Ativan withdrawal symptoms are the side effects of long-term Ativan consumption.

Although there’s a general misconception that prescribed medications are safer than illegal street drugs, they come with their own caveats. Long-term drug interactions with Ativan can cause a psychological addiction or a physical dependence on it. Abruptly stopping or reducing intake results in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be mild or life-threatening in some cases.

Read on to learn how to stop Ativan withdrawals, the various detox treatment options available, and tips to cope with the symptoms. We’ll also discuss ways for avoiding relapses to set you up for long-term recovery.

What Is Ativan Withdrawal?

Ativan or lorazepam is a class of benzodiazepines prescribed for treating seizures, insomnia, and anxiety disorders. Though benzos are highly effective in treating people who suffer from severe anxiety disorders, they also pose risks of habit-forming Ativan addiction and abuse.

A close look at a Lorezepam capsule, a generic or trade name for the drug Ativan

One of the most prescribed medications, benzos are central nervous system depressants that have a relaxing and sedating effect. However, Ativan is a short-acting medication designed only for short-term use with side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, muscle weakness, tiredness, and blurred vision among others. Its prolonged intake can lead to psychological and physical addiction and dependence.

If you abruptly stop consuming Ativan or significantly reduce the dose, there are high chances you’ll experience severe Ativan withdrawal symptoms. Ativan withdrawal or lorazepam withdrawal symptoms can occur immediately after the intake of the last dose.

The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person and is also dependent on the amount of substance consumed. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms are not just unpleasant but can also be life-threatening.

Effects Of Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

Drugs like benzodiazepines have a calming and sedating effect on the nervous system. With continued use, your brain adapts to the constant presence of Ativan in your body. Regular consumption of benzodiazepines like Ativan can alter the way your brain interacts with its neurotransmitters and change its chemical balance. Over time, your brain develops a tolerance for the drug and addiction takes the place of the desired effect.

When you suddenly stop using the drug, your brain, nervous system, and organs are thrown off balance and struggle to adjust to a new environment devoid of Ativan. Withdrawal symptoms are a consequence of your body reacting to the absence of Ativan in your system.

Negative Effects of Prolonged Use

Long-term and prolonged use of benzos makes your body so used to the presence of Ativan that it responds negatively to its absence in the form of mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Although the severity of the symptoms varies from person to person, long-term continuous use heightens the chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Ideally, Ativan should not be consumed for more than 4 months. To minimize the risk of getting withdrawal symptoms, you must consult your doctor and plan for its short-term use.

There is also a higher chance of Ativan withdrawal if you’ve been through it once before.

Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms differs based on various factors. Withdrawal generally occurs in two stages: acute and prolonged withdrawal.

Prolonged Withdrawal Symptoms of Ativan

  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Rebound insomnia

Acute Withdrawal Symptoms of Ativan

  • Increased anxiety and tension
  • Cravings
  • Palpitations and increased heart rate
  • Hand tremors and panic attacks
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle pain, numbness, or stiffness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache, vomiting, and nausea

Though lack of coordination and short-term memory loss are rare during lorazepam withdrawal, you cannot completely rule them out.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms of Ativan

Just as your body reacts to the presence of excess Ativan in your system, it can also struggle to deal with a sudden decrease when you stop taking it. Physical withdrawal symptoms are a direct result of your body trying to compensate for the decrease of Ativan in your body.

Some examples of physical withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drug cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches and pains         
  • Headaches and panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Sweating and tremors

If you decide to quit Ativan cold turkey, these symptoms can quickly escalate and become dangerous.

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Ativan

Psychological withdrawal symptoms of Ativan are very different from physical ones and are more in line with the euphoric feeling the drug is known to produce. The appeal of psychoactive drugs lies in their ability to create feelings of euphoria even if they end up producing unpleasant side effects like motor loss and drowsiness with continued use.

Upon cutting down on doses, a person might find it hard to cope with decreased feelings of euphoria. This is the main reason for psychological withdrawal symptoms. For most people, dealing with psychological withdrawal is the hardest part of Ativan detoxification.

Some psychological withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) or protracted withdrawal is the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms after acute withdrawal lessens or stops. They are generally psychological. However, not everyone experiences PAWS.

Here are some common Ativan protracted withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Mood changes
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • Frequent feelings of fatigue
  • Memory problems
A bottle spills an arrow of Ativan pills, to indicate the withdrawal timeline visually

Ativan Withdrawal Timeline

If you are considering or have decided to discontinue using Ativan, prepare and know what to expect with our withdrawal timeline.

