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

Ativan is used to:

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

The active drug in Ativan is lorazepam. It’s typically used as a short-term treatment. Ativan comes in two forms:

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

As with other drugs, taking Ativan may cause side effects that can be mild or serious. For more information, we encourage you to keep reading. And if you’d like to learn more about Ativan, including specifics about its uses, you can see this overview of the medication.

While taking Ativan, mild or serious side effects may occur. Here are some examples of side effects commonly reported with Ativan injections and Ativan tablets:

With Ativan injections only, stinging, redness, discoloration, or pain at the injection site can also occur.

We haven’t included all of the side effects that may happen with Ativan. In the sections below, we discuss other possible mild and serious side effects.

You may have mild side effects with Ativan.

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

  • vision problems*
  • brief moments of changes in your behavior or mood, such as anger, confusion, crying, or restlessness
  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • sleepiness
  • stinging, redness, discoloration, or pain where Ativan is injected (for Ativan injections only)
  • unsteadiness or loss of coordination
  • weakness

* To learn more about this side effect, you can see “Side effects up-close” below.

Mild side effects of Ativan can last a short or long time. Some may be easily managed. But if you have any symptoms that bother you or don’t go away, we suggest you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist. Also, it’s important that you don’t stop taking Ativan unless your medical professional recommends this.

It’s possible for Ativan to cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. We suggest that you refer to the Ativan medication guide (or the package instructions for the injection and tablet) for more information.

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

Ativan may cause serious side effects. Some serious side effects of the drug may be more common than others.

Serious side effects that have been reported with Ativan injections and Ativan tablets include:

If you develop serious side effects while taking Ativan, it’s important to call your medical professional immediately. If you feel the side effects are life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, it’s vital to call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

* Ativan injections and Ativan tablets have boxed warnings, which appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks. To learn more, you can see the “Side effects up-close” section and the “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” section below.
† To learn more about this side effect, you can see “Side effects up-close” below.
‡ An allergic reaction is possible after taking either form of Ativan. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies of Ativan injections.

Most side effects of Ativan in older adults are expected to be the same as the side effects for younger adults. But older adults may have a higher risk for certain side effects from Ativan, such as:

Older adults may be prescribed lower doses of Ativan than usual in order to lessen the risk of these side effects.

* To learn more about this side effect, you can see “Side effects up-close” below.

Yes, withdrawal side effects can happen if you suddenly stop taking Ativan. Ativan has a boxed warning for the risk of withdrawal and dependence. A boxed warning appears on the drug’s label and alerts you to possible serious risks.

Your body may become dependent on Ativan. This means your body gets used to the drug and needs it in order for you to feel as you usually do. (To learn more about dependence, you can see the “Side effects up-close” section below.) If you’re dependent on Ativan and you suddenly stop taking the drug, you may have withdrawal symptoms, such as:

In some cases, withdrawal from Ativan may be life threatening.

It’s important that you don’t stop Ativan treatment without first talking with your medical professional. If they tell you it’s safe to stop Ativan, they’ll slowly lower your dosage over time. This will reduce your risk for withdrawal side effects.

It’s advised that you tell your medical professional right away if you have withdrawal symptoms after stopping Ativan. They’ll watch you closely to help keep your symptoms from worsening. And they may prescribe certain drugs to help ease withdrawal symptoms.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the side effects of Ativan.

Does Ativan cause long-term side effects?

Yes, it’s possible that Ativan may cause long-term side effects. But how long Ativan’s side effects last can vary from person to person.

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

In fact, Ativan has boxed warnings about these risks.* Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

Other side effects of Ativan may last for a shorter time, such as mild nausea or sleepiness.

If you have side effects that last a long time while taking Ativan, we recommend that you tell your medical professional.

* To learn more, you can see the “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” section above and the “Side effects up-close” section below.

Can Ativan cause weight changes?

It isn’t likely. Weight changes weren’t reported in clinical studies of Ativan injections and Ativan tablets. But you may still have weight changes while taking Ativan. This is because weight changes are a common symptom of anxiety, which Ativan is taken to treat.

As Ativan helps ease your anxiety symptoms, it’s possible that you may gain or lose weight. But Ativan itself may not be the cause of the weight change.

Also, if you suddenly stop taking Ativan, this can lead to withdrawal* side effects. These can include weight loss.

If you’re concerned about weight changes with Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional. They’ll suggest ways for you to reach or maintain a weight that’s healthy for you. It’s important that you don’t stop taking Ativan without first talking with your medical professional.

* Ativan injections and Ativan tablets have a boxed warning about withdrawal. A boxed warning appears on the drug’s label and alerts you to possible serious risks. To learn more, you can see the “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” section above.

Can Ativan cause dry mouth?

Possibly. Dry mouth wasn’t reported as a side effect in clinical studies of Ativan injections or Ativan tablets. But Ativan belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are known to cause dry mouth.

