If you have anxiety, seizures, or a planned surgery, a medical professional may recommend a prescription drug called Ativan.

Ativan is used to:

  • treat anxiety in adults and some children
  • treat status epilepticus (a kind of seizure) in adults
  • help produce sedation (a state of relaxation and sleepiness) in adults before they receive anesthesia for surgery

We’ll explain more about these uses in the “What do you take Ativan for?” section below.

Ativan details

Ativan’s classification is a benzodiazepine.

Ativan contains the active drug lorazepam. Ativan is a controlled substance, which means it’s regulated by the federal government because it has a risk of misuse and addiction. In fact, the drug has a boxed warning regarding this risk. To learn more, you can see the “Is it possible to misuse Ativan?” section below.

Ativan comes in two forms:

  • tablets you take by mouth
  • a liquid solution that’s injected into a muscle or a vein by a healthcare professional

Ativan is a brand-name medication. It’s also available as a generic drug called lorazepam.

Most medications, including Ativan, may cause side effects that can be serious or mild. To give you an idea of what might occur with Ativan, we’ve listed some of the medication’s more common side effects below. It’s important to note that we haven’t included all potential side effects.

For more complete information about possible side effects of Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional or pharmacist. They may also be able to recommend tips about how to help prevent and ease side effects.

Certain factors may affect a medication’s side effects. These factors can include:

  • the dosage you’re prescribed
  • the form of the drug you take
  • other health conditions you may have
  • other drugs you may be taking
  • your age

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medication, it tracks and reviews side effects of the drug. If you develop a side effect while taking Ativan and want to inform the FDA about it, you can visit MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Some of the mild side effects that Ativan may cause are listed below. For information about other mild side effects of the drug, we suggest that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist. It may also be helpful to refer to the medication guide for Ativan tablets or the prescribing information for Ativan injections.

Mild side effects that have been reported in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections include the following:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • lack of coordination
  • weakness
  • burning, pain, redness, or discoloration around the area where Ativan is injected (for Ativan injections only)
  • temporary changes in mood or behavior, such as crying, confusion, or restlessness
  • temporary vision problems, such as double vision or blurry vision
  • feeling sleepy
  • constipation
  • nausea*

Mild side effects of many drugs tend to lessen in a couple of days or a few weeks. But if you find that the side effects bother you, we recommend that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

* For details about this side effect, you can see “Side effects: A closer look” below.

Serious side effects

Ativan may cause serious side effects, but this isn’t common. It’s possible that Ativan may cause long-term side effects. The length of time Ativan’s side effects last will be different from person to person.

Serious side effects that have been reported in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections include the following:

* For details about this side effect, you can see “Side effects: A closer look” below.

Side effects in older adults

Side effects of Ativan in older adults are expected to be the same as for younger adults.

But older adults may be at a higher risk for certain side effects from Ativan. These include:

To reduce the risk of these side effects, older adults are typically prescribed lower doses of Ativan than usual.

Side effects: A closer look

This section provides a close-up look at key side effects of Ativan.

Low blood pressure

Low blood pressure is a possible side effect of Ativan. It was more common in studies of Ativan injections than in studies of Ativan tablets. But low blood pressure can occur after using either form of the drug.

If you have low blood pressure, you likely won’t notice any symptoms. But symptoms of very low blood pressure can include:

Tips for managing

If you have symptoms of low blood pressure with Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional. They may recommend that you check your blood pressure from time to time using a home monitor.

Nausea

Nausea is a possible side effect of Ativan. This condition was common in studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections.

Tips for managing

If you have nausea during Ativan treatment, you can talk with your medical professional. Taking your Ativan dosage with food may help relieve nausea. But they should be able to suggest other ways to ease this side effect.

Allergic reaction

Many drugs, including Ativan, can cause an allergic reaction. This side effect was reported in clinical studies of Ativan tablets. Allergic reaction wasn’t reported in clinical studies of Ativan injections, but it can still occur when using the injection form of the drug.

Symptoms that can occur with a mild allergic reaction may include:

  • itchiness
  • skin rash
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)

A more severe allergic reaction may also occur, but this is rare. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which may cause trouble breathing. You may also experience swelling under your skin, often in your lips, eyelids, hands, or feet.

Tips for managing

If you have symptoms of an allergic reaction to Ativan, it’s important to call your medical professional immediately. If you feel as if you’re having a medical emergency, it’s vital to call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

Below we describe the commonly used dosages for Ativan. Your medical professional may prescribe a different dosage depending on certain factors, such as:

  • the form of Ativan you take
  • your age
  • other health conditions you have
  • other medications you take

It’s vital that you always take the dosage your medical professional recommends.

