Can Ativan Kill You? 

Anxiety and insomnia seem to abound in today’s fast-paced culture and Ativan can help, but only for a short while. Unfortunately, Ativan’s ability to alter the brain’s chemical makeup in harmful ways makes it hard to follow prescription guidelines. Once you start to use it on an “as-needed” basis, the dangers of Ativan abuse start to take hold. At this point, asking “can Ativan kill you” is a good first step towards understanding the type of hold this drug can have on your mind and body.

Ativan Uses & Treatment Effects

When the brain functions as it should, all’s right with the world. However, if just one chemical is off balance, problems can show up in your mental or emotional well-being. Conditions, such as anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and insomnia develop when GABA, a neurotransmitter chemical, is in short supply.

GABA produces calming effects, slowing the brain’s chemical and electrical activity. Ativan is designed to stimulate the receptors in your brain that produce GABA. These interactions account for why Ativan works well as a treatment for the above conditions. In effect, Ativan slows your central nervous system (CNS) activities by increasing GABA levels.

Ativan belongs to the benzodiazepine class of prescription drugs. Benzodiazepines are used as sedatives, tranquilizers, and anti-anxiety medications. While highly effective, Ativan and other benzodiazepines should only be used on a short-term basis. So, can Ativan kill you? Unfortunately, these underlying treatment effects lay the groundwork for Ativan’s role in causing fatalities.

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Ativan Side Effects

Any time a drug alters the brain’s chemical makeup, problems can develop; especially when it’s used frequently or for a long time. Ativan’s ability to increase GABA production carries this same risk. In fact, side effects can develop regardless of how often or how long you take Ativan, depending on how your body responds to it. Common side effects of this drug include:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Amnesia
  • Fatigue
  • Coordination problems
  • Dizziness

Along with these symptoms, ongoing use opens you up to developing an increasing tolerance for Ativan as the brain attempts to integrate the drug’s effects within its chemical system. From there, physical dependence is just a stone’s throw away. Once dependence develops, addiction is soon to follow unless steps are taken to get your Ativan use under control. The sum total of these developments leaves you at considerable risk of Ativan overdose. While an overdose on Ativan probably won’t kill you, the effects of addiction can.

Mixing Ativan with Alcohol or Opioids

Ativan, alcohol, and opioids all act as central nervous system depressants. When mixed together, the effects of one substance reinforces the effects of the other. These are prime conditions for a fatal Ativan overdose to occur.

With Ativan dependence, the brain’s tolerance for the drug keeps increasing. After a certain point, no amount of the drug will produce the feelings of calm and euphoria you’ve come to expect. Once Ativan addiction takes hold, Ativan use turns into a compulsive “need” that helps you cope with daily life. Under these conditions, using alcohol or opioids to boost Ativan’s effects becomes the next “logical” step.

The combined effects of Ativan and another CNS depressant can bring on deadly results, causing the body’s major systems slow to a crawl. Your respiratory system, in particular, can stop working altogether, which is how fatal overdose commonly occurs with CNS depressants. So, can Ativan kill you if you mix it with alcohol or opioids? The answer is yes.


Long-term abuse of Ativan takes a considerable toll on the brain and on CNS functioning. The damage that’s been done becomes painfully apparent when you try to stop taking it. Ativan withdrawal can be a harrowing, uncomfortable experience for moderate and chronic users, alike.

Severe withdrawal from Ativan causes upheaval within the brain’s chemical and electrical systems. These conditions can give rise to grand mal seizures, which can happen at any time. The loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions that result pose considerable risk to your well-being.

During a grand mal seizure, breathing may stop and start, sporadically. If pauses in breathing last too long, blood-oxygen concentrations can drop to life-threatening levels. Grand mal seizures can also cause heart rhythms or even cardiac arrest. Death may also result from a combination of these symptoms.

Mental & Emotional Duress

One of the more distressing side effects of long-term Ativan abuse is rebound symptoms. Rebound symptoms develop when Ativan can no longer relieve the symptoms it was prescribed to treat. Not only do the same symptoms reappear but they’re worse in intensity. This means if you were prescribed Ativan to treat anxiety and start to experience rebound symptoms, feelings of anxiety may evolve into full-blown panic attacks.

These developments can give rise to thoughts of suicide and even drive a person to act on these thoughts. Also, it’s not uncommon for someone in this position to try to self-medicate rebound symptoms by combining opioids or alcohol with their prescription. As mentioned before, this is a deadly mix that can lead to a fatal Ativan overdose.

Fake Ativan

When addiction develops and the prescription runs out, some people resort to buying Ativan on the street. The main problem with street drugs is you never really know what you’re getting. Unscrupulous dealers often make a habit of mixing Ativan with other substances, such as fentanyl, which produces a much stronger “high.” Fentanyl, one of the most powerful opioids in existence, is anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin depending on the batch. A fatal overdose on Ativan and fentanyl is likely unless medical treatment is administered.

Considering the degree of damage Ativan can cause, the real question is “can Ativan kill you when abuse and addiction are left to their own devices?” Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. Whether you’re struggling with Ativan abuse or want to stop taking the drug, some form of treatment help should be considered. Ativan rehab programs can help you taper off the drug and avoid the distressing withdrawal effects of detox. And like any other drug problem, the longer Ativan abuse goes untreated the harder it is to stop taking it so it’s never too soon to consider getting treatment help.

Sources –

  •– What Are Prescription CNS Depressants?
  • – Risks, Management, and Monitoring of Combination Opioid, Benzodiazepines, and/or Alcohol Use
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.go – Polydrug Abuse: A Review of Opioid and Benzodiazepine Combination Use

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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