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What Happens When You Mix Ativan and Alcohol?

Misusing Ativan and alcohol together can have adverse health effects, can lead to addiction, or may even cause overdose.

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. So, when you drink, you might experience a calming feeling. Combining alcohol with other CNS depressants can intensify that feeling and is dangerous to your health, even if you do it accidentally.

Mixing Ativan and alcohol is relatively common among people who abuse addictive substances because using the two substances together produces a euphoric high. However, misusing Ativan and alcohol together can have adverse health effects, can lead to addiction, or may even cause overdose.

To help you further understand the risks of mixing Ativan and alcohol, we’ll provide more details about the side effects of Ativan and alcohol, their addictive potential, and treatment options if you’re addicted to taking them and can’t stop.

Specialized detox centers like Briarwood Detox Center provide individualized drug detox programs for polysubstance addictions (being addicted to more than one drug at once). If you’re addicted to Ativan and alcohol, we can help you detox and get started on the road to recovery.

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is the brand name for the generic drug lorazepam. It’s a CNS depressant that is similar to Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety, but it can also be used to treat other conditions and disorders, such as:1

  • Insomnia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Seizures 
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer-related nausea

Ativan is classified as a benzodiazepine and it works by increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA and decreases nervous excitement in the brain.

Is Ativan Addictive?

Yes, Ativan is addictive. It’s a Schedule IV substance, which means it can lead to abuse and dependence.

When Ativan is taken in large quantities, it produces a euphoric high and a calming sensation, which can increase its potential for abuse. Mixing Ativan and alcohol or other medications can enhance the effects of either substance, making them prime candidates for abuse.

Although benzodiazepines like Ativan are used to treat a variety of conditions, the FDA has issued warnings about their potential to cause dependence and addiction. According to the FDA’s recent statements, the health risks associated with benzodiazepines greatly increase when they are combined with other medications and addictive substances like alcohol.2 

People with a history of substance abuse issues may be more likely to develop an Ativan addiction or to combine it with other medications or alcohol. Your risk of developing an Ativan addiction decreases if you use appropriate doses of the drug for short-term treatment of a condition.

What Happens When You Mix Ativan and Alcohol?

Benzodiazepines like Ativan are often abused with other substances, such as opioids and alcohol. When you mix Ativan and alcohol, the health risks can be severe. Since both Ativan and alcohol are CNS depressants, they enhance one another’s effects, greatly inhibiting the central nervous system and lowering heart rate and breathing.

Other side effects of Ativan and alcohol include:3

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Memory problems
  • Odd behavior
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor control
  • Increased likelihood of overdose

Mixing Ativan and alcohol can produce euphoria and intense feelings of calmness. Many people with substance use disorders intentionally mix the two substances to get high while others may accidentally consume alcohol with Ativan and unintentionally experience the side effects. Either way, mixing Ativan and alcohol is dangerous.

How Does Ativan and Alcohol Make You Feel?

An Ativan and alcohol high generally makes people feel very calm, relaxed, and happy. Instead of making each other less effective, taking Ativan and alcohol together reduces your tolerance to both. This means you’re more likely to lose consciousness or experience memory lapses. The Ativan won’t work to treat anxiety if you take it with alcohol, either. Instead, you’re likely to feel more anxious once the high wears off.

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    What Are the Signs of Ativan and Alcohol Overdose?

    Since Ativan and alcohol are both CNS depressants, using them together increases your risk for overdose. If you use Ativan and alcohol together in excessive amounts, you may suffer from an overdose.

    Signs of Ativan and alcohol overdose may include:4,5

    • Drowsiness
    • Mental confusion
    • Inability to wake up
    • Vomiting
    • Low body temperature/pale or bluish skin
    • Paradoxical reactions
    • Slurred speech
    • Lethargy
    • Lack of coordination
    • Muscle weakness/floppy muscles
    • Low blood pressure
    • Slow or shallow breathing
    • Hypnotic state
    • Seizures 
    • Coma 
    • Death 

    How Long Should You Wait Between Ativan and Alcohol?

