Ativan's Dosage: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Heather Bruce, PharmD

This drug has boxed warnings Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Boxed warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Risk of misuse and addiction. Taking Ativan can lead to misuse and addiction. (With misuse, a drug is taken in a way other than how it’s prescribed. With addiction, it’s difficult to stop taking a drug, even if it’s causing harmful effects.) Misuse of Ativan increases your risk of overdose and possibly death.

Certain other medications, alcohol, and/or illegal substances should not be taken in combination with Ativan. Doing so may cause misuse and addiction. It also can increase your risk of serious adverse effects.

Risk of physical dependence and withdrawal. Using Ativan can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking the drug. (With dependence, your body needs a drug to function like usual. With withdrawal, you have symptoms when you suddenly stop a medication on which your body is physically dependent.) Withdrawal can be life threatening.

Risk of life threatening side effects when used with opioids. Using Ativan in combination with opioid medications can result in life threatening side effects. These effects include decreased breathing, serious sedation, coma, and possibly death.

Ativan and opioids should be used in combination only when no other treatment options exist. Further, if they are used in combination, use them exactly as your doctor prescribes them. Your doctor should prescribe the lowest dosage possible for the shortest time needed.

Due to possible life threatening effects of opioids, your doctor may prescribe naloxone ( Narcan) if you take opioids. This is a treatment to be used in emergencies for known or possible opioid overdose. To learn more about Narcan, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

For more information, see the “ Ativan: Misuse” and “ Ativan: Withdrawal and dependence” sections below.

Ativan: Introduction

Ativan is a brand-name prescription medication that contains the active drug lorazepam. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Ativan is available in a generic form.

This medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to:

  • treat anxiety in adults
  • treat insomnia due to anxiety or transient (brief) situational stress in adults
  • treat status epilepticus (a certain type of seizure) in adults
  • cause sedation (sleep) before surgery in adults
  • treat anxiety in children ages 13 years and older (Ativan tablets only)

In this article, you’ll find additional information about Ativan’s dosage and details on how to take the drug. For a comprehensive overview of Ativan, view this article.

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in taking Ativan, search here to find a doctor who might prescribe it.

This article describes typical recommended dosages for Ativan. These dosages are provided by the drug’s manufacturer.

Always follow the dosage of Ativan that your doctor prescribes.

Ativan: Dosage

Commonly recommended dosages for Ativan are shown below.

You should take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll recommend the dosage that’s best for your condition.

Ativan’s forms and strengths

Ativan comes in two forms. It comes as tablets that you take by mouth. It also comes as a solution that’s given by intramuscular (IM) injection or IV injection. (Specific approved uses for each form are described below.)

Each form is available in multiple strengths, as follows.

Oral tablets:

  • 0.5 milligrams (mg)
  • 1 mg
  • 2 mg

Solution:

  • 2 mg per milliliter (mg/mL)
  • 4 mg/mL

Typical recommended dosages

Usually, doctors will prescribe a low dosage of Ativan at the start of treatment. Then, they’ll adjust the dosage over time if needed. Ultimately, your doctor will prescribe the smallest dosage of Ativan that gives the desired effect.

Dosage for anxiety in adults

Below is an overview of the recommended dosage of Ativan tablets for anxiety.

  • Starting dosage: typically 2 mg to 3 mg per day, divided into doses taken two to three times per day
  • Maintenance dosage: typically 2 mg to 6 mg per day, divided into doses taken two to three times per day
  • Maximum dosage: 10 mg per day, divided into doses taken two to three times per day

Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ativan that’s right for your condition. 

Dosage for seizures in adults

Below is an overview of the recommended dosage of Ativan solution for status epilepticus.

  • Dosage:
    • 4 mg given as an IM injection or IV injection
    • an additional 4 mg given if a seizure continues after 10 minutes to 15 minutes
  • Frequency:
    • as needed

Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ativan that’s right for you. Typically, your doctor or another healthcare professional will administer Ativan injections.

Dosage for other conditions in adults

Below is the recommended dosage of Ativan tablets for insomnia due to anxiety or transient (brief) situational stress.

