Both in the benzodiazepine family of drugs, Ativan and Xanax are two types of medications that treat mental health disorders and other medical conditions. 1 in 8 Americans are prescribed benzos, while over a million teens and adults have admitted to taking benzos without a prescription. This family of drugs has many clinical uses and helps the individuals who use them to overcome many symptoms of their disorders such as seizures and anxiety attacks.
Although they are quite different from each other, both Ativan and Xanax pose a threat to those who use them on a daily basis because they have been proven to be incredibly addictive. Before ever agreeing to be prescribed to either of these medications, it is important to be aware of what side effects they may cause and the dangers of becoming addicted to either substance.
Dual-Diagnosis with Co-occurring Disorders
When an individual is diagnosed with a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder, there is a likely chance that the one identified is also causing a co-occurring situation. This means that their mental disorder is enabling their substance use disorder or vice-versa. When this occurs, licensed physicians dual-diagnose the patient, putting them on a recovery plan that treats both disorders at the same time.
Medication is usually necessary during the treatment process. But, it is possible for a recovering individual to become addicted to their medication if they’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder, as well. Because of this, the Xanax and Ativan doses, which are often used to treat mental disorders, are closely monitored in order to prevent the individual from relapsing.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Psychologists theorize that rapidly firing neurons are the cause of seizures, anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical disorders. Gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain allows the neurons to respond quickly. Benzodiazepines work by prolonging the activity of this acid. By slowing down the signals between neurons, benzodiazepines ultimately create a euphoric feeling. Also called benzos, these drugs are psychoactive and have sedative and calming effects. Because of this, this family of drugs is known to be some of the most abused in the United States. Xanax and Ativan both fall under this category of drugs.
A Deeper Look at Ativan
Ativan, also known as Lorazepam, is a sedative only available with a prescription. It is commonly used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy, anxiety disorders, insomnia and light anesthesia for medical procedures. Ativan is classified as a long-acting benzodiazepine and is not normally prescribed for more than a few months at a time. This drug is highly addictive, so patients should be closely monitored by their physician.
Ativan side effects include:
- Loss of balance
- Memory issues
- Sleep problems
- Stomach issues
- Change in appetite
- Severe withdrawal symptoms
Ativan’s full effect is felt somewhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours. The drug can take up to 20 hours to leave a person’s bloodstream.
Some people think Ativan is “not a big deal” because it is a prescription. This mindset is what often leads people to combine Ativan with other substances like alcohol, cocaine, and methadone to increase the drug’s strength. Ativan is high on the list of drugs that are accidentally or intentionally overdosed on.
Signs of Ativan overdose
- Passing out
- Slurred speech
- Eyes rolling into the back of the head
- Slow breathing
- Loss of body control
A Deeper Look at Xanax
Xanax, also known as Alprazolam, is also a sedative only available by prescription. It is the most prescribed medication for psychiatric problems. Xanax is primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. This drug is highly addictive and a patient should be closely monitored by a physician.
Xanax side effects include:
- Suicidal thoughts/depression
- Impaired judgment/risk-taking
- Impaired coordination
- Life-threatening withdrawals
- Increased energy
- Uncontrolled movements/seizures
- Racing heart
Individuals may feel the full effect of Xanax 1 to 2 hours after taking the drug. Xanax can stay in a person’s bloodstream for 2 to 4 days. Users will stop feeling the effects of Xanax in 6 to 8 hours, so most people are prescribed Xanax to be taken 3 times a day.
Signs of Xanax overdose
- Slow breathing
- Passing out
- Blurred vision
- Impaired reflexes
About Ativan and Xanax Addiction in North Carolina
There is a common misconception that Ativan and Xanax use is not a problem. But in reality, the number of people being prescribed Ativan and Xanax is on the rise in North Carolina. As the government has begun cracking down on opioid prescriptions, patients are turning to prescription drugs for relief. Also, the sale of Ativan and Xanax on the streets is at an all-time high. As with most prescribed medications, patients may feel a sense of safety and forget how addictive these medications are. People like the way it makes them feel and as time goes on they take more and more. Studies in North Carolina show that overdose rates were 10% higher when a person mixed Ativan or Xanax with painkillers.
The benzo class is one of the few drug categories with a potentially deadly withdrawal. So becoming addicted to benzodiazepines comes at a very high cost. Addiction is possible with both Ativan and Xanax because of their “high-like” qualities, and their usage as anti-anxiety medications leads to strong effects when abused. Doctors tend to prescribe them in low dosages at first because they must monitor how an individual will react to them.
Drug addiction is a psychological and physical dependence and is a disease of the brain. Substance dependence can occur if you use a drug according to prescription or if you take more than the prescribed amount. The chance of addiction increases if a person combines the drug with other substances such as alcohol or other drugs. When individuals mix benzos with painkillers, the results can be fatal.