    It’s not a good idea to drink any alcohol after taking Ativan, even if there is just a trace amount of lorazepam left in your system. Doing so could produce adverse or dangerous reactions. 

    You should always consult your doctor to determine how long you should wait after taking Ativan before drinking alcohol. If you feel like you can’t control your alcohol consumption despite the risks of taking Ativan with alcohol, you should seek professional treatment because you may be addicted.

    What Are Signs of Alcohol and Ativan Withdrawal?

    Ativan and alcohol can both cause withdrawal symptoms if you’re addicted. The withdrawal symptoms of either substance can be mild or severe, depending on how long you’ve used the drug, how frequently you use it, and several different biological factors.

    Common signs of alcohol withdrawal include:6

    • Insomnia
    • Tremors
    • Anxiety
    • Gastrointestinal upset
    • Headache 
    • Heart palpitations
    • Depression
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Nightmares
    • Difficulty thinking clearly

    Signs of severe alcohol withdrawal (called delirium tremens) include:

    • Fever
    • Agitation
    • Hallucinations
    • Severe confusion
    • Seizures 

    Common signs of Ativan withdrawal include:7

    • Headache
    • Anxiety
    • Insomnia
    • Irritability
    • Tremor
    • Panic attacks
    • Depression 

    How to Detox From Alcohol and Ativan

    Detoxing from benzodiazepines like Ativan can be dangerous, especially if you quit cold turkey. If you’re addicted to both alcohol and Ativan, withdrawal may also be highly unpredictable and severe. 

    As such, a safer and more effective way to detox from alcohol and Ativan is with a medical detox program. Medically-assisted detox provides several key benefits that can help people who are struggling with multiple addictions, including:

    • Medical treatment: During detox, clients receive round-the-clock care to prevent any medical emergencies from occurring and to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal.
    • Lack of access to drugs and alcohol: Sometimes, the cravings and other withdrawal symptoms can become difficult to cope with. Without professional assistance, you’re much more likely to relapse and use Ativan and alcohol again, simply to get relief from the discomfort. In detox, though, you’ll have the medical and clinical support you need to stay sober through the most challenging phases of withdrawal.
    • Behavioral therapy: Many benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are psychological, not physical. A medical detox program provides consistent access to counselors, therapists, and recovery specialists who will help you cope with symptoms like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
    • Peer support: A medical detox program also provides a unique social aspect that offers valuable peer support. Depending on how you’re feeling, you may attend group therapy sessions, where you’ll interact with other people who are also in the early stages of recovery. H&I meetings also provide opportunities to learn about the 12-Step Program and connect with other like-minded individuals who have sustained their recovery by working the 12 Steps.

    After you complete a detox program, you’ll likely be referred to ongoing treatment via one or more of the following types of programs:

    While detox is an important part of the recovery process, continuing your treatment with rehab and/or a sober living program can help you learn how to make positive life changes and gain skills that will lead to long-lasting and sustainable recovery.

    Get Help for Ativan and Alcohol Addiction

    If you’re addicted to Ativan and alcohol, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with substance use disorders and have a difficult time finding the help they need to recover.

    At Briarwood Detox Center, we help you break through the barriers that are keeping you from a wholesome, happy life. Our treatment team builds detox programs that are tailor-made for each client’s wellness and recovery. We carefully take into account your drug abuse history, current physical state, and financial ability to create an individualized detox program that will be a firm foundation for ongoing recovery.

    Call (888) 857-0557 to speak with a Briarwood representative today to start your recovery journey.

    References:

    1. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6685/ativan-oral/details 
    2. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requiring-boxed-warning-updated-improve-safe-use-benzodiazepine-drug-class 
    3. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-1/40-54.pdf 
    4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/overdoseFact.pdf
    5. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/017794s044lbl.pdf 
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/ 
    7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326015

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