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What is Lorazepam?

By Lori Smith
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Lorazepam is a mild sedative most commonly prescribed to ease symptoms of various conditions, such as anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It works by slowing down activity in the central nervous system, allowing a person to relax, both mentally and physically. Before surgery, anesthesiologists often give patients an intravenous injection of lorazepam prior to administering general anesthesia. In its liquid or pill form, it may be offered to someone who is suffering from a temporary period of extreme stress, such as a loved one's death or other traumatic event.

Common side-effects of lorazepam can be uncomfortable for some patients. Coordination may be compromised and marked drowsiness frequently occurs. Many people feel dizzy or lightheaded after taking the medication. For this reason, driving or performing other potentially dangerous activities is ill-advised.

Serious side-effects are rare, but when they occur, they may indicate a medical emergency. A fever, skin rash, hand tremors or abnormal heartbeat, for example, should be reported to a physician right away. If a person suddenly develops yellowing of the skin or eyes, it may be a sign of liver failure, which also requires urgent care.

Aside from rare occurrences of more serious side-effects, most people experience only mild discomfort when they begin taking the medication. Some individuals, however, are more sensitive to the effects of sedatives than others are. This is especially true for people who have never taken lorazepam or other benzodiazepines before.

When side-effects are bothersome, doctors may adjust the dosage or advise the patient to cut pills in half. It is important for people to check with their physicians before making any changes to the dosing regimen, however. If a person has been taking lorazepam for an extended period of time, he or she may experience very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if it is abruptly discontinued.

Lorazepam is a habit-forming medication. As such, there is a risk of dependency. A doctor should always be consulted whenever someone wants to discontinue the medicine so he or she can be weaned off slowly. If not, physical symptoms of withdrawal often include body aches, muscle spasms, blurred vision, diarrhea, bloating and an overall feeling of malaise.

Mentally, a person might suffer from panic attacks, paranoia and disturbing nightmares. Some people have suicidal thoughts as a result of withdrawal. Anxiety is likely to return as well. Slowly weaning off the medication with the assistance of a physician, however, can usually help prevent these uncomfortable symptoms from occurring.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Jun 15, 2013
I couldn't take lorazepam for long. It makes me dizzy and confused. I also have trouble remembering things, so working is almost impossible when I'm on it.
By turquoise — On Jun 14, 2013
@alisha-- Everyone reacts to drugs differently. I'm happy to share my experiences with lorazepam but just keep in mind that your experience might be very different.

I think for short-term use, lorazepam is a great medication for anxiety. This is especially true if the anxiety is so debilitating that it makes it difficult to function from day to day. Lorazepam relieves anxiety almost immediately for me and it also helps me relax physically.

The downside is that if you use it for six months or more, you will have a very difficult time letting go of it. The drug causes many adverse effects during withdrawal.

If I forget to take my medication, I turn into a crazy person. I will have extreme anxiety, anger and mood swings. So withdrawal is very difficult, and I don't think it's the best drug to use long-term.

By discographer — On Jun 13, 2013
I've been on several different anxiety medications over the past few years but I have not been able to find the right one. Either the drug is not very effective or it has too many side effects for me to continue taking it.

My doctor now wants me to try lorazepam. I'm going to fill the prescription on Monday but just wondering, what has been people's experience with this drug? Is it good to use long-term? Are you happy with it in general?

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