Ativan (Lorazepam) – Oral

What Is Ativan?

Ativan (lorazepam) is an anti-seizure prescription drug used to treat anxiety and seizures. It is a Schedule IV controlled substance belonging to the drug class known as benzodiazepines.

Lorazepam is available as a tablet in immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (ER) formulations. Some strengths of Ativan IR pills are scored (slit down the middle) and can be broken in half if required. Lorazepam is also available as an injection solution that contains benzyl alcohol, polyethylene glycol, or propylene glycol.

Ativan works by changing the shape (positive allosteric modulation) of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. This causes GABA, a specific chemical in your brain, to bind more frequently. This helps to relax or calm your nerves, as well as help stop a seizure.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Lorazepam

Brand Name(s): Ativan

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Benzodiazepines

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: Yes

Administration Route: Oral

Active Ingredient: Lorazepam

Dosage Form(s): Tablet, Solution

What Is Ativan Used For?

Ativan (lorazepam) is used to manage or treat anxiety, one of the most prevalent and disabling disorders in the United States, which may impact daily living and quality of life. It is not commonly used to treat anxiety or tension caused by everyday stress. 

Ativan is used for the following:

  • Short-term (four months) relief of anxiety symptoms related to depressive symptoms or anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety-associated insomnia
  • Premedication in adults during anesthesia to reduce anxiety, cause amnesia (not remembering the procedure), and cause sedation
  • Treatment of status epilepticus (epilepsy)

How to Take Ativan

Take with or without food as directed by your healthcare provider. You may take this medicine with food if it causes an upset stomach.  

If taking the oral concentrate, use the calibrated dropper in the packaging to extract the prescribed dose. Mix the dose with liquid (e.g., water, soda, juice) or semisolid food (e.g., applesauce, pudding) for a few seconds to blend thoroughly. Take the mixture as soon as possible.  

Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly, without speaking to your healthcare professional. You may experience severe or life-threatening side effects, including hallucinations, if you do. In severe cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal may be fatal.


Although Ativan tablets are best stored at room temperature (77 degrees F), short excursions are permitted between cool and mildly hot temperatures (59 to 86 degrees F).

Store oral concentrate away from light in the refrigerator at between 36 and 46 degrees F. Your healthcare provider must dispense lorazepam liquid only in its original bottle with the accompanying calibrated dropper supplied by the manufacturer. Do not use any leftovers in the container 90 days from opening.

Try to avoid pouring unused and expired drugs down the drain or in the toilet. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the best ways to dispose of this medicine. Visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website to learn where and how to discard all unused and expired drugs. You can also find disposal boxes in your area. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider any questions you have about the best ways to dispose of your medications.

If you plan to travel with Ativan, become familiar with your final destination's regulations. Make a copy of your Ativan prescription. Keep your medication in its original container from your pharmacy with your name on the label. If you have any questions about traveling with your medicine, be sure to ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Off-Label Uses

Lorazepam is used off-label for the following conditions:

  • Insomnia (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good sleep)
  • Panic disorder (anxiety disorder causing sudden attacks of intense fear)
  • Psychogenic catatonia (a severe psychomotor syndrome causing an inability to move)
  • Delirium (serious change in mental state causing confusion, disorientation, and an inability to think clearly)
  • Alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Rapid tranquilization (calming) of the agitated patient
  • Chemotherapy-associated expected nausea and vomiting (adjunct or breakthrough)

How Long Does Ativan Take to Work?

Once ingested, Ativan takes about 20 to 30 minutes to start working in your system and peaks in about two hours. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you've any questions about how Ativan works.

What Are the Side Effects of Ativan?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Ativan include but are not limited to:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleepiness
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Amnesia (loss of memory)
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Libido (sexual desire) changes
  • Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Urinary retention

Severe Side Effects

Ativan can cause many side effects. Some may be life-threatening. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you have a medical emergency. Severe side effects include:

  • Tachycardia (high heart rate)
  • Hypotension
  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Blood disorders
  • Gangrene (death of body tissue)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Respiratory failure
  • Memory problems or loss
  • Seizures
  • Suicidality
  • New or worse behavior or mood changes like depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Dependency or misuse
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Paradoxical reaction (experiencing the opposite effect of the drug)
  • Hyperactive and aggressive behavior
  • Behavioral changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Neurodevelopmental (development of the nervous system) effects in children

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-term use of Ativan may lead to abuse, misuse, and addiction, leading to overdose or death. This risk increases in people with substance use disorder. Your healthcare provider may have to start this medicine at the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration.

