Lorazepam - a benzodiazepine

You will be prescribed lorazepam for a short period of time only.

Taking lorazepam will make you feel sleepy. It will also increase the time it takes for you to react, so it may impair your judgement. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines.

Do not drink alcohol while you are on lorazepam.

Type of medicine Benzodiazepine
Used for Anxiety or insomnia (2-4 weeks only)
As a pre-med before surgery
Convulsions caused by epilepsy
Available as Tablets and injection

Benzodiazepines like lorazepam are prescribed for short periods of time to ease symptoms of anxiety, or sleeping difficulties caused by anxiety. Lorazepam works by affecting the way some chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) pass messages to brain cells - this has a calming effect. It also helps by relaxing tense muscles.

Lorazepam is sometimes used for other reasons too. It is given as a pre-med to reduce anxiety before an operation, particularly during procedures that may cause anxiety or discomfort. Lorazepam injection is used to treat convulsions or fits caused by epilepsy.

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

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any breathing problems or sleep apnoea (a problem where you stop breathing for short periods at night).
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have a mental health problem, such as a personality disorder.
  • If you have ever had a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • If you have glaucoma (increased eye pressure).
  • If you have severe muscle weakness, such as in a condition called myasthenia gravis.
  • If you have porphyria (a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about lorazepam and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Your doctor will tell you how many tablets to take and when to take them. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack to remind you. Take lorazepam exactly as your doctor tells you to. As a guide, if you are taking it 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.
  • Swallow the tablets with a drink of water. You can take them before or after food.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it when you remember. If it is almost time to take your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Remember to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Taking lorazepam will increase the time it takes for you to react and may impair your judgement. Because of this, your ability to drive could be affected. You may also still feel sleepy the following day. Do not drive or use tools or machines if this happens to you.
  • You should not drink alcohol while you are on lorazepam. It will increase the risk of 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 may increase the amount of lorazepam in your bloodstream, which may increase the risk of side-effects. It is probably best to avoid it while you are taking lorazepam.
  • Your doctor will recommend that you reduce your dose gradually when it is time to stop. This is to help prevent withdrawal or rebound symptoms, such as headache, tension, anxiety, and restlessness. Follow carefully any instructions your doctor gives to you.
  • If you are having any medical treatment, such as an operation, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking lorazepam. This is because it may increase the effects of some anaesthetics.
  • If you buy any medicines while you are taking lorazepam, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take together.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common lorazepam side-effects
What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy, dizzy, or tired Do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Feeling forgetful, confused, weak, or unsteady If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

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

  • 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.

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 December 2011.
  • British National Formulary; 65th Edition (Mar 2013) 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 (v24)
Last Checked:
11/05/2013
Next Review:
10/05/2016
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