Forms and strengths

Ativan comes in two forms:

  • tablets you take by mouth
  • a liquid solution that’s injected into a muscle or a vein by a healthcare professional

Ativan tablets are available in three strengths: 0.5 milligrams (mg), 1 mg, and 2 mg.

Ativan injections come in two strengths: 2 mg per milliliter (mg/mL) and 4 mg/mL.

Dosage for anxiety (tablets only)

The usual dosage range of Ativan for anxiety is between 1 mg and 10 mg per day. You’ll typically take the drug two to three times a day, with your largest dose taken at bedtime.

For example, your medical professional may prescribe 5 mg of Ativan per day. In this situation, they may suggest you use a combination of the 1-mg and 2-mg tablets to form 5 mg. If so, you’d take your largest portion of the 5-mg dose at bedtime.

They may gradually increase your dosage until your symptoms are well managed. They’ll ultimately prescribe the lowest dosage of Ativan needed to relieve your anxiety symptoms. They’ll also periodically check to see if you need to continue taking the drug.

Dosage for sleep problems due to stress or anxiety (tablets only)

The usual dosage range of Ativan for sleep problems related to stress or anxiety is 2 mg to 4 mg per day at bedtime. The sleep problems include insomnia (trouble sleeping).

Dosage for certain seizures (injection only)

You won’t give yourself Ativan injections to treat status epilepticus (a type of severe seizure).

For this purpose, Ativan is typically given by a paramedic or another healthcare professional in the hospital. They’ll determine the right dose of Ativan for you when treating status epilepticus.

Dosage before surgery (injection only)

Ativan injections may be given to help produce sedation (a state of relaxation and sleepiness) before you receive anesthesia for surgery. For this purpose, your surgeon will determine the right dosage of Ativan for you.

Maximum dose

For treating anxiety, the maximum dosage of Ativan in 24 hours is 10 mg. For treating status epilepticus, the maximum dose of Ativan per seizure episode is 8 mg. When used before surgery, the maximum dose of Ativan is 4 mg.

Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Ativan.

Can knowing Ativan’s half-life tell me how long the drug lasts?

The half-life of Ativan can be used to figure out how long the drug stays in your system. But you’ll usually stop feeling the effects of Ativan before the drug is fully cleared from your body.

The half-life is the amount of time it takes for your body to get rid of half of a drug’s dose. The half-life of Ativan tablets is about 12 hours, while the half-life of Ativan injections is about 14 hours.

In other words, it takes about 12 hours for your body to get rid of half of a dose of Ativan tablets. It takes about 14 hours for your body to get rid of half of a dose of Ativan injections.

It typically takes about four to five half-lives for a drug to leave your system entirely. So Ativan tablets will stay in your system for about 60 hours. And Ativan injections will stay in your system for about 70 hours.

You’ll likely feel Ativan’s effects for several hours after each dose. Depending on the reason you’re using Ativan, you may need multiple doses of the drug to keep its levels steady in your body.

If you have other questions about how long the effects of Ativan may last, you can talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

What’s the dosage of Ativan for anxiety attacks?

Ativan isn’t currently approved to treat anxiety attacks. But the drug may be used off-label for this purpose. (Off-label means using a drug for a condition it hasn’t been approved to treat.)

If you’d like to learn more about taking Ativan for anxiety attacks and what the dosage would be, we encourage you to talk with your medical professional.

Is Ativan used to treat nausea, alcohol withdrawal, or other conditions?

Ativan isn’t currently approved to treat nausea or alcohol withdrawal. But the drug may be used off-label for these purposes. (Off-label means using a drug for a condition it hasn’t been approved to treat.)

Ativan may be used to treat nausea related to chemotherapy (a type of cancer treatment).

Ativan may also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal, which can occur if you suddenly stop heavily drinking alcohol. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, tremors, and anxiety.

Other common off-label uses for Ativan include:

If you have more questions about using Ativan for conditions other than those it’s approved to treat, you can ask your medical professional.

How does Ativan make you feel?

Ativan should make you feel calm and relaxed. You may also feel less worried or tense than you feel without the drug.

If you have additional questions about what to expect with Ativan treatment, we encourage you to talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

How does Ativan work?

Ativan works by increasing the levels of a chemical in your brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid. This leads to a calming effect that helps relieve anxiety symptoms and stop seizures.

To learn more about how Ativan works, we suggest that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

Can using Ativan cause you to gain weight?

