Ativan is the brand name of lorazepam, a benzodiazepine commonly prescribed for the treatment of acute anxiety. It is also sometimes used as an anticonvulsant and as a sedative prior to surgery.
Due to its potent, sedating effects on the central nervous system, Ativan has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Those using Ativan – especially those who misuse it or take it non-medically – are at risk for developing tolerance and experiencing withdrawal when the drug is suddenly stopped — two factors commonly seen in situations of substance addiction.
If you’re unable to stop using Ativan, you can get help. Structured detox treatment programs have staff that understand how to detox off Ativan safely and can help ease your withdrawal symptoms to prevent relapse.
According to an article in the British Journal of General Practice, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can occur upon abrupt discontinuation — even after a period a short as 4-6 weeks of continuous use. At least one-third of habitual, long-term users will experience withdrawal symptoms when reducing their dosage 4. Common symptoms of Ativan withdrawal include 2,3:
Rebound anxiety and insomnia are some of the most common withdrawal symptoms. Rebound insomnia and anxiety typically begin approximately one to four days after the last dose of Ativan is taken. The return of symptoms is only temporary and will typically fade after the withdrawal period is over. Rebound anxiety and insomnia are more likely to occur when a user abruptly stops taking the drug. Distressing symptoms such as these, in combination with the risk of convulsions and seizures, make tapering (or gradually lowering the dose over time), the safest method of getting off Ativan 2,3.
Acute withdrawal symptoms may begin as soon as the drug starts to leave the body, usually within 10 to 24 hours after the last dose. The detox and withdrawal period is different for each person. Symptoms are usually more severe and last longer in long-term users who took higher doses, as well as those who combined Ativan with alcohol and other drugs — especially barbiturates and opiates. The duration of acute withdrawal typically lasts around 10 to 14 days, but some symptoms can persist past that period for some people.
Detox treatment during Ativan withdrawal will vary depending on many factors, including the length and severity of addiction as well as the treatment center and patient’s insurance policy. Physicians commonly advise that their patients wean off Ativan slowly to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, often decreasing the dosage by around 10% each week. This may take place on an inpatient basis to ensure patient safety and monitor for seizure risk. In some cases, some or part of the full detox duration may take place at home, with the recovering individual followed on an outpatient basis with daily medical monitoring and medication adjustments. This situation might arise in response to limitations in insurance coverage; however, this measure should only proceed with the sign-off of a physician who has thoroughly evaluated a patient for seizure risks.”
Other more long-lasting benzodiazepines may be used administered to patients as they taper off Ativan. The more long-lasting benzodiazepine used will help to stave off the more symptoms of withdrawal during the taper. After the initial detox plan, treatment professionals will assist patients in developing and maintaining a long-term treatment plan to maintain sobriety 5,6,7,8.
It can sometimes be challenging for Ativan users to recognize that they need help, as they often began using the drug as prescribed by a doctor. You may need treatment if you recognize some of the signs of Ativan addiction in yourself. These include 7:
Those with mood, sleep, and anxiety disorders are more likely to become addicted to Ativan. Pre-existing depression may recur or worsen during Ativan use, during acute withdrawal, and potentially during protracted (extending past the acute period) withdrawal 3. While it is rare, it is important for recovering addicts to understand the risk of self-harm during benzodiazepine withdrawal. Case studies reported by The British Journal of General Practice have indicated that self-harm and suicidal behaviors may be associated with the psychological effects of benzodiazepine acute and protracted withdrawal 4.
Attempting to quit Ativan on your own can be both physically and psychologically dangerous.
Due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse, those with an Ativan dependence are advised not to attempt to quit on their own, but to instead participate in a medically supervised detox program.
During a supervised detox, Ativan users will lower their dosage slowly in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms and increase comfort. Psychotherapists and counselors can also help address any mental health issues that may arise during the withdrawal period 3,6,7,8.
Before seeking an Ativan detox program, it’s pertinent that you receive an evaluation from a physician. A doctor can assess your condition and evaluate your risk of experiencing a complicated withdrawal. Due to the potentially fatal consequences of Ativan withdrawal, inpatient and hospital detox programs are the safest settings to detox in. There are other options available, but those addicted to Ativan should be cleared by a doctor before seeking anything other than 24-hour detox supervision. Detox program options include:
Typically, patients will be put on a tapering schedule in which the dose of Ativan is gradually decreased over a set period of time. This gradual reduction can help to prevent the emergence of severe withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals may switch Ativan with a long-acting benzodiazepine, such as chlordiazepoxide and clonazepam 9.
Gradual reduction can help to prevent the emergence of severe withdrawal symptoms.
Furthermore, in certain cases a physician may administer sedating antidepressants, such as trazodone, or anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine. There is some evidence that these agents are beneficial in treating the mild subjective symptoms of withdrawal but they don’t tend to reduce severe symptoms 4.
Once you complete an Ativan detox program, it’s vital that you transition into a substance abuse treatment program where you can begin to build the foundation for lasting recovery. Formal addiction treatment programs provide you with the coping skills necessary to relapse while addressing underlying issues related to addiction. There are a variety of treatment options available for those battling Ativan addiction. Although each treatment program will vary, rehabilitation programs typically include some combination of the following:
Treatment is typically available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment provides care 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a designated period of time, typically ranging from 30-90 days. This intensive round-the-clock treatment regimen provides those in addiction recovery a supportive and stable recovery environment free from outside stressors and triggers.
Outpatient treatment programs typically consist of the same treatment approaches as inpatient facilities, but they take place on a part-time basis. Outpatient treatment allows patients to remain active in their day-to-day lives and maintain any work and school duties they may have. While both treatment regimens are effective, inpatient rehab may be the preferred choice for those with severe and/or recurring addictions 8.