Lorazepam - a benzodiazepine

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Lorazepam has a calming effect. It is prescribed for several different conditions.

Your course of treatment will be as short as possible. This can range from one single dose, to up to a maximum of four weeks of treatment.

Lorazepam is likely to affect your reactions and ability to drive. These effects can last into the following day. It is an offence to drive while your reactions are impaired.

Do not drink alcohol while you are on lorazepam.
Type of medicineA benzodiazepine
Used forAnxiety; insomnia associated with anxiety; as pre-medication before surgery or medical procedures; acute panic attacks; convulsions
Available asTablets and injection

Lorazepam works by affecting the way certain substances in your brain (called neurotransmitters) pass messages to your brain cells. It has a calming effect on various functions of your brain.

The calming effect is helpful in a variety of conditions which can be caused by anxiety, such as panic attacks and difficulties sleeping. The calming effect is also used to relax and/or sedate people who are having certain medical investigations or treatments. It is given as a pre-med, particularly during procedures that can cause anxiety or discomfort. The calming action also helps to relax muscles, so lorazepam injection is used to treat fits, such as those caused by epilepsy.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking lorazepam it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any breathing problems.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or if you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • If you have a mental health problem. This includes conditions such as psychosis, depression, obsessive conditions, phobias and personality disorders.
  • If you have ever had a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • If you have a condition causing severe muscle weakness, called myasthenia gravis.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about lorazepam, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take lorazepam exactly as your doctor tells you to - the dose will be individualised to suit your needs. The directions for taking the tablets will be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said to you. You could be asked to take just one single dose (if it is before a medical procedure, for example), or to take regular doses for a short while. If you are to take lorazepam regularly for anxiety, you will probably be prescribed two or three doses to take a day. If you are taking it because you are having difficulty sleeping, you will be prescribed a dose to take at bedtime only. The course of treatment prescribed will be as short as possible. If you have any questions about how to take the tablets, please ask your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
  • Try to take your doses of lorazepam at the same times of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take them. Swallow the tablet(s) with a drink of water. You can take lorazepam either with or without food.
  • If you forget to take a dose at the usual time, take it when you remember. Try to take the correct number of doses each day, but do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Remember to keep any follow-up appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Lorazepam is likely to affect your reactions and ability to drive. It is an offence to drive while your reactions are impaired. Do not drive until you know how you react, especially when you first start treatment. Please also be aware that the effects of lorazepam can last into the following day. Even if your driving ability is not impaired, should you drive, you are advised to carry with you some evidence that the medicine has been prescribed for you - a repeat prescription form or a patient information leaflet from the pack is generally considered suitable.
  • You should not drink alcohol while you are on lorazepam. It will increase the risk of sedative side-effects.
  • Lorazepam is taken for short periods of time only, often for just a few days. It will not be for longer than four weeks, as this may lead to your feeling dependent on it. Also, your body gets used to it quickly, and after this time it is unlikely to have the same effect.
  • It is possible that drinking grapefruit juice can increase the amount of lorazepam in your bloodstream, which may increase the risk of side-effects. It is probably best to avoid drinking grapefruit juice while you are taking lorazepam.
  • If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, please tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking lorazepam. This is because lorazepam increases the effects of some anaesthetics.
  • Your doctor could recommend that you reduce your dose of lorazepam gradually when it is time to stop taking it. This is to reduce the risk of you experiencing withdrawal effects. Follow carefully any instructions your doctor gives to you.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the more common ones associated with lorazepam. The best place to find a full list of the side-effects which can be associated with your medicine, is from the manufacturer's printed information leaflet supplied with the medicine. Alternatively, you can find an example of a manufacturer's information leaflet in the reference section below. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common lorazepam side-effects
What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy, weak, or light-headed (these can continue into the following day)Do not drive and do not use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Forgetfulness, feeling confused or unsteadyIf any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor
Feeling (or being) aggressiveThis can happen in some people - let your doctor know about it as soon as possible

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Lorazepam 1 mg and 2.5 mg Tablets; Genus Pharmaceuticals, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated January 2015.
  • British National Formulary; 71st Edition (March-September 2016) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
991 (v25)
Last Checked:
23/09/2016
Next Review:
23/09/2019
The Information Standard - certified member

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