Can Ativan Cause Agitation in Dementia Patients?

USA Generic Namelorazepam
Pronunciation a·tuh·van
Trade (Brand) NamesAtivan, Lorazepam Intensol, Loreev XR
Invented byDJ Richards
Date invented1963
Date FDA Approved1977

Geriatric IndicationsAnxiety, insomnia, seizures
Geriatric Side EffectsAgitation/Increase in Agitation, confusion, increased risk of falls, drowsiness, sedation, dizziness, ataxia, postural hypotension, paranoia, seizure risk

Ativan, or lorazepam, is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. It might also be used for treating insomnia and resistant seizures. The anxiety-relieving effects of Ativan might come with different side effects in elders. Ativan can cause agitation, confusion, paranoia, increased risk of falls, excessive daytime sleepiness, drowsiness, dizziness, an abrupt fall in blood pressure on standing (postural hypotension), and increased seizure risks.

Anti Anxiety pills, such as Ativan, are the most misused pills in elders. Nearly one-third of elders have Ativan as a long-term prescription. Its use is especially tricky in elders with dementia. Using Ativan to treat agitation and anxiety might provide a short-term fix but can have detrimental effects in the longer run. The focus should be on understanding the reason for an elder’s behavior. For instance, if agitation is due to pain, appropriate pain relief is the answer instead of using Ativan.

Below is Dr. Landsverk’s take on the use of Ativan as outlined in her new book: Living in the Moment: A Guide to Overcoming Challenges and Finding Moments of Joy in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias which can be purchased through our site from the link above.

‘Treating the behavioral symptoms of dementia remains controversial … Paradoxically, this has resulted in the common prescription of antianxiety drugs like lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin) for people with dementia. While tranquilizers like these may yield short-term results—improved behavior for a few weeks—they’re highly addictive. If used for more than a few days in elders with dementia, the withdrawal syndrome often leads to delirium or worse behavior in elders. These drugs can remove inhibitions, cause paranoia, and increase confusion and falls.’

If you are interested in learning about other Medications such as HaldolTramadol and Xanax click here.