If you have anxiety, seizures, or an upcoming surgery, your doctor might prescribe Ativan (lorazepam) for you. Along with other questions you may have about the drug, you could be wondering about its side effects.

Ativan is a prescription medication that’s used to:

  • treat anxiety in adults and some children
  • treat status epilepticus (a type of seizure) in adults
  • help produce sedation (a state of calmness, sleepiness, and relaxation) in adults before receiving anesthesia for surgery

Ativan comes in two forms:

  • tablets that you swallow
  • a liquid that a healthcare professional injects into a vein or muscle

Ativan is typically used as a short-term treatment. For more information about Ativan, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article on the drug.

Like other drugs, Ativan can cause mild or serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.

Some people may experience mild or serious side effects during their Ativan treatment. Below are just a few of the more common side effects of Ativan.

Examples of Ativan’s commonly reported side effects may include:

  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • drowsiness
  • pain, redness, discoloration, or stinging at the site where Ativan is injected (for Ativan injections only)

Keep reading to learn about other possible mild and serious side effects of Ativan.

Mild side effects can happen with Ativan.

Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Ativan include:

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And don’t stop using Ativan unless your doctor recommends it.

Ativan may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. For more details, see the medication guide for Ativan tablets or the prescribing information for the injectable form.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Ativan, visit MedWatch.

Rare but serious side effects can occur with Ativan.

Serious side effects that have been reported with Ativan include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
** Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
* Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for this side effect. To learn more, see the “Ativan and misuse” section below.
‡ An allergic reaction is possible after using Ativan tablets and Ativan injections. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies of Ativan injections.

If you develop serious side effects while taking Ativan, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Ativan is not approved for use in children under age 12 years.

Side effects of the drug in children who take it are generally similar to those in adults. One difference is that Ativan may cause certain unexpected reactions more often in children. An example is anxiety, which is unexpected because Ativan is used to treat this condition.

Most of Ativan’s side effects in older adults are expected to be the same as the side effects for younger adults.

But older adults may have an increased risk of certain side effects from Ativan, including:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

To lower their risk of these side effects, older adults may be prescribed lower doses of Ativan than usual.

If you have questions about your risk of side effects from Ativan based on your age, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Ativan’s side effects.

Does Ativan cause any long-term side effects?

Most of Ativan’s side effects will go away with time. But it’s possible that you may have some long-term side effects from Ativan.

For example, Ativan has risks for certain long-term problems, such as:

In fact, Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have boxed warnings for these risks. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For details about these warnings, see the “Side effects explained” and “Ativan and misuse” sections below.

If you have questions about how long side effects from Ativan may last, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Could using Ativan lead to weight gain or weight loss?

It’s not likely that Ativan itself will cause weight gain or weight loss. Weight changes weren’t side effects reported in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections. But you might still experience weight changes while taking the drug.

This may happen because weight changes are a possible symptom of anxiety, which Ativan is used to treat. As the drug eases your symptoms of anxiety, you may gain or lose weight. But Ativan itself might not be the cause of these weight changes.

If you’re concerned about weight gain or weight loss with Ativan, talk with your doctor. They can suggest healthy ways for you to manage your weight while taking the drug.

Do side effects of Ativan tablets vary depending on the strength (0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg)?

It’s possible that the side effects of Ativan tablets and injections can vary depending on the strength you take.

For example, higher doses of Ativan can raise your risk of physical dependence.* Physical dependence happens when your body gets used to a drug and needs it to feel normal.

If you have questions about what to expect with Ativan based on the dosage you’re prescribed, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Will I experience withdrawal side effects if I stop using Ativan?

It’s possible that you may have withdrawal side effects after stopping Ativan.

This can happen if your body becomes physically dependent on Ativan. Physical dependence happens when your body gets used to a drug and needs it to feel normal. And if you stop using Ativan suddenly, physical dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for the risk of physical dependence and withdrawal. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA.

Examples of serious withdrawal side effects from Ativan include hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there) and seizures. But other side effects are possible as well. For more details, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Is anger a side effect of Ativan?

In rare cases, you may have anger as a side effect of Ativan.

