Combining Ativan (Lorazepam) and Alcohol: Potential Consequences

Last Updated: January 18, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Mixing Ativan (lorazepam) and alcohol can lead to risky interactions and amplify the chances of experiencing adverse effects, including the risk of overdose.

Ativan, a benzodiazepine medication, is commonly prescribed to manage conditions such as anxiety. If you are a user of Ativan, you might be curious about the safety of alcohol consumption while taking this medication. Given Ativan’s extended duration of action in the body, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential dangers associated with alcohol intake when using this drug.

Understanding Ativan (Lorazepam)

Ativan is the trade name for the benzodiazepine lorazepam. This medication operates by enhancing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, likely because of its actions on GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. GABA is the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity. Ativan is prescribed for different medical conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy
  • Delirium
  • Cardiovascular emergencies

Interactions Between Lorazepam and Alcohol

Both Ativan and alcohol are categorized as central nervous system depressants, believed by experts to heighten GABA activity in the brain. Medical professionals speculate that Ativan affects a multi-molecule complex in the brain that includes GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. Meanwhile, alcohol elevates the release of GABA and enhances activity at GABA receptors. Consequently, combining these substances can result in synergistic side effects, where the combined effects are more severe than those of each substance individually.

Can You Consume Alcohol While Taking Ativan?

It is strongly recommended that you refrain from alcohol consumption while using Ativan due to the elevated risk of severe side effects, including the potential for overdose.

How Long Should You Wait After Taking Ativan Before Drinking?

It is advisable to abstain from alcohol for a minimum of 48 hours after taking Ativan. While this has primarily been studied with the injectable form of the drug, Ativan exhibits similar effects when taken orally.

Medical practitioners can specify this duration based on Ativan’s half-life, which refers to the time required for a single dose to be completely eliminated from the body. The half-life of Ativan ranges from 10 to 20 hours. Since it takes approximately five half-lives for a drug to be entirely eliminated from the system, the earliest that Ativan can be completely metabolized is approximately 48 hours after ingestion.

How Long After Drinking Should You Consider Taking Lorazepam?

It is advisable to wait until the alcohol has been completely metabolized and cleared from your system before considering taking Ativan. Simultaneous use of alcohol and Ativan is strongly discouraged. After alcohol consumption, the presence of alcohol in your system can persist for many hours, with peak levels occurring in the bloodstream within around an hour, followed by a gradual decline over the subsequent hours.

The concentration of alcohol in your system can be measured using tests like a breathalyzer, which provides your blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC indicates the amount of alcohol present in your body, a value that may vary depending on factors such as the quantity of alcohol consumed, your body composition, and your gender.

Following its peak at around 45 minutes post-drink, BAC decreases at a rate of approximately 0.015 per hour. Therefore, if your BAC reaches the legal driving limit of 0.08, which is the case in most states, it would take more than five hours for the alcohol to be eliminated from your system.

If you have specific inquiries regarding the safe timing of Ativan ingestion after alcohol consumption, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Their recommendations will be tailored to your individual medical history.

Potential Risks of Combining Ativan and Alcohol

The combination of Ativan and alcohol carries the potential for significant health risks. These dangers encompass the heightened risk of a life-threatening overdose and the possibility of enduring physical harm to your body.

Memory Blackouts

When alcohol and Ativan are mixed, the risk of memory impairment increases. This includes experiencing memory blackouts, during which you may not recall specific periods following the combination of these substances.

Elevated Risk of Accidents

Mixing alcohol and Ativan elevates the risk of accidents. Both substances possess sedative properties and can impair your balance, reaction time, and coordination. Consequently, the likelihood of accidents, falls, and motor vehicle mishaps is significantly heightened.

Slowed Heart Rate and Breathing

Since alcohol and Ativan are both central nervous system depressants, their combination increases the risk of unintentional suppression of your heart rate and breathing. In severe cases, this may lead to a cessation of breathing and cardiac activity when alcohol and Ativan are consumed concurrently.

Overdose Risk

The simultaneous consumption of alcohol and Ativan escalates the risk of overdose, partly because benzodiazepines like Ativan may lower the threshold for the dangers associated with alcohol. Overall, alcohol is implicated in 18.5% of benzodiazepine overdose fatalities.

Seeking Help for Ativan and Alcohol Addiction

If you are grappling with dependency on Ativan and alcohol, quitting may appear daunting. Polysubstance abuse is a challenging hurdle to surmount alone, but The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper Drug and Alcohol Rehab is here to assist you. Our medical detoxification center can guide you through the process of safely discontinuing alcohol and Ativan use. Additionally, our rehabilitation center can equip you with the skills needed to maintain a substance-free life. Don’t hesitate—reach out to a Recovery Advocate today to obtain further information and support.

Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially Dangerous Mixes.” May 6, 2022. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Lorazepam Monograph for Professionals.” October 27, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Rege, Sanil; Graham, James. “The Impact of Alcohol on the Brain – Neurobiology of Brain Involvement.” Psych Scene Hub, November 24, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, June 20, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Bowling Green State University. “Alcohol Metabolism.” Accessed November 26, 2023.

Mitchell, Mack C.; Teigen, Erin L.; Ramchandani, Vijay A. “Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or Spirits.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, March 21, 2014. Accessed November 26, 2023.

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