Weight gain wasn’t reported as a side effect in clinical studies of Ativan tablets and Ativan injections. But weight gain may occur while you use Ativan.

Weight loss is a common symptom of anxiety, which Ativan is used to treat. As the drug helps ease your anxiety it’s possible that you may gain weight. But Ativan itself may not be the cause of the weight gain.

If you’re concerned about weight gain with Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional. They can suggest healthy ways for you to manage your weight.

You may wonder how Ativan compares with other drugs used to treat anxiety. These may include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

For example, you may want to know if Ativan is stronger than Xanax.

To learn how Ativan compares with other drugs, you can check out this comparison with Xanax. You can also refer to this article, which compares Ativan with Klonopin and Valium.

If you have anxiety or seizures, your medical professional may recommend that you use a prescription drug called Ativan.

If you have a surgery planned, the surgeon may recommend that you be given Ativan.

Ativan for anxiety disorders

Ativan is used to treat anxiety disorders in adults as well as children ages 12 years and older.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of intense worry or fear about everyday situations.

Other symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • trouble concentrating
  • rapid breathing
  • trouble falling asleep
  • restlessness

You may have an anxiety disorder if you have these symptoms on most days for at least 6 months.

Ativan for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms

Ativan is used for the short-term relief of anxiety symptoms related to:

For this use, Ativan is prescribed for adults as well as children ages 12 years and older.

If you have anxiety, you may also have depression. In addition to anxiety, other symptoms of depression can include:

  • loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • mood changes
  • trouble concentrating
  • trouble sleeping

Ativan for certain seizures

Ativan is used to treat status epilepticus in adults.

Status epilepticus is a severe type of epilepsy. Seizures in status epilepticus often happen back-to-back, multiple times without stopping.

Ativan for surgery

Ativan is used to help produce sedation in adults. Sedation is a state of relaxation and sleepiness.

For this use, the drug is typically given before you receive anesthesia for surgery.

Before taking Ativan, it’s important to talk with your medical professional. Factors to discuss include medical conditions you may have and your overall health.

We discuss these considerations in more detail below.

Interactions

Taking certain drugs, foods, vaccines, and other substances with a medication may affect how that medication works. These effects are known as interactions.

Before you take Ativan, it’s important that you tell your medical professional about any other drugs you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medication. It’s also important to mention any herbs, supplements, and vitamins you may use. Your medical professional or pharmacist can tell you about possible interactions these substances may have with Ativan.

Interactions with drugs or supplements

Ativan can interact with several types of drugs. These drugs include:

We haven’t listed all types of drugs that may interact with Ativan. Your medical professional or pharmacist can provide more details as well as information about other possible interactions.

* For details about Ativan and opioids, you can see “Taking Ativan with other drugs” in the “How do you take Ativan?” section below.

FDA boxed warnings

Ativan has boxed warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

Ativan’s boxed warnings include:

Risk of serious injury or death if used with opioids. The use of Ativan with opioids may lead to severe side effects, such as extreme sleepiness and respiratory depression (weak or slow breathing).

For details, you can see “Taking Ativan with other drugs” in the “How do you take Ativan?” section below.

Risk of misuse and addiction. Ativan treatment may lead to misuse and addiction. Misuse refers to taking a drug differently from the way your medical professional recommended you take it. Addiction refers to the continuous use of a drug despite any harm it may cause you.

To learn more, you can refer to the “Is it possible to misuse Ativan?” section below.

Risk of physical dependence and withdrawal. Using Ativan can lead to physical dependence. Dependence occurs when your body starts relying on a drug in order to feel as it typically does. Physical dependence can lead to withdrawal if you suddenly stop using Ativan. In some cases, withdrawal from Ativan can be life threatening.

For details, you can see the “Can taking Ativan lead to physical dependence and withdrawal?” section below.

We also recommend that you talk with your medical professional for more information about Ativan’s boxed warnings.

Other warnings

If you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health, Ativan may not be the right choice for you. Before you take Ativan, it’s important that you discuss your health history with your medical professional. Here are some factors to consider.

Acute narrow-angle glaucoma. Before starting Ativan treatment, we recommend telling your medical professional if you have acute narrow-angle glaucoma. The drug could increase the pressure inside your eye, which may worsen glaucoma.

If you have this type of glaucoma, your medical professional may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Breathing problems. Before you take Ativan, be sure to tell your medical professional if you have breathing problems. They could be caused by conditions such as sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ativan can cause respiratory depression (weak or slow breathing), which could, in rare cases, be fatal in people with breathing problems.

If you have breathing problems, your medical professional may recommend a medication other than Ativan.

