Same-day admissions available. Call Now.

Ativan (Lorazepam) and Alcohol: Potential Interactions and Risks

Written by Brennan Valeski

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Editorial Policy

View our editorial policy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling 561-340-7269 now.

Updated 11/29/2023

Combining Ativan (lorazepam) with alcohol can result in dangerous interactions and an increased risk of adverse effects, including the potential for overdose.

Ativan, a benzodiazepine medication, is commonly prescribed for conditions such as anxiety. If you’re currently using Ativan, you may be wondering about the safety of consuming alcohol while taking this medication. Due to the extended duration of Ativan’s effects in the body, it’s crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the potential risks associated with alcohol use while on this medication.

What Is Ativan (Lorazepam)?

Ativan is the brand name for the benzodiazepine lorazepam. This medication enhances the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, primarily due to its interactions with GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. GABA is the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter, responsible for slowing down brain activity. Ativan is prescribed for various medical conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy
  • Delirium
  • Cardiovascular emergencies 

Interactions Between Lorazepam and Alcohol

Both Ativan and alcohol fall under the category of central nervous system depressants. Experts believe that they enhance the activity of GABA in the brain. Medical professionals theorize that Ativan affects a complex network in the brain involving GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. On the other hand, alcohol increases the release of GABA and augments activity at GABA receptors. Consequently, when combined, these substances can result in synergistic effects, where the combined impact is more pronounced than that of each substance individually.

Can You Consume Alcohol While Taking Ativan?

It is strongly advised to abstain from alcohol while taking Ativan due to the heightened risk of severe side effects, including the potential for overdose.

How Long Should You Wait After Taking Ativan Before Drinking?

It is recommended to refrain from alcohol consumption for a minimum of 48 hours after taking Ativan. Although most studies have focused on the injectable form of the medication, similar principles apply when Ativan is taken orally.

Healthcare professionals can provide specific guidance based on Ativan’s half-life, which refers to the time it takes for a single dose to be fully eliminated from the body. Ativan’s half-life ranges from 10 to 20 hours. Since it takes approximately five half-lives for a drug to be completely metabolized, the earliest Ativan can be completely cleared from the body is roughly 48 hours after ingestion.

How Long After Drinking Can You Take Lorazepam?

It is advisable to wait until all traces of alcohol have been fully metabolized and eliminated from your system before contemplating the use of Ativan. Concurrent use of alcohol and Ativan is highly discouraged. Following alcohol consumption, alcohol may remain in your system for extended periods, with peak levels occurring in the bloodstream within about 60 minutes and a gradual decline over subsequent hours.

Your blood alcohol content (BAC), indicating the amount of alcohol in your body, can be measured through tests like a breathalyzer. BAC levels may vary based on factors such as the quantity of alcohol consumed, your body composition, and your gender.

After reaching its peak at around 45 minutes post-consumption, BAC decreases at an average rate of about 0.015 per hour. Consequently, if your BAC reaches the legal driving limit of 0.08, as is common in most states, it would take more than five hours for the alcohol to be fully metabolized and eliminated from your system.

Potential Risks of Combining Ativan and Alcohol

The combination of Ativan and alcohol carries the potential for significant health risks, including:

Blackouts

When you mix alcohol and Ativan, you have an increased risk of memory impairment, including blackouts, where you may not remember chunks of time after combining the substances.

Increased Risk of Injury

The combined use of alcohol and Ativan elevates the risk of accidents. Both substances have sedative effects that can impair your balance, reaction time and coordination, increasing the likelihood of falls and motor vehicle accidents.

Slowed Breathing and Heart Rate

Combining alcohol and Ativan intensifies the risk of unintentionally slowing down your central nervous system. This can lead to suppression of your heart rate and breathing, potentially reaching a point where your breathing and heart may stop entirely when mixing alcohol and Ativan.

Overdose Risk

The simultaneous consumption of alcohol and Ativan escalates the risk of overdose, partly because benzodiazepines like Ativan may lower the threshold for the dangers associated with alcohol. Overall, alcohol is implicated in 18.5% of benzodiazepine overdose fatalities.

Find Professional Treatment for Ativan and Alcohol Addiction

If you find yourself grappling with dependency on Ativan and alcohol, overcoming it may seem like a daunting task. Polysubstance abuse is a complex issue, but you don’t have to go through it alone. The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is here to support you on your journey to recovery. Our medical detoxification center can help you safely discontinue alcohol and Ativan use. Additionally, our rehabilitation center is dedicated to equipping you with the skills needed to maintain a life free from substance dependence. Don’t hesitate—reach out to a Recovery Advocate today to learn more about the support and resources available to you.

View Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially Dangerous Mixes.” May 6, 2022. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Lorazepam Monograph for Professionals.” October 27, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Rege, Sanil; Graham, James. “The Impact of Alcohol on the Brain – Neurobiology of Brain Involvement.” Psych Scene Hub, November 24, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, June 20, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Bowling Green State University. “Alcohol Metabolism.” Accessed November 26, 2023.

Mitchell, Mack C.; Teigen, Erin L.; Ramchandani, Vijay A. “Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or Spirits.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, March 21, 2014. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Authorship