If you have dry mouth while taking Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional. They can recommend ways to ease this side effect.

Are Ativan’s side effects affected by dosage?

Yes, it’s possible that Ativan’s side effects may be affected by your dosage.

For example, taking higher doses of Ativan can increase your risk for dependence.* With dependence, your body gets used to Ativan and needs it in order for you to feel as you usually do. But you may have a lower risk for this side effect if you’re prescribed a lower dose, such as 1 milligram (mg).

If you have questions about side effects of Ativan based on the dosage you’re prescribed, you can talk with your medical professional.

* Ativan injections and Ativan tablets have a boxed warning for dependence. A boxed warning appears on the drug’s label and alerts you to possible serious risks. To learn more, you can see the “Side effects up-close” section below.

What kind of side effects occur with long-term use of Ativan?

Long-term use of Ativan can lead to dependence,* withdrawal,* and tolerance.

With dependence, your body gets used to Ativan and needs it in order for you to feel as you usually do. If you’re dependent on Ativan and you suddenly stop taking the drug, you may have withdrawal symptoms. And with tolerance, your body gets used to Ativan, which can cause the drug to not work as well as usual. This means you may need higher doses over time to get the same effects from Ativan.

Ativan is typically used as a short-term treatment.

If you have questions about how long Ativan treatment will last, you can talk with your medical professional.

* Ativan injections and Ativan tablets have boxed warnings for dependence and withdrawal. Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks. To learn more, you can see the “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” section above and the “Side effects up-close” section below.

Does Ativan affect your blood pressure?

Yes. Low blood pressure is a possible side effect of Ativan. This was more common in studies of Ativan injections than in studies of Ativan tablets. But either form of Ativan can cause low blood pressure.

Low blood pressure doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. But if you have very low blood pressure, you may notice:

If you’re concerned about low blood pressure with Ativan, you can talk with your medical professional. They can discuss your risk for this side effect. They may also suggest that you check your blood pressure occasionally with a home monitor.

Here’s some additional information about some of the side effects that Ativan may cause.

Dependence

Dependence can occur with Ativan. This means your body gets used to the drug and needs it in order for you to feel as you usually do.

Ativan has a boxed warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the risk of dependence and withdrawal. Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

If you’re dependent on Ativan and suddenly stop taking the drug, you may have withdrawal symptoms. For details about withdrawal, you can see the “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” section above.

Ways to help manage

Make sure to take Ativan exactly as it’s prescribed for you. If you’re concerned about your risk for dependence on Ativan, we encourage you to talk with your medical professional.

Misuse and addiction

Misuse and addiction may occur with Ativan. Ativan has a boxed warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about this risk. Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks.

Misuse describes taking a drug in a way that’s different from how your medical professional prescribed it. Addiction refers to the continued use of a drug despite any harm it may cause you. Misuse and addiction can lead to overdose and, in rare cases, death.

Side effects of misuse and addiction can include:

  • blurry vision
  • dizziness
  • feelings of aggression, confusion, or irritability
  • slurred speech or trouble speaking
  • tremors (shaking you can’t control)
  • trouble concentrating or remembering things

Ways to help manage

It’s recommended that you talk with your medical professional about your risk for misuse and addiction with Ativan. They’ll monitor you for signs of these conditions before you start taking Ativan. They’ll also check in with you about your risk for this from time to time while you’re taking the drug.

Effects of taking with opioids

Taking Ativan with opioid drugs may cause severe side effects. These include respiratory depression (slowed or weakened breathing) and extreme sleepiness. Other possible severe side effects include coma and, in some cases, death.

Opioids are a type of drug that is taken for pain. Examples of opioids include:

  • morphine (Kadian, MS Contin)
  • hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
  • oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone)

Ways to help manage

Before you start taking Ativan, it’s advised that you tell your medical professional about all other medications you take. It’s also recommended that you tell them before you start any new medications while taking Ativan.

If your medical professional determines that it’s safe for you to take an opioid with Ativan, they’ll discuss the risks with you. They may also lower your Ativan dosage to reduce your risk for side effects as much as possible.

Vision problems

Vision problems can occur with Ativan. This side effect was rare in studies of Ativan injections and Ativan tablets.

Examples of vision problems Ativan may cause include double vision or blurry vision. These problems are usually temporary.

Ways to help manage

If you have vision problems while taking Ativan, we suggest you tell your medical professional. They can advise how long this side effect may last and may recommend treatments.

Paradoxical reactions

Paradoxical reactions can occur with Ativan. This side effect was rare in studies of Ativan injections and Ativan tablets.

These reactions are described as “paradoxical” because they’re unexpected. Examples of paradoxical reactions with Ativan can include:

  • agitation
  • aggression
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)
  • irritability
  • restlessness

Ativan can be taken to treat anxiety and to produce sedation (extreme sleepiness and relaxation). So the above symptoms are considered unexpected effects of the drug.

