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Is Ativan Safe for Heart Patients?

What Does Ativan Do to Your Heart?

Ativan is the brand name for a benzodiazepine called lorazepam.

Benzodiazepines or benzos are central nervous system depressants that increase levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain to reduce nerve activity and produce relaxation. GABA works by blocking brain signals (neurotransmissions), reducing nerve activity, and making drugs like Ativan effective medications for seizures and anxiety disorders. But while it may help treat some conditions, is Ativan safe for heart patients? This is a concerning topic for those taking this drug regularly for their conditions. Read on to learn more from our Delaware rehabs.

How Does Ativan Affect Your Heart?

Despite being a prescription drug, Ativan poses the threat of tolerance and addiction because of its impact on the brain, which is why it’s only recommended for short-term use. However, anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures aren’t usually short-term problems. As a result, when this drug is no longer an option for people who once took it for their conditions, they may try to self-medicate by obtaining it illegally or doctor shopping (going to several doctors for a prescription).

Unfortunately, because of benzos’ effects on the brain, long-term abuse often leads to addiction. With an Ativan addiction comes a variety of health issues, such as heart problems. Ativan affects the heart by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. This drug depresses the central nervous system, and physiological functions like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation are reduced, contributing to relaxation.

Bradycardia (Slow Heart Rate)

Although these side effects are common in people who take Ativan, they can become dangerous when the drug is abused; this includes taking a higher dose than directed and mixing it with other drugs or alcohol. Otherwise known as bradycardia, having a slower-than-normal heart rate can have a huge impact as, usually, adults have a resting heartbeat of between 60 and 100 times a minute.

While it’s normal for Ativan to reduce your heart rate slightly when taking it as prescribed, if abused or mixed with other depressants like alcohol, it can potentially lead to heart attack and sudden heart failure.

Why Does Ativan Lower Heart Rate?

The central nervous system is depressed when Ativan is given, which lowers general neuronal activity. The cardiac pacemaker cells, which control the heart's rhythm, may also be affected by this decrease in neuronal firing. The heart may beat a little bit more slowly as a result. It's crucial to remember that this effect's intensity can change based on the person, the dosage used, and other elements. Furthermore, even though Ativan's ability to lower heart rate can be helpful for people who are very anxious or agitated, it is important to have a healthcare provider constantly monitor any changes in heart rate to make sure they stay within safe and healthy ranges.

Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)

Additionally, not only does Ativan lower your heart rate, but it can also lower your blood pressure, which can also take a toll on the heart. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries, which carries your blood from your heart to the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood to your body.

Also known as hypotension, low blood pressure causes your heart rate to increase, and the blood vessels in other parts of your body constrict or narrow to help maintain blood pressure. If your heart rate doesn’t increase enough, or your blood vessels don’t constrict enough, your blood pressure drops.

Although rare, severe hypotension can lead to shock, which can be fatal. More commonly, however, hypotension makes the heart work harder to maintain blood pressure and also prevents the heart from getting blood to other areas of the body. Hypotension can also cause injuries related to fainting and falling.

How Much Does Ativan Lower Your Blood Pressure?

It's important to be aware that Ativan can have unintended effects on blood pressure even though its main prescription uses are for the treatment of anxiety and some forms of seizures. Ativan's sedative qualities may cause a slight drop in blood pressure. When the medicine is used at higher doses or in those who are more sensitive to it, this impact usually becomes more apparent. It is important to note, nevertheless, that Ativan is not primarily meant to be used as a blood pressure medication. When using Ativan, any changes in blood pressure should be closely watched and immediately discussed with a healthcare provider. Different people may respond differently, so it's important to pay close attention and make any necessary dosage modifications or further treatments.

Long-Term Effects of Ativan on the Heart

So, what does Ativan do to your heart over time? Because Ativan is usually prescribed for short-term use, those who take it for longer than a few weeks usually obtain it illegally and abuse it. When taken in larger doses than recommended, lorazepam’s side effects can become worse, increasing the individual’s potential for heart, liver, and kidney problems as well as overdose. Taking benzos like Ativan with alcohol can also intensify the effects of lorazepam on the heart.

The effects of long-term Ativan use on the heart include:

  • Hypotension
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Circulatory problems
  • Cardiac arrest

So, is Ativan safe for heart patients? Even though Ativan can have a relaxing effect on the central nervous system, heart patients should use caution when taking it because it may cause a slight drop in blood pressure, which could have an impact on cardiovascular health. Consequently, a healthcare provider should carefully analyze each patient's unique cardiac condition and general health status while deciding whether to prescribe Ativan to heart patients.

Ativan can also cause heart problems if the person stops taking it suddenly, which can result in heart arrhythmia or even heart attack. Withdrawal symptoms are common in people who are physically dependent on drugs of abuse when they suddenly reduce or stop taking them. These withdrawal symptoms can become complicated, which is why a medically monitored detox is recommended for people who want to quit a particular drug or alcohol.

What Happens if You Take Ativan Everyday?

It's crucial to remember that the long-term use of Ativan can cause tolerance, a condition in which the body grows acclimated to the drug's presence and needs higher dosages to have the same therapeutic impact. This can result in a physical dependence on the drug, and stopping it suddenly could cause withdrawal symptoms like increased anxiety, sleeplessness, and, in extreme situations, seizures. Long-term Ativan use can also result in adverse effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, poor coordination, cognitive difficulties, and memory issues, especially in older adults.

For patients taking Ativan on a daily basis, regular contact with a healthcare professional is crucial. This allows them to assess the medication's effectiveness and modify the dosage or treatment plan as needed. In some cases, alternative therapies or medications with a lower potential for dependence may be considered to manage ongoing symptoms.

Finding Lorazepam Addiction Treatment

Long-term Ativan abuse can lead to a multitude of problems in addition to low blood pressure and changes in heart rhythm. A common side effect of chronic lorazepam use is addiction, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrollable substance abuse. If you’re addicted to this drug, the good news is that you aren’t alone.

Once patients at our Delaware drug rehab have completed their medical detox programs, they can then move on to one of our substance-specific programs. In addition to detox, we also offer benzo addiction treatment on a residential level of care for those who are addicted to drugs like Ativan, Valium, and Xanax. During their treatment, patients may also receive drug therapy – such as cognitive or dialectical behavior therapy – to learn how to regain control over their thoughts and actions.

Our Milford rehab center is dedicated to the safety and well-being of our patients. For more information regarding Ativan (lorazepam) addiction and treatment options available at our inpatient drug rehab, call Banyan Treatment Centers Delaware today at 888-280-4763.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.