Ativan (Lorazepam) Withdrawal Symptoms | Timeline, Tapering Schedule, & Detox
Ativan is a brand name anti-anxiety and anti-convulsant medication containing the drug lorazepam.
As a benzodiazepine, lorazepam is similar in both effect and chemical structure to medications such as Xanax (alprazolam), Restoril (temazepam), and Valium (diazepam).
And as with these drugs, long-term or high-dose use of Ativan can swiftly cause the body to develop a severe physical dependence on the medication, leading to withdrawal when you try to quit.
Symptoms Of Ativan Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms are a result of the dependence the body has developed towards the medication for normal function and well-being. Without it, many of the conditions that Ativan is prescribed to treat will return with increased potency until the body fully adjusts.
When you stop taking Ativan, you’re likely to experience two separate stages of withdrawal: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal.
In both stages, the severity of withdrawal side effects will vary dramatically from person to person.
Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Acute withdrawal often involves severe withdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous depending on the severity of the addiction.
These mental and physical symptoms may include:
- cravings for the medication
- irritability, anxiety, or confusion
- difficulty concentrating
- panic attacks
- mood swings
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal cramps
- muscle pain or stiffness
- hand tremors
- blood pressure changes
- rapid heart rate or heart palpitations
- weight loss
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
In the case of severe benzodiazepine abuse, the process of withdrawal often extends with recovering individuals experiencing a variety of long-term psychological symptoms.
This is experience is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and may involve symptoms such as:
- memory issues
- poor concentration
- inability to feel pleasure
- rebound anxiety disorders
- obsessive compulsive tendencies
- rebound depression or dysphoria
Ativan Withdrawal Timeline
Each individual will experience the process of withdrawal differently. Experiences are likely to vary according to age, gender, body chemistry, and the level of substance use disorder and dependence at play.
Generally, the higher, longer, and more frequently the medication is taken, the more severe the body’s dependency and withdrawal symptoms will be.
Here’s a rough timeline:
Ativan stays active inside the body for around 12 hours. Accordingly, initial withdrawal symptoms will begin between ten hours and twenty-four hours after the last dose.
Withdrawal symptoms peak sometime in this range with individuals reporting cravings, illness, and other physical and mental effects.
Acute withdrawal symptoms diminish, often replaced by rebound symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and rapid heart rate.
After two weeks any remaining acute symptoms should resolve or lessen significantly.
However, protracted withdrawal symptoms may begin and can last for weeks or even months. While less intense, PAWS symptoms may lead you to relapse due to the psychological weight and dissatisfaction of benzodiazepine recovery.
Ongoing therapy is highly recommended to help support individuals throughout the full length of their lorazepam withdrawal recovery.
Ativan Tapering Schedule
Tapering-off from Ativan can help manage moderate withdrawal symptoms. Instead of cutting off the medication cold-turkey, doses are reduced by a medical professional in slow increments.
This process takes time, and the schedule can vary from person to person and will likely change in response to the body’s reactions. If withdrawal symptoms reappear the taper can be paused (but never reversed) as the body catches up.
This process can take as little as eight to twelve weeks or as long as a year, though tapers longer than six months are thought to trend towards worse outcomes.
In some cases of severe Ativan addiction, Ativan may also be exchanged for another benzodiazepine with a longer half-life and less potent effect.
Medical detox is a treatment program designed to help individuals through the worst of the withdrawal process once they’ve committed to quitting and getting clean.
By working with a health professional inside a substance abuse treatment center, patients can feel secure and supported as they safely overcome the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Medical supervision is provided, overseeing both physical and mental health for the duration of the process.
Due to the high risk of relapse, medical detox should always be paired with inpatient or outpatient treatment and behavioral therapy to better understand their addiction, connect with their loved ones, and make meaningful changes towards lasting, long-term recovery.
To learn more about Ativan detox and ongoing treatment options, contact an Ark Behavioral Health addiction treatment specialist today.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Ativan CIV Tablets
American Family Physician - Tapering Patients Off of Benzodiazepines - Curbside Consultation
Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience - Benzodiazepines: How They Work & How to Withdraw, Prof CH Ashton DM, FRCP, 2002
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