Report Side Effects

Ativan may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Ativan Should I Take?

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The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage form (oral solution):
    • For anxiety:
      • Adults and children 12 years of age and older—2 to 6 milligrams (mg) in divided doses per day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Older adults—At first, 1 to 2 mg in divided doses per day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children younger than 12 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
  • For oral dosage form (tablets):
    • For anxiety:
      • Adults and children 12 years of age and older—At first, 2 to 3 milligrams (mg) in divided doses per day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Older adults—At first, 1 to 2 mg in divided doses per day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed and tolerated.
      • Children younger than 12 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For insomnia caused by anxiety or transient situational stress:
      • Adults and children 12 years of age and older—2 to 4 milligrams (mg) taken as a single dose at bedtime. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children younger than 12 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
  • For oral dosage form (extended-release capsules):
    • For anxiety:
      • Adults—One capsule once a day in the morning. Dose is based on the total daily dose of lorazepam tablets, which you take three times a day in equally divided doses. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.


The following modifications (changes) should be kept in mind when using Ativan:

Pregnancy: Lorazepam and its metabolite (what it turns into in the body) cross the human placenta and may cause harmful effects on your fetus. Higher risks happen for this medicine during the third trimester of pregnancy.

It may cause premature birth, cleft palate, low birth weight, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and respiratory (breathing) problems in newborns, including neonatal withdrawal syndrome and floppy infant syndrome.

Discuss with your healthcare provider whether you plan to become pregnant or are pregnant, and weigh the benefits and risks of taking Ativan during your pregnancy.

Breastfeeding: Lorazepam is present in breast milk and may harm your infant, causing sleepiness, irritability, and poor weight gain. Hence, monitor breastfed infants for drowsiness and, when possible, limit exposure to this medicine.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to breastfeed, to weigh the benefits and risks of taking Ativan while nursing and the different ways available to feed your baby.

Adults over 65: This medication may be safe for older adults. However, Ativan should be used with caution in this population to reduce the risk of falls or death. Use the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible.

Children: Ativan may be used in children in other formulations (ex., injection or IV) under the direct supervision of a healthcare provider. Speak to your child's healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Missed Dose

This medication is usually taken on an as-needed basis. Take as directed by your healthcare provider.

If you use Ativan regularly and accidentally forget your Ativan dose, take your missed dose as soon as you remember. If your next dose is approaching, skip the missed dose and resume your regular schedule. Do not take two doses simultaneously to make up for any missed dose.

Try to find ways to help yourself remember to keep your appointments and take your medication routinely.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Ativan?

Overdose of Ativan usually occurs more frequently when combined with alcohol or other medications. Symptoms of overdose may include:

Call your medical provider or the Poison Control Center immediately if you think you or someone else may have ingested or overdosed on Ativan. 

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking lorazepam, call 911 immediately.

What Happens If I Overdose on Ativan?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Ativan, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Ativan, call 911 immediately.


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It is very important that your doctor check your or your child's progress at regular visits to see if this medicine is working and allow for changes in the dose. Blood tests may be needed to check for any unwanted effects.

Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.

This medicine may be habit-forming. If you feel that the medicine is not working as well, do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor for instructions.

If you develop any unusual and strange thoughts or behavior while you are taking lorazepam be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Some changes that have occurred in people taking this medicine are like those seen in people who drink alcohol and then act in a manner that is not normal. Other changes may be more unusual and extreme, such as confusion, worsening of depression, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there), thoughts of killing oneself, and unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritability.

This medicine may cause drowsiness, trouble with thinking, trouble with controlling movements, or trouble with seeing clearly. Make sure you know how you react to this medicine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert or able to think or see well.

Symptoms of an overdose include: blurred vision, change in consciousness, confusion, dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position, hallucinations, increased sweating, loss of consciousness, loss of strength or energy, muscle pain or weakness, nightmares, shakiness and unsteady walk, slow or irregular heartbeat, sweating, trouble in speaking, unsteadiness, trembling, or other problems with muscle control or coordination, trouble sleeping, unusual excitement, nervousness, restlessness, or irritability, or unusual tiredness or weakness. Call your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms.

