A lorazepam overdose is unfortunately an all too familiar outcome for those taking the benzodiazepine drug. A major reason for this is the highly-addictive nature of the drug, which also happens to be extremely potent and fast-working.
To understand what causes a lorazepam overdose it is first necessary to take a look at the drug’s background and what it is used for.
What is lorazepam administered for?
In order to suffer a lorazepam overdose you must first be taking the drug. Unfortunately, those taking the drug are generally suffering mental conditions that already have a negative impact on their well-being, a weakness that in some ways makes them more susceptible to drug abuse.
Like other benzodiazepines, lorazepam is generally administered to those suffering from severe anxiety, insomnia and other forms of sedation, or acute seizures, including Status Epilepticus, in which a sufferer’s brain is in an almost constant state of seizure. Any of these conditions can leave a patient open to further mental diminishment and a potential lorazepam overdose.
Tolerance and dependence
There is a long list of side effects associated with the use of lorazepam, including both long and short term effects. These include traditional sedative side effects such as dizziness, weakness, sedation, vomiting and imbalance. Other longer term reactions include tolerance, dependence and cognitive impairments.
Those becoming tolerant to such side effects are more likely to become dependent on the drug than those that continue to feel the effects during a course of lorazepam. Subsequently, such patients are also more likely to suffer a lorazepam overdose, particularly those that feel the drug is not doing its job.
It is actually the case that the longer a person takes lorazepam the lesser the positive impact it has. At this stage it is necessary to increase the dosage – something that is particularly risky – which again can increase the chance of addiction and a lorazepam overdose.
Lorazepam and other benzodiazepine drugs are also used recreationally. The recreational use of a drug is defined as being used without the consent of a doctor. For some this means using it to get high, whilst others use it long after the course is due to end in order to keep the symptoms at bay. Others use the drug to become less inhibited. Less inhibition can also in turn lead to greater drug usage and lorazepam overdose.
In the U.S. this type of drug is responsible for a high proportion of emergency room visits. This is often a result of a lorazepam overdose, or in some cases, a suicide attempt. The drug is known to induce suicidal tendencies.
Those experiencing a lorazepam overdose may exhibit both mental and physical signs. Physically it may be something simple like a headache but it is also as likely to manifest itself in the form of stomach cramps, sweating, hypersensitivity to light, smell and sound, tingling arms and legs, seizures, tachycardia (increased heart rate) or even hyperthermia.
Mentally, a lorazepam overdose sufferer may experience the return of anxiety, acute depression, hallucinations, delirium, or panic attacks.
Untreated, a lorazepam overdose can lead to death. Those that survive may also have long-term conditions, from a weakened heart to perpetual psychosis and other mental disorders.
Treating a lorazepam overdose
It should go without saying – but in extremely dire times such as these the obvious always needs to be stated – that if you are suffering from a lorazepam overdose and you are still able to think straight enough to do so, you should call the emergency services. The same goes for anybody that finds somebody in a condition that they suspect is a result of a lorazepam overdose.
Emergency doctors will work to stabilize the condition of the person that has overdosed. In some case this can be achieved by monitoring vital signs and flushing the system. In some extreme cases though, it is necessary to use flumazenil, a benzodiazepine antagonist and the only antidote to these drugs. In some cases this is all that separates a lorazepam overdose from death.
Those that survive may not remember what has happened, a result of the anterograde amnesia qualities attributed to the drug. Many suffer partial memory loss as well as an inability to create new memories as a result of a lorazepam overdose.
Lorazepam dosage is vitally important when it comes to correctly administering the benzodiazepine drug. Too high a lorazepam dosage can lead to dependency issues whilst too small a lorazepam dosage will have little or no impact on the ailment it is supposed to be treating.
What is lorazepam used for?
Like other benzodiazepine drugs, lorazepam (also known by its brand name of Ativan) is used as a short-term treatment for severe anxiety, insomnia and acute seizures. It can also be used as a muscle relaxant before unpleasant medical procedures, including dental work and endoscopies.
The right lorazepam dosage will both relax muscles and chemically adjust the part of the brain responsible for emotions. It creates a sort of mental numbness, or ‘takes the edge off’ as many patients describe it, which calms the nerves and mind.
Lorazepam dosage for Anxiety
One of the principle uses of the drug is to calm severe anxiety. The actual lorazepam dosage will vary according to a number of factors, including the age of the patient, the condition of their health and any medication they are already taking.
As a rule of thumb, the average lorazepam dosage for a physically healthy adult suffering acute anxiety is 1mg administered two to three times per day.
In all cases the lowest effective dosage is the best but some patients find that they require a larger dose. A 2mg dose is commonly used as a starting point from which a general practitioner/doctor can raise or drop the level of lorazepam accordingly.
In very few cases a lorazepam dosage higher than 4mg is prescribed.
Lorazepam dosage for Insomnia
The drug is often prescribed to those suffering insomnia, which itself can be a result of anxiety. The lorazepam dosage for those with such sleeping ailments tends to be higher than for anxiety itself, but administered less often.
Again, the actual dosage varies depending on the individual and their personal circumstances, but it is often recommended that a 4mg lorazepam dosage is taken once a day – before bedtime.
For elderly people suffering from either anxiety or insomnia, it is recommended that a smaller dose be administered, mainly as a result of some of the drug’s side effects. For example, some users complain that the benzodiazepine drug results in dizziness, unsteadiness and an impaired balance. Such effects can be extremely dangerous for the elderly.
Lorazepam dosage for Seizures
Whilst it can be used to counter seizures, lorazepam is not used as first line medication for seizure-inducing conditions such as epilepsy due to the addictive nature of even a small lorazepam dosage. As such, it is uncommon for a layman to need to know the lorazepam dosage administered to counteract a seizure.
The actual dosage is determined by the medical professional attending the seizing victim. Such is the power, potency and near-immediate impact of lorazepam, it is likely that only a small quantity will be necessary.
Lorazepam side effects
It may come as a surprise to some but even the smallest lorazepam dosage may result in side effects. Common side effects of the drug include sedation, dizziness, weakness, unsteadiness, depression, Anterograde amnesia – the act of becoming in capable of creating new memories – vomiting, nausea and impaired respiration.
As well as these standard side effects, the drug can also create paradoxical effects; that is to say it can cause the opposite effect of what it is trying to heal. As such, users may suffer from enhanced anxiety, sleep deprivation, depression, and other mental ailments. A similar reaction may be experienced when trying to withdraw from using the drug. This makes it particularly important to get the right lorazepam dosage.
It also only takes a small lorazepam dosage for a user to become dependent on the drug, which in turn can lead to long-term addiction problems. In fact, it has been estimated that dependence develops in as many as one-in-three users.
Ultimately, due to the above factors it is of great importance that if a person is prescribed the drug they should great care and are observant of the lorazepam dosage that the doctor has chosen, ensuring that they immediately return if for any reason they suspect that something might be wrong.