Behavior and mood changes have been reported in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections. Examples of these changes include:

If you’re concerned about your risk of anger as a side effect of Ativan, talk with your doctor.

Can Ativan cause dry mouth?

It’s possible that Ativan may cause dry mouth.

This side effect wasn’t reported in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections. But benzodiazepines (the group of drugs that Ativan belongs to) are known to cause dry mouth. So it’s possible that Ativan could also cause dry mouth.

If you have dry mouth while taking Ativan, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can suggest ways to ease this side effect.

Learn more about some of the side effects Ativan may cause.

Risk of serious injury or death if used with opioids

Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for the risk of serious injury or death if used with opioids. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Using Ativan with opioids can cause severe side effects. These include extreme drowsiness and respiratory depression (shallow, slow, or weak breathing). In rare cases, coma or death can also occur.

This side effect wasn’t seen in studies of Ativan tablets or Ativan injections. But there have been reports of this side effect in people using benzodiazepines, which is the group of drugs that Ativan belongs to.

Opioid drugs are used to treat pain. Examples include hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER), morphine (MS Contin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone).

What might help

Before you start Ativan treatment, tell your doctor about all other medications you take. If your doctor prescribes an opioid with Ativan, they’ll discuss the risks with you. They may also prescribe you a lower dosage of Ativan to reduce your risk of side effects as much as possible.

Risk of physical dependence and withdrawal

Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for physical dependence and withdrawal. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA.

Physical dependence happens when your body gets used to a drug and needs it to feel normal. And if you stop using Ativan suddenly, physical dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, Ativan withdrawal can be life threatening.

Withdrawal symptoms with Ativan can happen within hours of stopping the drug. And these symptoms might last for several weeks. In rare cases, withdrawal symptoms from Ativan may last for many months.

Symptoms of Ativan withdrawal can include:

Physical dependence and withdrawal weren’t seen in studies of Ativan tablets or Ativan injections. But there have been reports of these side effects in people using benzodiazepines, which is the group of drugs that Ativan belongs to.

What might help

Don’t stop your Ativan treatment without talking with your doctor first. If they advise that it’s safe for you to stop taking the drug, they’ll slowly lower your dosage over time. This will help lower your risk of withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drug.

If you have withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Ativan, tell your doctor right away. They’ll watch you closely to help keep your symptoms from becoming worse. They may also prescribe certain other drugs to help ease your symptoms.

Respiratory depression

Respiratory depression (shallow, slow, or weak breathing) is a rare but serious side effect of Ativan. In some cases, this side effect may lead to respiratory failure (a lack of oxygen flowing to your brain or the rest of your body).

Your risk of respiratory depression with Ativan may be higher if you:

* Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for risks if used with opioids. To learn more, see “Risk of serious injury or death if used with opioids” above.

What might help

Before you start Ativan treatment, tell your doctor about all health conditions you may have. Also tell them about all other medications you take. Your doctor can advise you on whether these factors raise your risk of respiratory depression with Ativan.

And if you have trouble breathing while taking Ativan, tell your doctor right away. They may lower your dosage of the drug, or they may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Depression

Depression is a rare but serious side effect of Ativan. Ativan may worsen depression symptoms in some people who already have this condition before starting the drug.

Symptoms of new or worsening depression can include:

  • changes in sleep patterns, which may cause you to sleep more or less than usual
  • fatigue (low energy)
  • sadness, hopelessness, anger, irritability, or aggression
  • loss of interest in activities that you used to find enjoyable
  • tiredness
  • trouble concentrating
  • suicidal thoughts or behaviors

What might help

Tell your doctor right away about any mood or behavior changes you experience while using Ativan. They’ll monitor your condition closely. If your depression symptoms continue, your doctor may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Suicide prevention

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, Ativan tablets and Ativan injections can cause an allergic reaction in some people. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies of Ativan injections.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. To manage your symptoms, they may suggest an over-the-counter antihistamine you take by mouth, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Or they may recommend a product you apply to your skin, such as hydrocortisone cream.

