Ativan and Alcohol

Mixing substances, also known as polysubstance abuse, is a common occurrence. Many people do so hoping to heighten the “positive” effects of each drug or do so without knowing the risk. A lot of people fail to realize that this also significantly heightens negative and dangerous effects. Whether accidental or purposeful, mixing substances always carries risk. As anxiety disorders increase in the US, there is also an increase in the amount of drugs used to treat the disorders. Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax are all drugs with a large number of prescriptions to patients who deal with issues like anxiety. Often people who are anxious also use alcohol to cope or they may simply have anxiety and consume alcohol for other reasons. Again, whether intentional or not Ativan and alcohol is a dangerous combination.

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a benzodiazepine meant for short-term management of severe anxiety and it is also in use as a sedative, muscle relaxant or tranquilizer. It is also the brand name for the drug lorazepam and falls under the class of psychoactive drugs. Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly misused and abused drugs.

Ativan is used to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervous tension
  • Psychological issues
  • Insomnia
  • Epilepsy

Over time, users begin to develop a tolerance. As a result, a person will need to continually up their dosage in order to feel the same effects. Subsequently, with Ativan being such a potent drug, it is rarely prescribed for periods over 4 months. 

Ativan, like other benzos, works by blocking the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter. In effect, this works to slow down overactive mental processes. It is commonly sold in a tablet/pill form and takes around 45 minutes to start feeling the effects. As it is a depressant, the side effects will include drowsiness and tiredness. Additionally, some other side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash

ativan and alcohol

Ativan Abuse and Addiction

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Ativan as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Per the DEA, a Schedule IV substance is one which has “a low potential for abuse relative to substance in Schedule III.” DEA definitions are based on a relative scale where the drugs are essentially compared in their potential for abuse. While the definition for Schedule IV includes “low potential for abuse”, it is important to realize that it is in comparison to much more potent and dangerous drugs such as Ketamine or Codeine. 

So, is Ativan addictive? Yes, because not only does Ativan create a physical dependence but it also creates a psychological one. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, benzo related overdoses have risen from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,537 in 2017- that is a 916% increase. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Ativan slows and suppresses the activity of crucial organs like the lungs. Importantly, the danger is that with enough of the substance a person may stop breathing.

Knowing the signs of an overdose can save your life or the life of someone else:

  • Pale, cool, bluish skin or lips
  • Very shallow, slow breathing
  • Over-sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination/motor skills
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unresponsiveness

Any overdose is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate attention. If you suspect an overdose always call emergency services immediately.

Combining Ativan and Alcohol

Ativan and Alcohol are both CNS depressants. Depressants work by depressing or reducing arousal or stimulation. Some side effects include slower breathing, cognitive/memory impairment, lower blood pressure, and lower heart rate. With enough of one depressant these risks are quite serious. Mixing drugs, and especially both being depressants, increases the danger. The risk of overdose increases significantly with multiple substances. Overdose does not always result in death, but it can still leave someone with lifelong health issues. Further, taking the drugs together may also lead to engaging in dangerous behavior such as driving or taking other serious risks.


Addiction is a complex issue. Treating it requires a unique and holistic approach to offer a person the best chance at recovery during and long after treatment. If you or a loved one are in need of help, please contact us today.

Kayla E

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