Ativan is one of the brand names for lorazepam, a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Lorazepam is part of a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, commonly known as “benzos.” Benzos act on the central nervous system to create a calming effect by enhancing the natural calming effects of GABA, one of the chemicals your brain uses to manage your nervous system.
When used safely, as instructed by professionals during anxiety treatment, Ativan can be beneficial. Still, as with other benzos, it’s possible to become dependent on Ativan in a way that leads to addiction.
Even if you take the drug as prescribed, your body will likely develop physical dependence. People are likely to increase their dose to experience the same effects, increasing their chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. In the case of Ativan, withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous.
What are Ativan withdrawal symptoms?
Withdrawal can present as a series of physical and psychological symptoms you experience as your body tries to adapt to not having a substance in your system that it has become used to (in this case, Ativan).
One key fact to remember is that Ativan is not meant for long-term use. It’s generally prescribed for anywhere from a few days to 4 weeks. It can increase the chances of dependence and withdrawal. These symptoms are an extraordinarily unpleasant but necessary part of recovery.
The symptoms and severity vary depending on several factors, like the dosages consumed and the amount of time someone takes Ativan.
Acute Ativan withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Headaches, muscular pain, and stiffness
- Weight loss
Prolonged Ativan withdrawal symptoms:
- Rebound insomnia
- Mood swings
- Lack of coordination
- Problems with short-term memory
- Chronic fatigue
How long do withdrawal symptoms last?
The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. In some cases, peak symptoms occur after five days. On the other hand, people experiencing prolonged Ativan withdrawal symptoms might experience them for up to 15 days.
Average Ativan withdrawal timeline:
- 1-3 days: acute withdrawal symptoms begin within the first 24 hours of quitting Ativan.
- 4-7 days: signs of withdrawal peak by day five; irritability, anxiety, and cravings are very common at this stage.
- 8-14 days: most symptoms begin to lessen by the end of the second week. Otherwise, rebound symptoms can last for over 15 days.
- 15+ days: in cases of severe addiction, people can also experience protracted withdrawal symptoms that can last a couple of weeks or months.
Ativan withdrawal can also lead to coma and death if complications arise. Because withdrawal symptoms include seizures, heart irregularities, and hallucinations, it can be dangerous if left untreated. This is one of the main reasons why supervised detox is recommended for Ativan addiction treatment.
What factors affect Ativan withdrawal?
Many factors affect the duration and severity of Ativan withdrawal; these include:
- Dose and frequency: chronic abusers of Ativan develop tolerance quickly. Once they become physically dependent on Ativan, they’re more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit cold turkey. The higher the dose and the more often someone takes Ativan, the more intense and lengthy the withdrawal syndrome will be.
- Use timeline: how long has someone been taking Ativan will determine, in part, the intensity and duration of the withdrawal symptoms.
- Individual factors: symptoms vary from person to person; things like body composition, history of addiction, and other related health issues can play a role in the intensity and length of withdrawal symptoms.
- Other drugs: Ativan is commonly abused in combination with other drugs; in this case, withdrawal from polydrug abuse becomes more complicated and can take longer.
How to recover from Ativan dependence and withdrawal?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that all benzos should be tapered rather than quit suddenly. This means slowly reducing the doses for weeks or months to recover from dependence gradually. The early process may occur in a specialized medical facility where patients can be monitored to guarantee compliance.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms are best treated with medical detox.
The program is supervised by physicians that can help taper down Ativan to minimize withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, it’s important to reiterate that detox isn’t a treatment for substance abuse. If someone has been abusing Ativan, they’ll likely need to continue treatment that includes psychotherapy and group therapy.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Ativan, please know there’s help available. Consult with your doctor or speak with an addiction specialist to learn more about treatment options.