How is Ativan Used in the Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Treatment and Ativan

Ativan is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety.
Ativan is prescribed for short-term treatment of anxiety.. Wikimedia Commons / Nsaum75

Ativan (Lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine sometimes used in the short-term treatment of social anxiety disorder.

Method of Action

Benzodiazepines facilitate the action of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in anxiety disorders. Clonazepam is another benzodiazepine that has been studied in relation to its effect for social anxiety disorder.

Ativan Dosage Guidelines

Ativan is taken in tablet form.

 The usual daily dosage of Ativan for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is 2 mg to 3 mg. If you are taking Ativan for social anxiety disorder (SAD), your doctor should initially prescribe a low dose for a limited period of time (such as one week) and then follow up with an evaluation of its effectiveness, adverse effects and dosage adjustment.

Who Should Not Take Ativan

You should not take Ativan if you are allergic to similar medications, such as Valium, or if you have acute narrow-angle glaucoma. Use of Ativan while pregnant or breastfeeding is not advised. There is also no data on the safety or effectiveness of Ativan in children under 12 years of age.

Medication Interactions

There are a number of potential medication interactions with Ativan, including barbituates, sedatives, antidepressants, narcotic analgesics, anticonvulsants and anesthetics. It is important that your doctor is aware of all medications that you are currently taking.

In addition, the effects of Ativan may be intensified if combined with alcohol.

Adverse Effects of Ativan

The most common adverse effects of taking Ativan are sedation, dizziness, weakness and unsteadiness. Cognitive effects, such as decreased attention and problems with memory, are also possible. Adverse effects generally increase with larger doses and for older individuals.

Associated Risks

In general, there is some risk of physical and psychological dependence when taking Ativan. Do not take this medication for longer than prescribed. On the other hand, if you suddenly stop taking Ativan, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Be sure to follow your doctor's directions for discontinuing this medication or changing your dose.

Driving, operating dangerous machinery and participating in hazardous activities should not be undertaken until you know how you will react to Ativan.

The use of benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, may lead to respiratory depression.

Ativan and Social Anxiety Disorder

While research on the use of ativan in the treatment of social anxiety disorder has been limited, there has been evidence to support the use of other benzodiazepines (such as clonazepam) in the treatment of SAD.

Although you may be worried about starting a new medication such as Ativan, as long as you follow the directions provided by your healthcare provider there is no need for concern.

If you experience difficulty with adverse effects be sure to report these to your provider so that your treatment regimen can be tweaked if necessary, or a different medication can be prescribed.

Sources:

Biovail. Ativan. Accessed May 24, 2016.

Halaby A, Haddad RS, Naja WJ. Non-Antidepressant Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder: A Review. Curr Clin Pharmacol. February 2013.

Mayo-Wilson E, Dias S, Mavranezouli I, et al. Psychological and pharmacological interventions for social anxiety disorder in adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2014;1(5):368-376. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70329-3.

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