Ativan Side Effects in the Elderly


Lorazepam, marketed under the brand name Ativan, is an anxiety-reducing medication. This drug is in a family called benzodiazepines, which are sedatives that affect the brain and nervous system. Though it has helped many people struggling with anxiety and panic disorders, Ativan carries a risk of addiction. It may also have unwanted side effects for older people, which can be a concern for you or your loved ones. 

Risks of Ativan

While prescription drugs go through rigorous testing protocols to ensure they are generally safe to use, medications may affect various people differently depending on factors such as their age, weight, unique body chemistry and other health conditions they need to manage. That’s why most prescriptions, including Ativan, come with a detailed list of possible warnings and side effects. 

Call your doctor or pharmacist immediately if you start experiencing health issues like these while taking lorazepam:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Mood changes
  • Constipation
  • Changes in libido or appetite

What Happens When Older Adults Take Ativan?

Since Ativan is a central nervous system depressant, people who take it may experience drowsiness, discoordination and unsteadiness. Older adults may be more sensitive to these effects. Also, Ativan may not relieve anxiety for some elderly people. Instead, it can result in agitation, confusion and increase the risk of falls, which are the leading cause of accidents in people over age 65.  

Some users develop a physical or psychological dependence on Ativan because they enjoy how the drug makes them feel and begin to associate its use with a rewarding experience. Older adults may be uniquely susceptible to an Ativan addiction if they misread the instructions, use the incorrect dosage or take other medications that may enhance benzodiazepines’ effects. Unfortunately, as an Ativan substance use disorder develops, it can make your anxiety worse until the two conditions magnify each other. 

Alternatives to Ativan

If your doctor prescribes you a drug, you have every right to ask about its potential hazards so you can be a more informed patient. For instance, it might not be in your best interest to take Ativan if you have a family history of addiction and mental health disorders. Additionally, some medications may carry a risk of dangerous side effects or interactions with other prescriptions you take regularly. 

If you are concerned about taking Ativan for any reason, your health provider should be more than willing to recommend alternatives, including drug-free options. For example, you can manage anxiety without benzodiazepines by using techniques like mindfulness meditation, exercise and adding more self-care to your life. A professional therapist can also equip you with effective coping mechanisms and help you find alternatives to anxious thinking patterns. 

Substance Abuse Treatment for Older Adults

At Pine Grove, we have developed our Legacy Program specifically for men and women ages 55 and older. We understand the life changes that occur as you get older can be challenging to deal with, and our team is here to help. If you are struggling with your mental health and a co-occurring substance use disorder, contact us today to learn about addiction treatment for older adults. 

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