Depression. Before starting Ativan treatment, it’s advised that you tell your medical professional if you have depression. It’s especially important to let them know if you aren’t receiving any treatment for depression or if your depression symptoms aren’t well managed. The use of Ativan may cause worsening depression in people with this condition.

If you have depression that isn’t well managed, your medical professional may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Kidney problems. Before you take Ativan, let your medical professional know about any kidney problems you have. If you have kidney problems, your body may not get rid of Ativan effectively.

In this case, your medical professional may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may recommend a medication other than Ativan.

Liver problems. Before you begin Ativan treatment, it’s recommended that you tell your medical professional about any liver problems you have. The use of Ativan may worsen certain liver problems, such as hepatic encephalopathy. They’ll typically check your liver function from time to time while you take the drug.

Also, your body may not break Ativan down effectively if you have liver problems. In this situation, your medical professional may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may prescribe a medication other than Ativan.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Ativan or any of its ingredients, it’s important that you do not take Ativan. Your medical professional can suggest other treatments that might be better choices for your condition.

Ativan and alcohol

It is not safe to drink alcohol while you’re taking Ativan.

Both Ativan and alcohol can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression. With CNS depression, your brain activity slows down.

Ativan and CNS depression can lead to side effects such as drowsiness and a lack of coordination. Your risk for these side effects is higher if you drink alcohol while taking Ativan.

If you drink alcohol, we advise you to talk with your medical professional. They’ll typically suggest ways to help you stop drinking, or they may prescribe a treatment other than Ativan.

Ativan use while pregnant or breastfeeding

It may not be safe to use Ativan while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have questions about using Ativan during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, it’s advised that you talk with your medical professional.

It’s important that you don’t take more Ativan than your medical professional recommends. Taking more than the recommended dosage can lead to severe side effects such as coma and, in rare cases, death.

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms caused by an overdose can include:

What to do in case you take too much Ativan

If you believe you’ve taken too much Ativan, call your medical professional right away. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or use its online resource. But if your symptoms are severe, it’s vital to immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the closest emergency room.

Yes, taking Ativan can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal. In fact, Ativan has a boxed warning for these side effects. Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

Dependence occurs when your body becomes used to a drug and needs the drug to feel as it typically does. If you suddenly stop using Ativan, physical dependence can lead to withdrawal. In some cases, withdrawal from Ativan can be life threatening.

Symptoms of withdrawal from Ativan may include:

Talking with your medical professional

It’s important that you don’t stop taking Ativan without talking with your medical professional first. If they tell you it’s safe to stop taking the drug, they’ll usually lower your dosage slowly over time. This will help decrease your risk for withdrawal symptoms.

If you have withdrawal symptoms when ending your Ativan treatment, it’s important to tell your medical professional right away. They’ll monitor your condition closely to help prevent your symptoms from worsening. They may prescribe certain drugs to help ease your symptoms of withdrawal.

Yes, taking Ativan may lead to misuse as well as addiction. In fact, Ativan has a boxed warning for these side effects. Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

The term “misuse” refers to taking a drug differently from the way your medical professional recommended you take it. An example of misusing Ativan includes snorting the drug.

“Addiction” refers to the continuous use of a drug despite any harm it may cause you.Ativan is a controlled substance, which means it’s regulated by the federal government because it has a risk of being addictive.

Ativan isn’t a narcotic. “Narcotic” is a term that’s used to describe opioids. (To learn more about Ativan and opioids, you can see “Taking Ativan with other drugs” in the “How do you take Ativan?” section below.)

Misuse and addiction weren’t side effects reported in studies of Ativan tablets or Ativan injections. But misuse and addiction have been reported with benzodiazepines, and Ativan belongs to this group of drugs.

Side effects of misuse and addiction

Some people misuse Ativan to cause a feeling of being “high”. Misuse and addiction may cause other side effects, too. These include:

  • dizziness
  • tremors or seizures
  • slurred speech
  • anxiety
  • feeling irritable, aggressive, disoriented, or confused
  • blurred vision
  • trouble breathing
  • trouble remembering things or concentrating
  • suicidal behaviors or thoughts

Misuse and addiction with Ativan can also result in overdose and in some cases, death. This is more likely to occur when the drug is used along with opioids and alcohol. (For more information about overdose, you can see the “Can you overdose on Ativan?” section above.)

Talking with your medical professional

It’s recommended that you talk with your medical professional about your risks for misuse and addiction with Ativan. Before you start treatment with the medication, they’ll monitor your risk. They’ll also check your risk from time to time while you’re taking Ativan.

