Ativan (lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine drug commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders. Although the drug can be helpful when taken exactly as prescribed, it is also a controlled substance that carries the risk of dependence, abuse, addiction and overdose. If you or a loved one take Ativan, ensuring you are using the drug appropriately is important to avoid complications, including overdose.

Can You Overdose on Ativan?

An Ativan overdose is possible and can be fatal in some cases. Mixing Ativan with other central nervous system depressants, including alcohol, opioids or other sedatives, increases the probability of an Ativan overdose. Although an Ativan overdose without any other substance is rarely fatal, the same is not true when combining the drug with other agents. In 2020, benzodiazepines like Ativan were linked to 16% of all opioid overdose deaths.

Signs of an Ativan Overdose

Signs of an Ativan overdose are similar to those of other central nervous system depressants and include:

  • Extreme drowsiness 
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Problems with reflexes and coordination 
  • Unresponsiveness

If Ativan is mixed with other substances, including other central nervous system depressants, the overdose effects can intensify further and may start to include other symptoms like slowed breathing, which can be fatal.

Overdose Risk Factors

Certain factors can impact a person’s chances of having an Ativan overdose. Minimizing Ativan overdose risk factors is important when possible for this reason. These include:

  • Taking more Ativan than prescribed
  • Taking Ativan more often than prescribed
  • Using Ativan not prescribed to you
  • Mixing Ativan with other substances, especially if they have not been prescribed to you
  • Taking Ativan with illicit drugs or alcohol

Avoiding these Ativan overdose risk factors can increase your likelihood of safely taking the medication. 

Maximum Ativan Dose

The maximum Ativan dosage can differ depending on why a person takes it and if they are prescribed it in the outpatient setting or taking it while under strict medical supervision in the hospital. In other words, a person in the ICU prescribed Ativan to help control their seizures will have a different max Ativan dose than a person at home who has been prescribed the drug for anxiety.

The total max Ativan starting dose in the outpatient setting is 2–3 mg daily. After the person is accustomed to the drug, the total daily dose can increase to 10 mg but is rarely higher than 6 mg.

Lethal Dose of Ativan

Animal studies suggest the lethal dose of Ativan is 1,850 mg per kilogram of body weight when Ativan is taken alone. As this would be an enormous dose in most humans, it is unclear what the actual lethal dose in humans would be for Ativan by itself.

However, when mixed with other substances, Ativan can be fatal in much smaller amounts, even in prescribed doses. You should never mix Ativan with other substances unless specifically told to by your doctor for this reason.

What To Do if You Suspect an Ativan Overdose

An Ativan overdose is a medical emergency and can be fatal. If you suspect a person is overdosing on Ativan, you should immediately call 911. If they have taken other substances, including opioids, you can administer the opioid reversal agent naloxone (Narcan) and then call 911. However, Narcan will only reverse the opioid component of the overdose, not the Ativan component. 

Ativan Overdose Treatment

A person overdosing on Ativan is normally treated in the hospital with observation and supportive care. The medical team ensures the person’s breathing, heartbeat and circulation are normal and can intervene if there are problems. Although a benzodiazepine reversal agent, flumazenil, exists, it is rarely used due to severe toxicity concerns.

If you or a loved one is concerned about an Ativan addiction, help is here. Our Ativan experts at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help you overcome your Ativan struggle. With a custom medical detox program to help you get off Ativan and rehab treatments to help keep you off the drug, we are with you every step of the way. Don’t wait: contact us today to see how we can help.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Jessica-Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” April 21, 2022. Accessed August 20, 2022.

Drugs.com. “Lorazepam.” March 3, 2022. Accessed August 20, 2022.

Drugbank. “Lorazepam.” Accessed August 20, 2022.

Kang, Michael; Galuska, Michael A.; Ghassemzadeh, Sassan. “Benzodiazepine Toxicity.” StatPearls, June 27, 2022. Accessed August 20, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.