If your doctor confirms that you had a mild allergic reaction to Ativan, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms that you had a serious allergic reaction to Ativan, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your Ativan treatment, consider keeping notes on any side effects you’re having. Then, you can share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful to do when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things such as:

  • what dose of drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon after starting that dose you had the side effect
  • what your symptoms were from the side effect
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were also taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help your doctor learn more about how Ativan affects you. And your doctor can use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

This drug comes with several warnings.

Boxed warnings

Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have three boxed warnings. Boxed warnings are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Risk of serious injury or death if used with opioids. Using Ativan with opioids can cause severe side effects, such as extreme drowsiness and respiratory depression (shallow, slow, or weak breathing). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.
  • Risk of misuse and addiction. Using Ativan can cause misuse and addiction. “Misuse” refers to taking a drug differently from how your doctor instructed you take it. “Addiction” refers to the continuous use of a drug despite any harm it may be causing you. To learn more, see the “Ativan and misuse” section below.
  • Risk of physical dependence and withdrawal. Using Ativan may lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence happens when your body gets used to a drug and needs it to feel normal. This can lead to withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking Ativan. To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.

Other warnings

Ativan may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Ativan. The list below includes some factors to consider.

Liver problems. Before you start taking Ativan, tell your doctor about any liver problems you have. Taking Ativan could worsen certain liver problems, such as hepatic encephalopathy. Your doctor may check your liver function periodically while you take Ativan.

If you have liver problems, your body may not break down Ativan as it should. In this case, your doctor may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may suggest a drug other than Ativan for you.

Breathing problems. Before you take Ativan, tell your doctor about any breathing problems you have. These problems could be caused by conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sleep apnea. Ativan may cause respiratory depression (shallow, slow, or weak breathing). In rare cases, respiratory depression could be fatal in people with these conditions. If you have breathing problems, your doctor may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Kidney problems. Before you start taking Ativan, tell your doctor about any kidney problems you have. If you have kidney problems, your body may not get rid of Ativan as well as it should. In this case, your doctor may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may recommend a drug other than Ativan for you.

Acute narrow-angle glaucoma. Before you take Ativan, tell your doctor if you have acute narrow-angle glaucoma. Ativan could raise the pressure inside your eye, which could worsen glaucoma. If you have this type of glaucoma, your doctor may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Depression. Before you start taking Ativan, tell your doctor if you have depression. It’s especially important to let them know if you aren’t receiving any depression treatment or if your symptoms aren’t managed well. Taking Ativan may worsen depression in people with this condition. If you have depression and your symptoms aren’t managed well, your doctor may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Ativan or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Ativan. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.

Alcohol use and Ativan

It’s recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol while you’re taking Ativan.

Both alcohol and Ativan can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression. CNS depression slows your brain activity. And this can lead to side effects such as drowsiness, loss of balance, and loss of coordination. Your risk of these side effects is higher if you drink alcohol while taking Ativan.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ways for you to safely stop drinking, or they may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Ativan

It may not be safe to take Ativan while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant or breastfeed, talk with your doctor. They can answer any questions you may have about using Ativan during these times.

Ativan tablets and Ativan injections have a boxed warning for the risk of misuse and addiction. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Misuse” refers to taking a drug differently from how your doctor instructed you take it. “Addiction” refers to the continuous use of a drug despite any harm it may be causing you.

Possible side effects of misuse and addiction can include:

Misuse and addiction can also lead to overdose and, in some cases, death. Risk of these events is higher when Ativan is used with opioids and alcohol.

If you’re concerned about your risk of misuse and addiction with Ativan, talk with your doctor. They’ll watch for signs of these conditions before you start taking the drug. And they’ll continue checking your risk periodically while you’re taking Ativan.

Ativan is a short-term treatment option for anxiety and seizures. The drug is also used to help produce sedation (a state of calmness, sleepiness, and relaxation) in adults before receiving anesthesia for surgery.

If you’re considering Ativan as a treatment option, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about its possible side effects. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • How can I manage the side effects I might have with Ativan?
  • Am I at a higher risk of certain side effects from Ativan?
  • Could taking expired Ativan cause certain side effects?

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.