Ativan and Depression

Is there a link between Ativan and depression? Learn more about this issue here.

Introduction to Ativan and Depression

Ativan is FDA approved to treat anxiety disorders and depression. For thousands of years, anxiety has plagued humans. Although the symptoms of anxiety disorders certainly haven’t changed, the way we treat this problem has. During the Middle Ages, anxiety disorders were cured by bloodletting, taking a dip in a frigid river, or with a staggering number of herbs, balms, elixirs, and potions. Today, one of the treatments for anxiety is Ativan. Ativan can also be called lorazepam, which is the generic name for this drug. Ativan treats anxiety, but are Ativan and depression connected? Let’s take a look at Ativan first.


What is Ativan?

Ativan is used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders and belongs to the category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are commonly known as “sedatives” or “tranquilizers.”

It’s a controlled substance and a Schedule IV drug, which means it has limited abuse potential and accepted medical uses. It has a street value, and some of the names that dealers have for it include:

  • Bars
  • Benzos
  • Blues
  • Chill Pills
  • Downers
  • Nerve Pills
  • Planks
  • Tranks
  • Zannies
  • Candy
  • Downers
  • Sleeping Pills
  • Tranks

Ativan works by regulating the levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is known as an “inhibitory neurotransmitter,” which means it reduces the activity of other neurons in the brain and slows down the central nervous system. It reduces anxiety by producing an immediate calming effect.1

Can Ativan Cause Anxiety Disorders and Depression?

Like many other benzodiazepines, depression is a potential side effect of Ativan. The higher the dose, the greater the risk. Depression happens more with people who abuse the drug that it does to those who take it legally. In any event, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and the need for inpatient treatment.

The Truth About Ativan and Depression

Ativan is not directly prescribed to treat clinical depression. However, it’s used to treat anxiety caused by depression. So, it is possible to treat some symptoms of depression with Ativan.

Is it Safe to Take Ativan?

When used as directed by a doctor, it is safe and effective. However, if the drug is misused or taken recreationally, it can cause dependence and be harmful.

Comparing Ativan with Common Alternatives

Klonopin vs. Ativan

Doctors prescribe Klonopin and Ativan to treat anxiety and seizure disorders, and depression is a potential side effect for both. Like every other benzodiazepine, Klonopin and Ativan act by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter (a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other) that inhibits cerebral activity. Excessive cerebral activity is the cause of anxiety.2 Both drugs can cause physical and psychological dependence, resulting in addiction. Klonopin is also prescribed for patients who suffer from panic disorders. Ativan needs to be taken three or four times daily for it to have a noticeable effect. Klonopin only requires a two to three times daily dose to be effective.

Ativan vs. Valium

Both Ativan and Valium are both benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders, and both have the potential to cause addiction. The most significant difference between the two is that Ativan leaves your system more quickly, which decreases the risk of toxicity.3

Can You Become Addicted to Ativan?

It is possible to become addicted to Ativan. This type of addiction can happen if you take the drug in higher than prescribed doses over a long period. This is considered abuse of the drug. Other ways to misuse this medication is by taking someone else’s medication, buying it illegally and using it, doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions, or crushing the drug so it can be snorted or injected.

Ativan is one of the most abused drugs in the United States. It can be exceedingly life-threatening to those who don’t understand the dangers. Abuse of Ativan can result in adverse behavioral changes such as agitation, insomnia, hallucinations, and aggression.

The longer you take this drug, the higher the risk of developing a tolerance to it. As the body gets more used to the medication, it needs more to produce the same effect. This adaptation drastically decreases its effectiveness, meaning you’ll need higher doses to achieve the same “high.”

Over time, Ativan abuse can have a devastating effect on physical and psychological health. Professional treatment can help you safely discontinue the drug and restore your life to the vibrancy it once had. Recovery from Ativan addiction is a long-term process. You’ve got to be in it for the long haul, and treatment includes inpatient detoxification, rehabilitation, and aftercare.


How long you’re in detox varies depending on how long the addiction has been going on and what type of insurance you have.

It involves being slowly weaned off Ativan under the close supervision of a team of medical professionals. Usually, the tapering off process consists of a reduction of 10% of the medication each week.

Ideally, detox will occur in an inpatient setting to monitor for seizure risk and ensure your safety. However, it might have to happen at home due to restrictions in healthcare coverage.


After detox, you’ll enter a rehab program. This occurs in a residential setting where you’ll focus on your recovery. Here, you’ll enjoy a safe and supportive living environment that’ll greatly accelerate treatment. Counselors will use a variety of therapies to cultivate keen insight into triggers so that you can develop powerful coping skills to help reduce the risk of relapse. There might be specialized therapy, such as music, art, or pet therapy. A highly structured daily schedule will be created for you to maximize the benefits you get at the recovery center. There is a point during rehab when you complete treatment for Ativan and depression treatment begins.


After you successfully complete rehab, your aftercare plan will begin.

In aftercare, you’ll refine the strategies that’ll help you be drug-free for the rest of your life. This includes learning more about the disease of addiction and identifying and changing the harmful behaviors that led to drug dependence.

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