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Ativan is an anti-anxiety agent, similar in many respects to Valium.

Once called minor tranquilizers or sedatives, such drugs are prescribed to calm jittery nerves and relieve excessive tension. They belong to a class of medications called benzodiazepines.

Ativan is a little more rapid in action than many other such drugs and its calming effect lasts for a relatively short period of time.

Side Effects and Interactions

Side effects associated with Ativan include sedation, dizziness, unsteadiness, and confusion. These may fade after a few days or weeks.

Do not drive, operate machinery or undertake any activity that requires close attention.

Ativan may make narrow angle glaucoma worse and should not be taken by people diagnosed with this condition.

Other possible reactions include nausea, dry mouth, visual problems, depression, rash, itching, change in appetite, constipation, altered sex drive, urinary difficulties and reduced blood pressure. Report any such symptoms to your physician promptly.

Many drugs, including barbiturates, alcohol, antidepressants, digitalis-type heart drugs, scopolamine, and the schizophrenia drug Loxitane, can interact with Ativan.

People also should not combine the herb kava-kava with drugs such as Ativan. One man who did so actually went into a comalike state.

Oregon grape, which has sedative and anticonvulsant properties, probably should not be combined with antianxiety drugs such as Ativan.

Prudence suggests that the herb passionflower should not be mixed with Ativan.

Also, because of the possibility that valerian affects GABA receptors in much the same way benzodiazepines do, patients should be cautioned not to combine it with drugs such as Ativan.

It is not yet known if the sedative effects of the herb gotu kola are synergistic with those of other agents that promote sleep or reduce anxiety. Nontheless, it would be best not to mix gotu kola with Ativan until this is

Check with your pharmacist and physician to make sure Ativan is safe in combination with any other medicines or herbs you take.

Special Precautions

Regular reliance on Ativan for many months may lead to dependence.

Sudden discontinuation of the drug could trigger withdrawal symptoms including nervousness, agitation, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, fatigue, headache and nerve twitching.

Never stop taking Ativan without medical supervision. This medication may have to be phased out gradually over a period of weeks or months.

Ativan, like several other short-acting benzodiazepines, may cause problems with memory for events that happen the day after the medicine is taken. People may appear normal to friends and family, but later be unable to recall some of the things they did or observed during that time.

Taking the Medicine

Ativan can be taken with food, especially if it upsets your stomach.

Do not drink alcohol or use any other sedative while on this drug, as the combination may lead to dizziness, drowsiness, lack of coordination or confusion.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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