Although Xanax has a higher potential for abuse than Ativan, both should be used as directed. They should be tapered off in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms because the risk of addiction increases with prolonged use.
Understanding Benzo Dependence
Sometimes, people who suffer from benzo dependence, or any other substance use disorder for that matter, do not realize what is happening. They may not know that they have developed a substance problem and may continue to use drugs or alcohol. In some cases, their loved ones may recognize the problem first.
If you know someone who is using benzos, whether for medical reasons or without a prescription, it’s important to be aware of the signs of benzo addiction. Or, perhaps you are using benzos. If so, you should be able to identify the signs of dependence.
Signs of benzo addiction include the following:
- Mood swings
- Change in personality
- Slurred speech
- Weight loss
- Poor hygiene
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Reckless behavior
- Legal trouble
Ativan and Xanax Withdrawals
If someone stops taking Ativan or Xanax suddenly they can have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. A doctor should always supervise a step-down program in order to prevent severe withdrawals. But unfortunately, not everyone who is addicted to Ativan or Xanax gets it from a doctor and therefore they are at a higher risk of death from withdrawal.
Symptoms of Withdrawal:
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle discomfort
- Difficulty focusing
- Excessive sweating
- Severe depression
- Thoughts of self-harm
For those who have a mild addiction, they can get through the withdrawals in about a week, while those with a more severe addiction can take months to wean down and get the drug out of their system.
The following is an average timeline of withdrawal symptoms:
- First 8 hours: Withdrawal symptoms begin, for those on short-acting benzos, most prevalent are insomnia and anxiety.
- Days 1-4: The discomfort from insomnia and pain increases. An addict starts to experience increased breathing, heart rate, sweating, and nausea. Withdrawal symptoms start for those on long-acting benzos.
- Days 10-14: Most addicts have gotten through the withdrawal phase of recovery. Addicts who took long-acting benzos are just beginning to reach the peak of their withdrawal symptoms.
- Days 15 and beyond: Those with severe addiction can experience PAWS, also known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms. PAWS are strong withdrawal symptoms that come out of nowhere.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
- Loss of sex drive
- Severe insomnia
- Chronic anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
Ativan vs Xanax: What’s the Difference?
Though Ativan and Xanax are in the same drug category and are often used to treat similar conditions, they interact with the body in different ways. Ativan has a longer active time than Xanax. Ativan’s effects peak 1-6 hours after taking it, while the effects of Xanax peak between just 1 and 2 hours after use.
Half-life is another significant difference in Ativan vs Xanax. “Half-life” refers to the time it takes for the concentration of the drug to reduce by half in the body. Ativan has a half-life of around 15 hours, while the half-life of Xanax is about 12 hours. Because Xanax absorbs quickly into the bloodstream, it has a higher likelihood of addiction, but Ativan can be more difficult to withdraw from.
Treating Substance Dependency
Now that you understand the difference between Ativan and Xanax, you may be ready to discover how to get help with your dependency. When seeking treatment for Xanax or Ativan dependence, a professional treatment center like Crest View Recovery Center can make the process easier. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax and Ativan are often painful and can even be deadly, but professional addiction therapy services can help you to achieve long-term recovery. We can guide you through your treatment program to help ensure you reach through to recovery on the other side.
Services we offer for Ativan and Xanax treatment include:
- Rehab treatment: The typical treatment people think of when rehab centers are talked about where patients are treated inside of the facility
- Intensive outpatient program: Outpatient programs are created for individuals who need to attend school or work to provide for their families while also receiving treatment
- On-site psychologists: Professionals who are able to help patients realize where past trauma started that may have caused their substance abuse or mental disorder
- 9-step and 12-step programs: Programs designed to teach patients about a power higher than themselves
- Family therapy: Therapy that gets a patient’s family members and friends involved in the recovery process
- Group therapy: Therapy that allows the patient to understand there are others exactly like them who are struggling with the same disorders
- Yoga and meditation: A creative outlet designed to allow the patient to become one with their thoughts and spirituality
- Acupuncture therapy: Therapy that releases unwanted stress and anxiety through placement over certain pressure points
Here at Crest View Recovery Center, the amount of guidance and assistance our staff can offer is endless. We are here to ensure you every step of the way that you can overcome your addiction and recover completely.
Let Crest View Recovery Center Help You!
Tackling an addiction head-on can be scary and overwhelming, but you don’t have to manage it all on your own. The professional and caring staff at Crest View Recovery Center can help to meet your medical, psychological and recreational needs during recovery. Give our office a call to learn more and to get started today. We’re here to help you overcome addiction for good!