 50 to 200 microgram / l. The same levels have been detected in people arrested for impairment of driving. But those who are on an overdose of lorazepam may have it to the tune of 350 to 900 micrograms / l. Lorazepam can stay in your body for a few days upto some weeks. In saliva, it can be detected upto seven to eight hours. In blood, it can be traced upto six to eight hours after the time of intake. However, if the dose is fairly strong, its traces can stay back for upto three full days.
In urine, it may be retained upto even week (at the utmost level). But, if you have taken a stronger dose and for a longer time span, the traces may be detected in your system for a longer duration – say, even upto 10 days. However, in your hair, traces may be detected for more than four weeks and in some cases even longer.
In terms of response time for action, it can vary based on the form. A shot of lorazepam can start working in 20 to 25 minutes. On the other hand, if consumed in a liquid or tablet form- the effects may take at least an hour to show up; it may take upto two full hours for the maximum effects of lorazepam to manifest.
In sum, lorazepam is consumed for the treatment of stress and anxiety. It is mainly taken to calm your brain. It belongs to a category of medicines called benzodiazepine. This class of drugs works on your brain and the central nervous system for bringing about a calming effect. You are advised to remember that lorazepam can make you dizzy. Hence, you are advised to stay away from activities needing mental alertness and physical agility. For example, do not operate heavy machinery or drive after taking a dose. This drug can stay in your system for upto 8 hours in your blood; if the dosage of lorazepam is strong, your blood may bear its traces for even upto 3 days.