Withdrawal is the process the body goes through when it suddenly doesn’t have a chemical or substance it is used to having. For example, if Ativan dependence develops, individuals will go through withdrawal when they stop taking the drug. The same is true in cases of Ativan abuse. People may desire professional help when it comes time to detox from Ativan use, as the withdrawal symptoms can be challenging to manage.
Drug tolerance refers to the need for increased doses to achieve the same effect over time, which can lead to dependency and addiction. Ativan users rapidly develop tolerance, which is why the drug should never be prescribed (or used) for more than a few months. Ativan works by acting on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain — a class of inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors. When Ativan activates these receptors, it inhibits brain action. This result is why Ativan is so successful as an anti-seizure medication and why Ativan can reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
GABA inhibition also affects the regulation of dopamine (which controls the “reward circuit”), although the precise mechanism is still an area of study. Activation of the reward circuit is why people struggling with addiction feel euphoric when they take their drug of choice.
Ativan withdrawal happens when a user quickly reduces or stops taking the drug. The immediate effects of reduced or eliminated Ativan include increased activity in neurons with GABA receptors. Because GABA dampens neuronal excitability, the net effect of less Ativan, and therefore less GABA, is more neuronal excitability. This can lead to anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. In extreme cases, seizures and death can also occur.