Suicide prevention

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:

Not in the U.S.? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

Ativan comes in two forms:

  • tablets you take by mouth
  • a liquid solution that’s injected into a muscle or a vein by a healthcare professional

Your medical professional can help explain how to take Ativan tablets. They can also advise you on how much to take and how often. It’s important to follow the instructions your medical professional provides. It’s vital that you always take the dosage your medical professional recommends.

A medical professional will administer Ativan injections to you. They’ll first explain how you’ll receive the drug. They’ll also go over how much you’ll receive and how often. Your medical professional will determine the dosage you receive.

Tips for taking Ativan

It’s recommended that you avoid driving while taking Ativan until you know how the drug affects you.

Ativan may cause you to feel sleepy or lightheaded. The drug can also impact your coordination. These effects could be dangerous if they occur while you’re driving.

If you’re concerned about driving while you’re taking Ativan, we encourage you to talk with your medical professional.

Taking Ativan with other drugs

Ativan has a boxed warning about a risk of serious injury or death if the drug is used with opioids. A boxed warning appears on the drug’s label and alerts you to possible serious risks.

The use of Ativan with opioids may lead to severe side effects. These include extreme sleepiness and respiratory depression (weak or slow breathing). The severe side effects also include coma, and in rare cases, death.

Examples of opioids include fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic), morphine (Kadian, MS Contin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone).

Before starting Ativan treatment, it’s important that you tell your medical professional about all medications you take. If they prescribe an opioid for you while you’re using Ativan, they’ll discuss the risks with you. They’ll also typically lower your dosage of Ativan to reduce your risk for side effects.

Frequently asked questions about taking Ativan

Here are some frequently asked questions about Ativan treatment:

What should I do if I miss a dose of Ativan? It’s recommended that you take your missed dose as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose of Ativan, you can skip the missed dose. Then you’ll go back to your regular dosing schedule.

It’s important that you don’t take an extra dose of Ativan to make up for a missed dose. The extra dose could increase your risk for side effects from the drug. If you aren’t sure whether to take a dose or skip it, it’s recommended that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

Is Ativan meant for long-term use? No, Ativan isn’t meant for long-term use. Ativan is usually prescribed for the shortest amount of time needed to relieve your symptoms. Your medical professional will tell you the right length of time to take Ativan.

Can you chew, split, or crush Ativan? The manufacturer of Ativan hasn’t stated whether the tablets can be chewed, split, or crushed. If you have trouble swallowing Ativan tablets whole, you can talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

Should you take Ativan with food? You can take Ativan with food or without it.

How long does Ativan take to work? It depends on the form of Ativan you use. When the tablets are used for anxiety, Ativan works as fast as 1 to 2 hours after you take it. When Ativan is given as an injection into a muscle, you’ll likely notice the effects within 15 to 30 minutes. When Ativan is given as an injection into a vein, you’ll usually notice the effects within 1 to 3 minutes.

What should you ask your medical professional?

It’s common to have questions about your treatment plan for Ativan. Your medical professional is there to work with you and help address any concerns you have.

To help guide your discussion, here are some suggestions:

  • You can write down questions you have before your visit. For example, “How will taking Ativan affect my mood, body, and lifestyle?”
  • You can think about asking a loved one or friend to come with you to your appointment. Having in-person support may help you feel more at ease.
  • You can ask your medical professional to explain anything that you find unclear.

Working with your care team may help you stay on track with your treatment. If you find that you’re not getting answers to your questions or receiving the care you deserve, you can consider seeking a second opinion.

Ativan is a prescription drug. The costs of prescription medications may depend on several factors, such as your insurance coverage and the pharmacy you use. To find current prices for Ativan tablets near you, you can visit GoodRx.com. For the prices of Ativan injections, you can ask your medical professional or pharmacist.

If you’re wondering how to pay for Ativan, we suggest that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist. You may also want to visit Medicine Assistance Tool to see if support options are available.

If you still have questions about Ativan after reading this article, we recommend that you talk with your medical professional. Together you can decide if Ativan might be a good choice for you.

You can also discuss other treatments, forms of support, and resources that may benefit you. We’ve listed some helpful suggestions below.

Additional treatment options

While you take Ativan, additional treatments or remedies may help you better manage your condition. These can include:

Finding support

Whether you’re looking for a therapist, support group, or information about how to afford therapy, these resources may help:

Other resources

To receive weekly information about mental health, you may want to sign up for the Psych Central newsletter. You’ll find stories directly from other people about their mental health journey as well as the latest information about treatments.

Disclaimer: Psych Central 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.