Sometimes I am truly shocked how many good people become accidentally addicted to benzodiazepine medications such as Ativan (Lorazepam). I seem to get many emails about this subject, and unfortunately, I’ve also been through it myself. Even though Ativan and it’s sister benzodiazepine meds are known to be dependency causing, doctors in the US continue to routinely prescribe them to unsuspecting anxiety sufferers.
I remember well the extreme anxiety and physical pain of Ativan withdrawal; and in my case, my doctor never even instructed me to taper off of the drug gradually (like all the experts say you should), so I just quit cold turkey. Bad Idea.
My physical suffering, panic and anxiety after quitting Ativan was like nothing I had ever known (and this from a guy with anxiety problems from age 13!). The sad fact is that most doctors are simply ignorant of the tremendous damage that benzodiazepine dependency can cause. And if you quit using them cold turkey, as I foolishly did, there is a risk of suffering life-threatening seizures.
There are message boards all over the Internet where former Ativan users discuss the nightmare of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Symptoms such as severe panic, agoraphobia, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, heart palpitations, muscle spasms, trouble breathing, extreme insomnia, nausea, upset stomach, depression and painful cramps are not uncommon. And the most debilitating thing of all: benzodiazepine withdrawal can easily last six to 12 months, with a smaller percentage of users experiencing extended post withdrawal symptoms that can last up to five years! Talk about living through hell!
I wanted to point out the extreme risks involved in “popping” Ativan or other benzodiazepines as a way to reduce anxiety and panic attacks. Yes, you may get some immediate relief from your symptoms, but it’s a fools paradise, and the down side is potentially devastating.
More than once, I’ve had e-mails from former Ativan users who became dependent on the pills in as little as two weeks of regular use. Pharmaceutical companies are only now beginning to admit that benzodiazepines can cause dependency in such short periods of time. But unfortunately, most doctors are STILL not aware of this fact.
While it is true that Ativan can be helpful in certain very specific situations to control anxiety, a certain percentage of people seem to become addicted to this drug very quickly. Other individuals may better tolerate benzodiazepines, and be less likely to become dependent on the drug with short-term use. But who wants to take that chance?
Personally, I believe it is wise to be very skeptical of about taking any benzodiazepine. If you or any of your loved ones are considering taking Ativan or another Benzo drug, PLEASE have them visit some of the benzodiazepine withdrawal forums online (I can recommend http://benzowithdrawal.com/) and read a few of the personal accounts of former benzo users, and particularly those who became addicted very quickly to Ativan. And then run, don’t walk, away from these pills.
TIP: The ‘Instant Tranquility’ guided visualization session from www.easycalm.com has proven effective in helping benzodiazepine withdrawal sufferers to relax. You can try the “Instant Tranquility” guided visualization here.