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Can You Safely Mix Ativan and Alcohol?

Better known as Ativan, Lorazepam is a common benzodiazepine meant to assist people who struggle with anxiety disorders or intense short-term episodes of anxiety. The Mayo Clinic relays that Ativan works by slowing down the body’s central nervous system (CNS).

What if a person taking Ativan wants to celebrate a special occasion with a toast or decides to take an over-the-counter medication for an unexpected illness?

Alcohol also works as a depressant, and it could add to the effects of Ativan. Taking one drink might not be a big deal to some people, but everyone reacts to medications and alcohol differently. There are no given amounts that are universally safe for all patients.

Ultimately, it is not safe to mix Ativan and alcohol.

Effects When Mixed With Common Drugs

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Ativan is a benzodiazepine, a family of drugs known as minor tranquilizers. Psychology Today mentions that these medications are sometimes used to treat sleeping disorders.

Below are effects of Ativan and benzodiazepines when mixed with other common drugs:

  • Opioids: A 2017 article published in Tonic found that opioid painkillers are often prescribed along with benzodiazepines even though they are dangerous when taken together. The report says that between 2000 and 2013, the number of patients prescribed both of these medications rose 80 percent.
    Like benzodiazepines, opioids are known to slow down the nervous system. Taking both types of drugs at the same time could cause problems with breathing
  • Common CNS depressants: People who take allergy or fever medication, sleep medication, or medicine that numbs a person to pain should not take Ativan. In fact, even patients who take Ativan should tell their dentist about their use.
    Depressants slow down the body’s central nervous system. The Mayo Clinic states that they increase other medications’ ability to slow down the body
  • Marijuana: Extensive research on the effects of Ativan and marijuana is still needed, but Healthline mentions that taking Ativan with marijuana could increase sleepiness.
  • Alcohol: Like Ativan, alcohol is also a depressant. Many people are unaware that alcohol and Ativan add to each other’s effects. Taking Ativan and then drinking increases the impact of each drink. 

Effects of Ativan and Alcohol

Alcohol and benzodiazepines have a complicated relationship because they are often prescribed to people who are dealing with alcohol misuse disorder.

A 2012 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine says that a subject who took lorazepam for alcohol withdrawal became too sedated and suffered from a minor fall.

Ativan and alcohol have made headlines due to the deaths of popular rock stars, such as Chris Cornell. A May 2017 article on Rolling Stone confirms that Cornell admitted taking extra Ativan to his wife the last time she spoke to him.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states the following issues can occur if Ativan and alcohol are mixed:

  • Problems with memory
  • Risk of overdose
  • Slower breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Erratic behavior
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness

Rolling Stone also interviewed Dr. Stuart Gitlow, who currently works at the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease. Dr. Gitlow confirmed that Ativan could cause blackouts that lead a person to make decisions they will not remember later on.

It is also relatively easy for a person to become tolerant of Ativan. This means a person will seek larger doses of Ativan so it can keep working.

Below are signs that a person has taken too much Ativan. These could be more prominent if an individual also drinks alcohol.

  • Slurred speech
  • Shakiness or twitching
  • Atypical behavior

 

 

Gitlow also confirmed that Ativan might play a role in a person’s suicide. In the case of Cornell, he was open about his past problems with depression over the years. It is likely that he should not have been prescribed the medication at all.

Rolling Stone also confirms that data shows misusing benzodiazepines could increase a person’s risk of suicide.

Is There a Safe Amount?

Studies and data across the board do not explicitly mention a safe amount of alcohol and Ativan that can be taken together. Everyone reacts differently, however, and having just one drink may not necessarily end in a trip to the emergency room.

However, Ativan is a prescription medication that comes with a black box warning from the FDA. Mayo Clinic informs people that they should discuss anything they will take along with Ativan with their doctor. This includes herbal supplements, over-the-counter medication, and even vitamins.

People who take Ativan should discuss their use of alcohol with their doctor.

Sources

(June 2012) The Use of the Minor Tranquilizers: Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fighting-fear/201206/the-use-the-minor-tranquilizers-xanax-ativan-klonopin-and-valium

(March 2017) Mixing Painkillers and Benzos Is as Bad as You Think. Tonic. from https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/534wv8/mixing-painkillers-and-benzos-is-as-bad-as-you-think

(May 2017) Ativan: What You Need to Know About Chris Cornell’s Anxiety Pills. Rolling Stone. from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/ativan-what-you-need-to-know-about-chris-cornells-anxiety-pills-124013/

(October 2016) Is it safe to mix 25mg of lorazepam with 100ml of whisky? Quora. from https://www.quora.com/Is-it-safe-to-mix-25mg-of-lorazepam-with-100ml-of-whisky

(Revised 2014) Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Medicine/Harmful_Interactions.pdf

(January 2010) A comparison of lorazepam versus diazepam in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Stanford University School of Medicine. from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236335350_A_comparison_of_lorazepam_versus_diazepam_in_the_treatment_of_alcohol_withdrawal

(February 2019) Lorazepam (Oral Route). Mayo Clinic. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/lorazepam-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20072296?

(February 2019) The Deadly Worst-Case Scenario for America's Xanax Obsession. VICE. from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvyjxv/the-deadly-worst-case-scenario-for-americas-xanax-obsession

(September 2018) Ativan (Lorazepam). Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/health/cdi/ativan

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