Millions of people suffer from chronic insomnia. You toss and turn and worry about the consequences of lack of sleep. The problem is that almost all prescribed drugs come with side effects. This reader has a problem of poor sleep, but is a benzodiazepine such as lorazepam the best solution?
P I’ve always had problems with insomnia. A couple of times every week like I have only two or three hours of sleep each night. Four months ago, I was lucky if I slept six hours, even one night a week.
My doctor. I take it every night and it seems to work most of the time. Nothing else worked :. Chamomile tea, warm milk or read to relax
I told him about my fear of addiction, and told me not to worry unless I felt the need to take more than one tablet at night. He added that he might have to take these the rest of my life if I want to sleep at night. That worries me. What do you think about taking this medicine for a long period of time?
A. lorazepam ( Ativan ) is a benzodiazepine, which means that it belongs to a class of anti-anxiety agents such as alprazolam ( Xanax ) and diazepam ( Valium ). Official information indicates that prescription lorazepam is for “short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety” and does not mention insomnia.
The official position on Benzos for insomnia:
The FDA warns of adverse reactions such as depression problems, dizziness, unsteadiness, confusion and memory. Nine out of ten studies in a review found an increased risk of dementia among users of long-term benzodiazepine ( Expert Opinion on Drug Safety , May 2015) . Not all scientists are convinced that this is a problem, but your concern may have merit.
We send our guide to Getting a good night’s sleep for information on sleeping pills and many other approaches to overcoming insomnia. This newly revised 16-page downloadable guide is available at PeoplesPharmacy.com .
Never leave a Benzo soon!
The doctor said he had no problem with lorazepam, as long as the dose is not increased. If you ever need to stop, however, please consult your doctor and do not suddenly stop on their own. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and unpleasant.
Withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines:
- Anxiety, agitation, restlessness
- irritability, sensitivity to light, touch and sound
- Difficulty concentrating
- insomnia that may be worse than before
- panic attacks
- memory problems
- muscle cramps, muscle spasms
- digestive problems such as diarrhea
gradual reduction of the dose over several weeks or months may be needed if you have to stop lorazepam. Your doctor may need to switch to a different benzo, with a longer half-life to make this process easier. Our Guide to Getting a good night’s sleep provide some other options.