  • Dose: 2 mg to 4 mg
  • Frequency: daily before bedtime

Below is recommended dosage of Ativan solution for sedation before surgery.

  • Dose: up to 4 mg, depending on your weight
  • Frequency: before surgery

Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ativan that’s right for your condition.

Children’s dosage

Ativan tablets are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat anxiety in children ages 13 years and older. The typical dosage for children is 1 mg to 3 mg. This amount will be divided into doses taken two to three times per day.

Length of treatment

Doctors typically do not prescribe Ativan as a long-term treatment. Instead, they usually prescribe it for 2 weeks to 4 weeks. Your doctor will tell you how long you should take Ativan.

Ativan: Common questions about dosage

Below are some common questions related to Ativan’s dosage.

For anxiety, is there a max dose of Ativan in 24 hours or a max dose of Ativan at one time?

Typically, a maximum dosage of Ativan is 10 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. This dosage is typically divided into doses taken two to three times per day. 

Most people do not take more than 3 mg to 4 mg of Ativan at one time.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you want to learn more about the maximum dosage of Ativan.

Does Ativan have a dosage for an anxiety attack?

No, Ativan is approved to treat anxiety, but not anxiety attacks specifically.

If you have anxiety attacks, talk with your doctor about treatment options. They can decide which medication and dosage are best for you.

What is Ativan’s dosage for sleep? 

If you have insomnia (trouble sleeping), your doctor may prescribe Ativan. The typical dosage for this use is 2 mg to 4 mg taken before bedtime.

Your doctor can determine the best dosage for you and your condition.

Is there a normal dose of Ativan?

The typical dosage range of Ativan tablets is 2 mg to 6 mg per day. This dosage is divided into doses taken two to three times per day.

If you are receiving Ativan solution for seizures or sedation before surgery, your dosage may be higher. Your doctor or healthcare professional will administer your Ativan injection and determine the best dosage for you.

Does Ativan have a dosage for alcohol withdrawal?

Ativan may sometimes be used off-label for treating alcohol withdrawal. (With off-label use, a drug is prescribed for a condition other than what it’s approved to treat.)

Alcohol withdrawal describes certain symptoms that occur if you stop drinking alcohol after your body has become dependent on it. (With dependence, your body needs a certain substance in order to function like usual.)

If you experience alcohol withdrawal, talk with your doctor about treatment options. They can determine which medication and dosage is best for you. If your doctor prescribes Ativan, they will let you know the dosage and how to take it. They will also let you know the maximum dosage you should take in 24 hours.

Ativan: Dosage considerations

Your doctor will consider several factors when prescribing the dosage for Ativan. These factors include:

  • your age
  • the condition you’re taking Ativan to treat
  • the severity of your condition
  • the form of Ativan you’re taking

Your prescribed dosage also may vary based on other medical conditions you have.

Older adults and people with certain physical conditions may need to start with a lower dosage of Ativan. Your doctor will tell you the dosage you should take, which will depend on several factors. These include the condition being treated, your age, and any physical conditions you may have.

Recommended adjustments in dosage

If you take probenecid or valproate in combination with Ativan, it could result in drug-drug interactions. In this case, your doctor may need to reduce the dosage of Ativan.

Be sure to tell your doctor all medications you take for any condition.

Ativan: How to take

Ativan comes in tablets and as a solution. These forms and how to take them are described below. (Specific approved uses for each form are described in the “Ativan: Dosage” section above.)

Tablets

Ativan tablets will be swallowed. They can be taken with or without food. However, taking it with food may help if you find that Ativan upsets your stomach.

The tablets can be swallowed whole, split, or crushed.

If you have difficulty swallowing tablets, view this article. It provides suggestions on how to take this form of medication. You also can talk with your doctor or pharmacist about taking your medication.

Solution

The  solution is administered as an intramuscular (IM) injection or IV injection. Typically, your doctor or healthcare professional will administer Ativan injections.

ACCESSIBLE DRUG LABELS AND CONTAINERS

If you find it challenging to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies provide medication labels with large print or braille. They may also offer labels containing a scannable code that your smartphone can convert from text to speech. If your pharmacy doesn’t provide these choices, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that does.

