Ativan (Lorazepam) and Alcohol: Understanding the Risks of Mixing

Written by Brennan Valeski

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Combining Ativan (lorazepam) with alcohol can lead to dangerous interactions, increasing the risk of harmful side effects, including the potential for overdose.

Ativan is a medication belonging to the same family as Xanax, known as benzodiazepines, and is commonly prescribed for conditions like anxiety. If you’re taking Ativan, you might wonder about drinking alcohol while on this medication. It’s important to fully grasp the potential risks of alcohol consumption when Ativan is part of your medication regimen.

What Is Ativan (Lorazepam)?

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a medication that works by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a natural brain chemical that slows down brain activity. Ativan is prescribed for various medical conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Managing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
  • Treating delirium
  • Addressing cardiovascular emergencies

How Ativan and Alcohol Interact

Both Ativan and alcohol are substances that depress the central nervous system. They appear to increase the activity of GABA in the brain. Ativan is believed to influence a complex system involving GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. Meanwhile, alcohol enhances the release of GABA and its activity at GABA receptors. When these two substances are used together, their combined effects can be stronger than using either one alone.

Can You Drink Alcohol While on Ativan?

It’s strongly recommended to avoid drinking alcohol when taking Ativan due to the significantly increased risk of serious side effects, including the risk of overdose.

How Long After Taking Ativan Can You Safely Drink?

To minimize risks, it’s best to refrain from alcohol for at least 48 hours after taking Ativan, even though most studies have focused on the injectable form of the medication. This advice applies similarly when taking Ativan orally.

Healthcare providers can provide more specific recommendations based on Ativan’s half-life, which is the time it takes for a single dose to be completely eliminated from the body. Ativan’s half-life ranges from 10 to 20 hours. Since it generally takes around five half-lives for a drug to be fully removed from the body, you should wait about 48 hours after taking Ativan before considering alcohol consumption.

How Long Should You Wait After Drinking to Take Lorazepam?

It’s essential to ensure that all traces of alcohol have left your system before taking Ativan. It’s never advisable to drink alcohol and take Ativan at the same time. After consuming alcohol, it can remain in your system for hours, peaking in your bloodstream about 60 minutes after consumption and gradually decreasing over time.

The level of alcohol in your system can be measured using tests like a breathalyzer, which indicates your blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC levels can vary based on factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed, your body composition and your gender.

After reaching its peak around 45 minutes post-consumption, BAC typically decreases at a rate of about 0.015 per hour. So, if your BAC reaches the common legal driving limit of 0.08 (as seen in most states), it would take more than five hours for the alcohol to be completely eliminated from your system.

Risks of Mixing Ativan and Alcohol

Combining Ativan and alcohol can lead to a range of serious health risks, including:

Memory Problems and Blackouts

Mixing alcohol and Ativan increases the risk of memory problems, potentially causing blackouts where you may not remember what happened after using these substances.

Higher Risk of Accidents

The combination of alcohol and Ativan raises the risk of accidents. Both substances have sedative effects, which can affect your balance, reaction time, and coordination, increasing the likelihood of falls and motor vehicle accidents.

Slower Breathing and Heart Rate

Using alcohol and Ativan together can slow down your central nervous system, potentially leading to slower heart rate and breathing. In severe cases, this combination can even stop your heart and breathing.

Overdose Risk

The combination of alcohol and Ativan increases the risk of overdose, partly because benzodiazepines like Ativan can make the dangers of alcohol more pronounced. Overall, alcohol is involved in 18.5% of benzodiazepine overdose deaths.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially Dangerous Mixes.” May 6, 2022. Accessed November 26, 2023. “Lorazepam Monograph for Professionals.” October 27, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Rege, Sanil; Graham, James. “The Impact of Alcohol on the Brain – Neurobiology of Brain Involvement.” Psych Scene Hub, November 24, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, June 20, 2023. Accessed November 26, 2023.

Bowling Green State University. “Alcohol Metabolism.” Accessed November 26, 2023.

Mitchell, Mack C.; Teigen, Erin L.; Ramchandani, Vijay A. “Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or Spirits.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, March 21, 2014. Accessed November 26, 2023.


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