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Lorazepam for anxiety: uses and dangers

Updated on November 14, 2011
Lorazepam has benefits and risks.
Lorazepam has benefits and risks. | Source


Although we all become anxious from time to time, for some people anxiety becomes debilitating and becomes steadily worse. Anxiety takes several forms, including panic disorder that causes panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder in which obsessive thought or actions take over your life, and generalized anxiety disorder involving a constant, unrelenting sense of worry. Therapy may relieve some cases, but for many patients adding an anti-anxiety drug is the key. Lorazepam is one of these drugs, helpful in many cases but also carrying risks and dangers.


Lorazepam is also sold under the brand names Ativan and Temesta. It is a potent drug that has an intermediate period of action, meaning your body clears it relatively quickly. Lorazepam belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepenes. It affects receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA, which acts in your brain at many locations and may become unbalanced when anxiety is out of control. Although lorazepam is generally effective in reducing anxiety, it carries many risks and side effects, especially those related to its potential to cause addiction.

Dangers and side effects

Although all benzodiazepenes may become addictive, the danger of this is especially high with lorazepam. It also carries significant risk for abuse since it causes sedation and changes in awareness and cognition. Many patients develop a tolerance for lorazepam and tend to take higher and higher doses. Most prescribers recommend taking lorazepam for only two to four weeks because of its potential for addiction. Overdose with lorazepam can cause mental confusion, poor muscle coordination, suppressed heart and respiratory functio, coma and, eventually, death.

Lorazepam withdrawal

If a patient takes lorazepam for a period of time and then stops taking it, he may experience withdrawal symptoms that can be severe. These include increased anxiety, insomnia, seizures, ;and psychotic episodes. These appear more often if the patient has taken lorazepam for a long time. Gradually tapering usage can help lessen withdrawal symptoms, but sometimes this is a problem regardless of precautions.

Interactions with other drugs

Lorazepam can cause serious problems if combined with alcohol or other drugs. Because it depresses breathing, its effect may compound those of alcohol, opioids or other hypnotic drugs. In addition, other drugs that can cause sedation such as antidepressants, antihistamines or anti-psychotics might also interact with lorazepam, causing dangerous compound side effects.


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