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Lorazepam: Is it addictive?
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Dec 21, 2007

I suffer from panic attacks, and my psychiatrist has suggested short-term lorazepam. But I'm afraid to take it because of the risk of addiction. Am I right to be concerned? ~ Andy / Oregon

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., answers:

Lorazepam is a mild sedative that's sometimes used to treat panic disorder. Lorazepam belongs to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines. The short-term use of any benzodiazepine ? if closely monitored ? typically doesn't lead to significant physical dependence or addiction. However, stopping such a medication after taking it for longer than a few months or so usually requires tapering off the medication to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to keep in mind that just because your body develops a physical dependence on a drug doesn't mean that you are addicted to it. Addiction is marked by impaired control over the use of the drug, preoccupation with its use, and continued use despite adverse consequences, with or without physical dependence.

If you have a history of addiction or feel that you're somehow vulnerable to addiction, it is best to work with your doctor to select a medication that is less likely to be associated with dependence and addiction and that won't interact with other medications you're taking.

Medication is one treatment option for people with panic disorder. But another effective and often overlooked treatment option is cognitive behavior therapy. If you have a panic disorder, it is important to work with a psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety disorders and has experience in managing the use of benzodiazepine medications.

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