Substance Use

Lorazepam and Alcohol Substance Abuse

man taking lorazepam pills and liquor

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The Dangers of Mixing Lorazepam and Alcohol

Lorazepam is the prescription name for the brand name benzodiazepine Ativan. Even though this drug is commonly prescribed by healthcare professionals, it is also widely abused, like other benzodiazepines. People who abuse lorazepam commonly mix it with alcohol to enhance its effects. Since both drugs depress the central nervous system, mixing these substances can result in dangerous and even life-threatening side effects. In this post, we’ll go over these substances, their side effects, and how to seek help today.

If you or a loved one are struggling to stop drinking and/or taking prescription drugs, Zinnia Healing can help. Learn more about our treatment options here.

What Is Lorazepam?

Lorazepam is a sedative that’s commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. It has a number of other approved and off-label uses, including:

  • Anxiety management and sedation before surgery
  • Managing anxiety-worsened irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Easing nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy for cancer patients

Similar to other benzodiazepines, lorazepam has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It belongs to the same class of drugs as:

  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Librium
  • Halcion
  • Klonopin
  • Restoril

How Does Lorazepam Work?

Lorazepam increases the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It does so by binding to GABA receptors in the central nervous system, which causes decreased nervous excitation in the brain.

The most common side effects of lorazepam include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness

Less frequent side effects of lorazepam are:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Libido changes
  • Memory problems

The most serious side effects of lorazepam, which typically happen when it’s taken in large doses, include:

  • Respiratory depression and slowed breathing
  • Blackouts
  • Respiratory failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stiff muscles

If you experience any of the above side effects, you should call 9-1-1 or get a ride to the emergency department immediately.

What Are the Side Effects of Alcohol?

Many of alcohol’s side effects mimic those of benzos, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Clumsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Impaired decision-making
  • Sleepiness
  • Decreased heart rate and breathing
  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting

The Effects of Mixing Lorazepam and Alcohol

The most detrimental side effects of mixing alcohol and lorazepam result from how the substances slow brain activity, breathing, and heart rate. This happens as both substances go to work to depress the central nervous system and impact similar areas of the brain involved in GABA production.

GABA plays an integral role in facilitating communication between neurons. When there’s not enough GABA, neurons fire quickly, increasing the risk of epilepsy in people with seizure disorders, increasing the risk of panic attacks, and decreasing the ability to fall and stay asleep.

Unsurprisingly, when alcohol and lorazepam are taken together, the effects they produce are more powerful than when the substances are taken alone. This increases the chances of overdose and side effects such as:

  • Unsteady gait
  • Stupor
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Unusual behavior
  • Coordination problems
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of sphincter control
  • Memory loss
  • Coma
  • Death

Why Do People Mix Lorazepam and Alcohol?

Like most drugs, people often start mixing lorazepam and alcohol through experimentation or curiosity. Since alcohol is such a commonly used — and abused — substance and is so readily available, it’s often the easiest thing to mix prescription drugs with.

Other reasons people may choose to mix lorazepam and alcohol include:

  • They are looking to intensify the buzz from one of the substances.
  • They are looking for a deeper “escape” from reality and their problems.
  • A history of substance use disorders has them continually seeking more intense effects from drugs and alcohol.
  • They are bored or lonely.

Effects of Mixing Lorazepam and Alcohol in the Short Term

Combining lorazepam and alcohol is much more likely to lead to overdose symptoms than the use of either substance alone. The amplified effects of lorazepam and alcohol can lead to serious physiological and mental health issues, including:

  • Ataxia — a disorder that manifests as difficulty with voluntary movement, including swallowing and walking
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Hypotonia (decreased muscle tone)
  • Blacking out or passing out in dangerous situations, like driving or cooking
  • Slowed breathing
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects of Mixing Lorazepam and Alcohol in the Long Term

Alcohol use and lorazepam use won’t always result in an overdose, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without serious long-term effects, like deteriorating mental health, physical health, employment status, and relationships. Some examples of long-term issues that can develop with chronic lorazepam and/or alcohol abuse include:

  • Liver damage and disease
  • Heart disease
  • Circulatory disease
  • Hypoxia — low oxygen that damages parts of the body and brain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you’re worried about a loved one’s alcohol addiction or prescription drug addiction, Zinnia Healing can help. Learn about our addiction treatment process here.

How Do I Know If a Loved One Is Mixing Lorazepam and Alcohol?

There are a few tell-tale signs that someone is abusing alcohol and lorazepam, such as:

  • Feeling groggy or “low energy”
  • Being unable to focus or hold a conversation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed breathing
  • Being unresponsive to touch or commands
  • Finding prescription pill bottles and alcohol bottles/cans together
  • Pills missing from a prescription bottle or continually going through their medication faster than they can get a refill
  • Isolating themselves from their family and friends
  • Neglecting all work, home, and social responsibilities to use the substances
  • Spending most of their time seeking lorazepam and alcohol, consuming the substances, and recovering from the substances

Zinnia Healing Can Help

Substance abuse and addiction are lifelong battles. But with the proper resources, your chances of making a full recovery to reclaim your life are much greater than attempting to get sober on your own.

Zinnia Healing offers a number of treatment programs, including detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and therapy options to help you kick your addiction to the curb. Contact us today at (855) 430-9439 or online to learn more. Help is standing by 24/7.

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