If it’s difficult for you to open medication bottles, ask your pharmacist if they can dispense Ativan in an easy-open container. They also may recommend ways to help make it easier to open the bottles.

Ativan: Missing a dose

If you miss a dose of Ativan tablets,* take your missed dose as soon as you remember. However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.

You shouldn’t take two doses at a time to make up for a missed dose. This can raise your risk of side effects from Ativan.

View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses. You could also set an alarm or download a reminder app on your phone.

* Typically, your doctor or healthcare professional will administer Ativan injections.

Ativan: Misuse

Taking Ativan can lead to misuse and addiction.

In fact, Ativan tablets and solution have a boxed warning Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  regarding the risk of misuse and addiction. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Boxed warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Misuse and addiction are described below. Refer to the “Ativan: Withdrawal and dependence” section below for additional important information.

Misuse

With misuse, a drug is taken in a way other than how it’s prescribed. The risk of misuse with Ativan is higher in people who have previously misused alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms of Ativan misuse can include:

  • irritability
  • confusion
  • loss of coordination
  • memory problems
  • sleep problems
  • impaired judgment

If you have concerns about misuse with Ativan treatment, talk with your doctor.

Addiction

With addiction, it’s difficult to stop taking a drug, even if it’s causing harmful effects. Addiction is more likely in people who take higher doses of Ativan or use it long term. It is also more likely in people who misuse alcohol or other drugs.

Symptoms of addiction can include:

  • lack of self-control
  • increased desire for a substance
  • personality changes
  • insomnia
  • memory loss

Due to the above risks, it’s important to take Ativan exactly as your doctor prescribes. Taking Ativan with other medications, alcohol, illegal drugs, or a combination of these may increase the risk of harmful outcomes.

Tell your doctor all the medications you take. Additionally, mention whether you’ve ever had problems with alcohol or drug misuse or harmful use.

Ativan: Withdrawal and dependence

Withdrawal and dependence are possible with Ativan.

In fact, Ativan tablets and solution have a boxed warning Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source regarding this risk. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Boxed warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Dependence and withdrawal are described below. Refer to the “Ativan: Misuse” section above for additional important information.

Dependence

With dependence, your body needs a drug to function like usual. Ativan can be habit forming, which may include physical dependence.

Dependence is more likely in people who take higher doses of Ativan or use it long term. It is also more likely in people who misuse alcohol or other drugs.

Symptoms of physical dependence can include:

If you’re concerned about dependence with Ativan treatment, talk with your doctor.

Withdrawal

With withdrawal, you have bothersome symptoms when you suddenly stop a medication on which your body is physically dependent.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur after taking Ativan for as little as 1 week and then suddenly stopping it. If Ativan is taken longer and then suddenly stopped, withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur. In this situation, they’re also likely to be more severe.

Withdrawal symptoms can be severe or even life threatening. They can include:

Do not stop taking Ativan suddenly until you have first talked with your doctor about stopping it. Stopping Ativan suddenly could cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Instead, your doctor likely will need to slowly taper your dosage over a period of time before you stop Ativan completely.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours per day when you call 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Ativan: Overdose

If you take more than the recommended dosage of Ativan, serious effects can occur. Do not take more Ativan than your doctor prescribes. 

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms that an overdose of Ativan could cause include:

What to do in case of overdose

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much of this drug. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or a local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to discuss with your doctor

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for additional information about Ativan’s dosage. Keep in mind that the dosages presented in this article are typical dosages provided by the drug’s manufacturer. Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Ativan that’s right for you and your condition. Always follow the dosage that your doctor prescribes for you.

As with any medications you’re taking, do not change your Ativan dosage without a recommendation from your doctor.

In addition to discussing Ativan with your doctor, you may find the following articles helpful in learning more.

  • Overview of Ativan. For comprehensive details on Ativan, see this article.
  • Drug comparisons. To learn how Ativan compares with Xanax, read this article.
  • Information on side effects. If you’d like to know about possible side effects of Ativan, view this article.
  • Details about anxiety. To learn more about anxiety, which Ativan is used to treat, see this article.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Medical Reviewer: Heather Bruce, PharmD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 22
View All Drugs Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.