Anxiety Medications: Ativan

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Ativan is an medication used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. It has been approved for short term use, but has not been studied or approved for treatment lasting more than four months.

This medication belongs to a group of medications known as benzodiazepines. These are depressant medications used to treat insomnia, seizure disorders, muscle spasms and anxiety. Other benxodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Librium and Klonopin. These medications have a high risk of dependence and this is why they should only be prescribed for short term treatment. In addition, withdrawal can occur when stopping this type of medication. Tapering off the medication is recommended and should be done only under the supervision of a medical professional to help eliminate symptoms of withdrawal.

Because of the high risk of abuse and dependence, Ativan is not recommended for patients with a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction.

Before Taking Ativan

Ativan is effective in treating anxiety and panic attacks but there are a number of health conditions you should talk with your doctor about before taking this medication.

  • Glaucoma

  • Liver disease

  • Depression

  • History of substance abuse or addition

  • Asthma or other breathing disorders such as emphysema, bronchitis, or COPD

  • Pregnancy

If you have any of the above conditions, your doctor may determine that Ativan is not the right medication for you or may adjust your dosage to eliminate or reduce the risk of harmful side effects.

As with many medications, Ativan interacts with other medications you might be taking. If you are currently taking cold or allergy medication, pain medication, sleeping aids, muscle relaxers, or other medication for anxiety, depression or other psychiatric disorders, let you doctor know before you begin taking Ativan as Ativan can add to the sleepiness caused by these medications and can be dangerous. Again, your doctor may decide Ativan is not the correct medication for you or adjust the dosage to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

Side Effects

All medications have possible side effects and for most people, the side effects are not harmful and will not interfere with daily activities. However, you should be aware of the possible side effects and know what to do if you experience them.

Some side effects which would require immediate medical care include difficulty breathing or signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat. Other side effects that require immediate care include thoughts of suicide or of hurting yourself.

Other side effects may not require emergency medical treatment but should be discussed with your doctor as soon as possible include:

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Hostitility

  • Agitation, irritability

  • Hallucinations

  • Fainting or light-headedness

In addition, some people have experienced less severe side effects that you may want to discuss with your doctor. If any of these symptoms interfere with your daily activities, contact your doctor.

  • Tiredness or drowsiness

  • Blurred vision

  • Insomnia

  • Lack of coordination or feeling off balance

  • Inability to concentrate, forgetfulness or amnesia

  • Stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting or constipation

  • Changes in appetite

  • Rash

Pregnancy and Nursing

Ativan can cuase birth defects in unborn children. It is recommended that a reliable form of birth control is used while you are on this medication. If you should become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

It is also currently not known whether Ativan is passed to a baby through breast milk and cause harm to your child. If you are breast feeding, discuss the risks with your doctor.

Although Ativan has certain side effects and precautions patients may need to keep in mind when using the medication, it also is effective in treating anxiety and panic attacks and may be an integral part of your treatment plan. The medication should be used exactly as prescribed and any problems should be discussed with your doctor. When these precautions are followed, Ativan can be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety.


"Ativan", Date Unknown, Melanie Crain, Pharm.D., Kevin Furmaga, Pharm.D., NAMI

"Lorazepam", Date Unknown, Omudhome Ogbru, Pharma.D., Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD,

"Ativan Oral", 2007, Author Unknown,

"Benzodiazepines", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Government

"Ativan", 2008, Author Unknown,



Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.