Lorazepam: What Is It and What Are the Side Effects?
Lorazepam (also called Orfidal in some countries) is one of the best selling drugs today, almost to the level of aspirin.
The fact that it’s become one of the most widely prescribed drugs for anxiety and insomnia is due to one reason: it manages to help us relax without interfering in our daily life. However, beware, it is a type of benzodiazepine and therefore can create dependence.
Most of us know someone with that little ritual in their day: taking a little pill, Lorazepam. We may have even been prescribed it before or even have been taking it for a long time. But… are you aware that this drug should not be taken for longer than 12 weeks?
Lorazepam is one of the most prescribed psychotropic drugs. It has components such as lactose, cellulose, amberlite and magnesium stearate.
We may already know that, read it somewhere or the doctor told us. However, as things are in our world, life is very demanding, our problems are chaotic and our nights are long.
Hence, it’s common that primary care physicians are already more than used to prescribing Lorazepam month after month, to the point that we now have a good part of the population (especially the elderly) unable to start their day without that little pill.
It is effective, there’s no doubt about that. It fulfills its purposes: treating anxiety and insomnia. Still, something that we cannot forget is that Lorazepam is a psychotropic drug that has side effects and creates dependence.
Lorazepam: what is it and what is it for?
Lorazepam is a type of drug in the benzodiazepines family and it works by acting on the GABA receptors in our brain.
What does this mean? Basically, its action mechanism creates five very specific states: it reduces anxiety, it is amnestic, it is sedative and hypnotic, anti-seizure and a muscle relaxant.
Therefore, specialists and primary care physicians prescribe it for the following purposes:
- Short-term treatment of states of anxiety and tension.
- To treat sleep disorders.
- Lorazepam is usually prescribed along with other psychotropic drugs for the treatment of depression.
- It is also effective for people with epilepsy.
- It is usually administered as a treatment for withdrawal syndromes.
What should we know before taking Lorazepam?
There are people who go to their primary care centers with a clear idea of what they want: a prescription for Lorazepam to sleep better. They want the same thing that their co-worker, their sister or their yoga teacher has.
We must be very careful with these matters, in the world of psychopharmacology and especially with our health.
Do not forget that each person is different, each body responds in a certain way and that each one will adapt better to some strategies and not others.
Lorazepam is effective, it is useful and it will help us, yes. However, we can always start with other types of strategies to manage anxiety or treat insomnia before resorting to the pharmacy.
Always take into account these things before taking it.
- Lorazepam, a type of benzodiazepine, generates dependence after several weeks.
- The duration of the treatment should therefore be as short as possible.
- The treatment must be stopped by a health professional.
- It should always be taken before going to bed. We should not take it if we have to carry out any activity that requires our attention, such as driving.
- We should never exceed the recommended doses.
- It is recommended not to take Lorazepam if we have respiratory problems, sleep apnea as well as liver or kidney ailments.
- You should not take it during pregnancy and lactation.
Effects associated with Lorazepam
We have pointed it out repeatedly: all treatments with benzodiazepines taken for over 12 weeks create physical and mental dependence.
Therefore, we must also schedule our withdrawal so that coming off of this drug is not traumatic for our body.
Doing this abruptly, that is, stopping Lorazepam cold turkey, will cause us to experience a wide range of symptoms that range from annoying to debilitating, such as headaches, increased anxiety, confusion, muscle aches… You have to do it well and you have to take it according to the doctor’s guidelines.
In addition, we can’t ignore the side effects associated with the consumption of this type of psychotropic drug. While it’s true that it’s a “mild” drug that doesn’t alter our daily life, the problem comes when our body develops a tolerance to and dependence on its active ingredients. Let’s see its side effects.
- Muscle weakness.
- Blurry vision.
- Dry mouth or angioedema (inflammation of the tongue).
- Drops in blood pressure.
- Hypersensitivity of the skin.
- Asthenia (apathy, bad mood, lack of motivation)
- Problems with concentrating, memory failures.
- Sexual impotence or low libido.
To conclude, even though Lorazepam is so normalized and we see it in the purses, medicine cabinets and bedside tables of many of our friends and family, remember that its use must be limited in time and controlled by a physician.
Problems in life can be solved in many ways and although drugs are a great help, they are not the only or the best long-term strategy.
Mencías Rodriguez, E. Mayero Franco, L. M. (2000). Manual de Toxicología Básica. Ediciones Díaz de Santos, S. A. (99-109).
Flórez, J., Armijo. J.A., Mediavilla, A (2008). Farmacología humana. Masson S.A. 5ª Edición. (543-566)