Ways to help manage

It’s advised that you tell your medical professional right away if you have any unexpected changes in mood or behavior while taking Ativan. They may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, Ativan can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This side effect wasn’t reported in studies of Ativan injections. But allergic reaction can still happen with either form of Ativan.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction 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

Ways to help manage

If you develop mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as itchiness, we recommend that you call your medical professional right away. (If a mild reaction isn’t treated, it could become serious.) Your medical professional may suggest an over-the-counter product to help ease your symptoms.

If they confirm that you had a mild allergic reaction to Ativan, they can advise you about whether it’s safe for you to keep taking the drug.

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

If your medical professional confirms you had a serious allergic reaction to Ativan, they may recommend that you switch to a different treatment.

Monitoring side effects

While you take Ativan, you may want to write down information about any side effects you develop. You can share these notes with your medical professional. This is very helpful to do when you first take new medications or use multiple treatments.

In your notes, you can include answers to questions such as:

  • What dose was I taking when I developed the side effect?
  • How long after taking that dose did I have the side effect?
  • What symptoms did I develop?
  • How did the side effect impact my everyday activities?
  • What other medications was I also taking?
  • What other information do I think is important to share?

By writing down notes and sharing them with your medical professional, they’ll learn how Ativan affects you. They can use this information to adjust your treatment plan as needed.

It may not be safe to take Ativan if you have certain conditions. We describe these in more detail below.

FDA boxed warnings

Ativan has boxed warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the risk of:

Boxed warnings appear on the drug’s label and alert you to possible serious risks. For details about each of these warnings, you can see the “Side effects up-close” and “Can withdrawal from Ativan cause side effects?” sections above.

Other warnings

Ativan may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. It’s important to talk with your medical professional about your health history before you take Ativan. The list below includes factors to consider.

Depression. Ativan can make depression worse. Before you start Ativan treatment, it’s important that you tell your medical professional if you have depression. This is especially important if your depression symptoms aren’t well managed or if your condition isn’t being treated. Your medical professional may prescribe a drug other than Ativan for you.

Liver problems. Before starting Ativan treatment, it’s recommended that you tell your medical professional about any liver problems you have. Your medical professional will likely check your liver function periodically while you take Ativan.

Ativan could worsen certain liver problems, such as hepatic encephalopathy. And if you have liver problems, your body may not break Ativan down effectively. In this case, your medical professional may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may prescribe a medication other than Ativan for you.

Acute closed-angle glaucoma. Before you take Ativan, we suggest that you tell your medical professional if you have acute closed-angle glaucoma, also called narrow-angle glaucoma. Ativan could increase the pressure inside your eye, which may worsen your condition. Your medical professional may prescribe a medication other than Ativan for you.

Kidney problems. Before starting Ativan, let your medical professional know if you have any kidney problems. If you do, your body may not get rid of Ativan effectively. Your medical professional may prescribe a lower dosage of Ativan than usual. Or they may recommend a different drug for you.

Breathing problems. Before starting Ativan treatment, it’s important that your medical professional knows about any breathing problems you have. These problems could be caused by conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sleep apnea.

Ativan can cause respiratory depression (slowed or weakened breathing). In rare cases, this condition could be fatal in people with breathing problems. If you have breathing problems, your medical professional may prescribe a medication other than Ativan for you.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Ativan or any of its ingredients, it’s advised that you do not take Ativan. You can ask your medical professional what other medications are better options for you.

Alcohol and Ativan

It’s recommended that you do not drink alcohol while you’re taking Ativan.

Both alcohol and Ativan can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression. CNS depression slows down the activity of your brain, which can lead to side effects such as unsteadiness and sleepiness. And you have a higher risk for these side effects if you drink alcohol while taking Ativan.

If you drink alcohol, we suggest you talk with your medical professional. They can recommend safe ways to stop drinking, or they may prescribe a treatment other than Ativan.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Ativan

It may not be safe to take Ativan during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. It’s important to talk with your medical professional about any questions you have about taking Ativan while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Most side effects of Ativan are mild and will lessen with time. But in some cases, serious side effects can occur. If you have questions about possible side effects of Ativan, we recommend that you talk with your medical professional or pharmacist.

Here are a few questions that may be helpful to ask:

  • Am I at a higher risk for certain side effects of Ativan because of my age?
  • Am I at a higher risk for any side effects of Ativan if I take the drug long term?
  • Am I taking any medications that may increase my risk for side effects from Ativan?

While you’re taking Ativan, you may find it helpful to speak with a therapist or join a support group. You may also be interested in ways to afford therapy. The following articles might be helpful to you:

You can also visit the BetterHelp website to search for online counseling.

In addition, you can sign up for the Psych Central newsletter. We share stories from other people on mental health journeys as well as current 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.