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Should I Let My Child Take Ativan for Anxiety?

Prescription bottle with backlit Lorezapam (Ativan) tablets.  

Ativan (or lorazepam) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are prescription medications for anxiety. Ativan works by enhancing the effect of a brain neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When you increase GABA in the brain the results are sedation, sleepiness, and muscle relaxation. It also has anti-anxiety and anti-seizure effects.

However, a major problem with Ativan prescriptions and other benzodiazepines is that they are highly addictive. So the question is, should Ativan be used for children? When Ativan is taken regularly, the brain begins to depend on it because it slows down its own production of the GABA neurotransmitter. This results in severe withdrawal symptoms if an individual stops taking the drug. These withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even fatal. This makes Ativan use for children questionable.

Anxiety Disorders in Kids

Like in adults, anxiety disorders in kids are quite common. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in children is about 8%. Some symptoms or signs of anxiety in children include:

  • ​Recurring fears and worries about routine parts of everyday life
  • ​Physical complaints, like a stomach ache or headache
  • ​Trouble concentrating
  • ​Trouble sleeping
  • ​Fear of social situations
  • Fear of leaving home
  • ​Fear of separation from a loved one
  • Refusing to go to school

Ativan Prescriptions in Youth

The Ativan pediatric dose ranges from 0.5 mg to 2 mg per dose. Ativan has been used in children for seizures as well as anxiety disorders. However, there are other anxiety medications for children. For example, one potential solution to helping children with anxiety is the use of antidepressants to treat symptoms. Antidepressants are not addictive like benzodiazepines and do not have the same potentially fatal withdrawal effects.

Risks of Ativan and the Developing Body

Ativan and children is not a good combination. There are many dangers of Ativan, which are primarily associated with the long-term use of Ativan.

Long-Term Side Effects of Ativan

The primary concern of long-term side effects of Ativan includes addiction and the effects on the brain’s GABA system. Due to the effects of Ativan on GABA in the developing brain, a child would most certainly be at risk for seizures if they stopped taking Ativan abruptly. As such, Ativan for kids is considered to be less than ideal compared to alternatives that are not as potentially addictive.

There are many Ativan dependency symptoms that an individual can be aware of, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness, agitation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Diarrhea
  • Palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches, stiffness
  • Hallucinations

Alternative Treatments for Children with Anxiety

There are alternative treatments for children with anxiety. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan are not the only way. Teenage anxiety treatment with antidepressants can be successful, although the level of success varies person by person.

One thing to consider is alternatives to pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders, such as behavior therapy for anxiety. Such behavioral therapies might include options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Other things that can be done include experiential therapy activities, such as art therapy or even equine therapy.

If your child is dealing with anxiety, you and your family are not alone. Contact us the Next Generation Village to learn about our personalized and confidential services geared towards adolescents with anxiety disorders.

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