Highlights for Ativan
Ativan is used to treat seizures that don’t stop (status epilepticus). This drug is also used to reduce anxiety in people who are about to have surgery. It’s given before you receive anesthesia to make you feel drowsy and decrease your ability to recall events related to your surgery or procedure.
Ativan comes in the form of an injection. It’s given by your doctor or nurse in a hospital or clinic. You won’t take it at home.
Ativan is a brand-name drug. It’s also available as a generic drug called lorazepam.
More common side effects of taking Ativan include drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, unsteadiness, low blood pressure, and excessive sleepiness.
Ativan may be habit forming. It can cause your body and brain to become dependent on the medicine. Using this drug with certain other medicines that affect your central nervous system can cause breathing problems. This may be fatal.
What is Ativan?
This drug is a prescription drug. It’s available as a solution for injection, which is only given by a healthcare provider.
This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. This means you may need to take it with other medications.
Why it's used
This drug is used to treat seizures that don’t stop (status epilepticus).
This drug is also used to reduce anxiety in people who are about to have surgery. It’s given before you receive anesthesia to make you feel drowsy and decrease your ability to recall events related to your surgery or procedure.
How it works
This drug belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.
This drug interacts with the GABA-benzodiazepine receptor complex in your brain. This reduces anxiety and seizure activity, and causes sedation.
Ativan Side Effects
More Common Side Effects
The more common side effects that occur with use of Ativan include:
low blood pressure
If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious Side Effects
Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:
Trouble breathing (respiratory depression or failure). Symptoms can include:
- shallow breathing
- slow breathing rate
Opposite reaction of the effect the drug is supposed to cause (paradoxical reaction). Symptoms can include:
- periods of intense joy or excitement (mania)
- aggression, hostility, or rage
- psychosis (feeling like you’ve lost touch with reality)
- hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
Trouble walking or with muscle coordination
Lower levels of consciousness
This drug may cause drowsiness.
This drug can make you feel sleepy and drowsy for a while after you take it. You shouldn’t drive, use machinery, or do similar tasks that require alertness for 24–48 hours after you receive the injection or until the sedative effects wear off.
If it’s been less than 8 hours since you received your injection, be extra careful when getting up from bed. You may have a higher risk of falling. Ask a nurse or a family member to help you.
Ativan May Interact with Other Medications
Ativan can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well. Your healthcare provider will look out for interactions with your current medications. Always be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, herbs, or vitamins you’re taking.
The use of drinks that contain alcohol can increase your risk of drowsiness caused by Ativan. You shouldn’t drink alcohol for 24–48 hours after receiving your Ativan injection. This could lead to potentially fatal breathing problems. If you drink alcohol, talk to your doctor.
How to Take Ativan (Dosage)
Your doctor will determine a dosage that’s right for you based on your individual needs. Your general health may affect your dosage. Tell your doctor about all health conditions you have before your healthcare provider administers the drug to you.
This drug comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.
If you don’t take it at all
If you don’t receive your dose, your seizures might not be controlled. This can lead to permanent neurological problems.
If you don’t take this medicine before surgery, you may not feel as relaxed and may remember details of your procedure.
If you take too much
This drug will be given to you by a healthcare provider. If you’re given too much you may have the following symptoms:
- slowed or shallowed breathing
- slurred speech
- extreme drowsiness
Taking too much may even be fatal (cause death). If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.
How to tell if the drug is working
You may be able to tell this drug is working if your seizures are controlled.
You may be able to tell this drug is working if you feel sleepy or drowsy before surgery and are unable to remember the events of your procedure.
This drug is used for short-term treatment.
- Ativan – lorazepam tablet. (2013, May). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=89057c93-8155-4040-acec-64e877bd2b4c
- Ativan – lorazepam injection, solution. (2009, September). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=37e2cdf0-e4ba-4307-993e-198c7089cabc
Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group
Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on October 10, 2015