This medicine may cause respiratory depression (serious breathing problem that can be life-threatening), especially when used with narcotic pain medicines. Tell your doctor if you are using any narcotic medicine.

Do not stop taking it without checking with your doctor first. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping it completely. This may help prevent a worsening of your condition and reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, headache, seizures, stomach or muscle cramps, tremors, trouble sleeping, or unusual behavior.

This medicine will add to the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. CNS depressants are medicines that slow down the nervous system, which may cause drowsiness or make you less alert. Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, allergies, or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine, prescription pain medicine or narcotics, barbiturates or medicine for seizures, muscle relaxants, or anesthetics (numbing medicines), including some dental anesthetics. This effect may last for a few days after you stop taking this medicine. Check with your doctor before taking any of the above while you are using this medicine.

Using the extended-release capsule while you are pregnant may cause neonatal withdrawal syndrome in your newborn babies. Tell your doctor right away if your baby has an abnormal sleep pattern, diarrhea, a high-pitched cry, irritability, shakiness or tremors, weight loss, vomiting, or fails to gain weight.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Ativan?

Avoid taking Ativan if you have:

  • Allergy to lorazepam, any part of its formulation, or other benzodiazepines
  • Acute narrow-angle glaucoma (problems with fluid in the eye draining)

What Other Medications Interact With Ativan?

Certain medications interact with Ativan and increase the risk of severe side effects. These drugs include:

Use lorazepam with caution if taking any medicine in these drug classes:

  • Barbiturates
  • Antipsychotics
  • Sedative/hypnotics
  • Anxiolytics
  • Antidepressants
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Sedative antihistamines
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anesthetics

Talk with your pharmacist or healthcare provider for more detailed information about medication interactions with Ativan. And inform your healthcare provider of all other medicines you take or plan to take, including over-the-counter, nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, or plant-based medicines.

What Medications Are Similar?

Other drugs similar to Ativan that are benzodiazepines include:

This list includes drugs prescribed to treat acute anxiety and other health conditions. It is not a list of medicines recommended to take with Ativan. You should not take these drugs together unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Ask your pharmacist or a healthcare practitioner if you have questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Ativan used to treat?

    Ativan is used to manage anxiety symptoms. It can be used for other health conditions. Speak to your healthcare provider.

  • What are the common side effects of Ativan?

    Some common side effects include but aren't limited to:

    • Hypotension
    • Amnesia
    • Confusion
    • Headache
  • Can I drink alcohol while on Ativan?

    Avoid drinking alcohol while on this medicine. Taking Ativan with alcohol may increase your chances of having severe side effects, including respiratory depression and excessive drowsiness. It may also increase your drug misuse, dependency, or abuse risk.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Ativan?

It is not fun to feel anxious, especially when you cannot control it. While medications like Ativan can help manage your anxiety symptoms, they may cause a list of side effects, including drug dependency. To stay healthy while on Ativan:

  • Anxiety can be caused by nutrient deficiencies (not getting enough nutrients) like iron and calcium. Speak with your healthcare provider and consider increasing foods with these nutrients (or consider supplements) if you're deficient. Try to get to the root cause.
  • Consider trying deep deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or biofeedback. These are proven to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Consider being screened for sleep disorders. Anxiety can be a side effect of sleep apnea. Anxiety can dramatically improve by curing the apnea and practicing sleep hygiene.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all the medications that you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and herbs.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while on this medicine, as it may increase your risk of having severe side effects. 
  • Do not take more than or more often than prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if you think your medicine is no longer working for you.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Ativan label.

  2. DailyMed. Ativan.

  3. Murrough JW, Yaqubi S, Sayed S, Charney DS. Emerging drugs for the treatment of anxietyExpert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2015;20(3):393-406. doi:10.1517/14728214.2015.1049996

  4. Ghiasi N, Bhansali RK, Marwaha R. Lorazepam. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; February 7, 2022.

By Queen Buyalos, PharmD
Queen Buyalos is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She takes pride in advocating for cancer prevention, overall health, and mental health education. Queen enjoys counseling and educating patients about drug therapy and translating complex ideas into simple language.