6-8 Hours After the Last Dose

Early withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, upset stomach, panic attacks, and anxiety can begin within 6 to 8 hours after an individual stops taking Ativan.

Days 1-3

Acute withdrawal symptoms like high blood pressure, nausea, and headache can appear.

Days 4-7

During this time, earlier symptoms can peak in intensity, including other symptoms like cravings, tremors, and irritability.

Days 8-14    

Withdrawal symptoms generally start to lessen during the second week and acute withdrawal symptoms largely subside. However, 2 to 3 days after acute withdrawal stops, there are chances of experiencing rebound symptoms like increased heart rate, insomnia, severe anxiety, and high blood pressure. If left untreated, they can worsen and cause seizures, hallucinations, and agitation.

Days 15+

This is generally the time when the worst is over for most people. Most acute withdrawal symptoms would have stopped and lingering symptoms are bound to be mild. Some Ativan users can experience protracted withdrawal symptoms during this time.

Factors Affecting Ativan Withdrawal

As with other drugs, the length and severity of Ativan withdrawal depend on various contributing factors — the foremost being the duration of drug use. The general rule is that the longer the consumption, the harder and more complicated the withdrawal symptoms.

Next comes the quantity of drug consumption. The lower the dosage, the easier the withdrawal process. If you’ve taken small doses for a short time, the withdrawal process is going to be easier while larger doses for longer periods entail a more complex and extended withdrawal.

There are other individual factors to consider. These differ between people and depend on many variables like a person’s physiological make-up, previous medical condition, and body type. Let’s take a look at some of the prominent individual variables:

Physical and Psychological Health

Recovering from any disease requires you to be in the best of health and the same applies to withdrawal symptoms. If you have any pre-existing mental or physical health issues, it might be more difficult to recover from withdrawal.

Additional Drugs or Addiction

If you’re dealing with other drug addictions or medication, it might impede your recovery. Whether it’s underlying alcoholism or prescribed medications, be sure to give your doctor a complete and honest picture of what you’re going through as it can have a major impact on your rehabilitation.

Coinciding Disorders

Examples of coinciding disorders are clinical anxiety and Ativan addiction. Both conditions require simultaneous specialized treatment. Ignoring one on account of the other can worsen symptoms.

Medical History

Some people have high sensitivity to certain medications. This can hamper recovery. Hence, if you have a history of allergic reactions to any medicine, you must inform your doctor beforehand.

Family History

Genetics can also impact the severity of your symptoms. If you have a family history of addiction and substance abuse, you might be genetically predisposed to drug addiction. This can make the process of discontinuing Ativan more difficult.

Patient History

Repeated addictions and withdrawals can hinder recovery. Every time a patient attempts to quit Ativan and relapses, recovery gets harder.

How Long Do Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

A clock sits in the middle of a clock-shaped circle of Ativan pills to show the timeline for Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

The duration and severity of Ativan withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. Some people experience peak symptoms after 4 to 5 days and eventually start feeling better after. On the other hand, for people suffering from protracted withdrawal symptoms, the recovery process can go beyond 10 to 15 days.

Regardless of the length of symptoms, their intensity will not remain consistent during the entire detox process. They start out mild, eventually increase until reaching a peak, and then gradually begin to decrease.

What is Ativan Detox?

Ativan detox is the process of completely recovering from Ativan addiction. This entails discomfort and can be a painful process due to associated withdrawal symptoms.

A medically monitored Ativan detox process involves tapering off the dosage until the patient’s body gets accustomed to decreasing amounts of Ativan. In some cases, doctors may also use a less potent benzodiazepine with a higher half-life to delay the onset of withdrawal. The tapering process can take several weeks or sometimes even months.

Can You Undergo Ativan Detox at Home?               

Benzodiazepines like Ativan are among the substances whose abuse and misuse can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. This is why Ativan detox at home can be potentially deadly.

Even if you don’t experience serious symptoms like seizures, there are high chances of experiencing panic attacks and suicidal thoughts that can cause you to harm yourself without medical supervision.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome

Detoxing at home can also expose you to the dangers of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome which is unpredictable, risky, and can worsen benzo withdrawal while making the detox process longer than necessary.

The longer an individual has been abusing Ativan and the larger the doses, the higher the likelihood of experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Convulsions
  • Memory loss
  • Catatonia
  • Disassociation

Attempting a detox at home is an invitation for unwanted and life-threatening health complications. A medically supervised detox process will not only help you manage withdrawal symptoms more effectively but can also lessen the impact of withdrawal in a safe and more comfortable environment.

It must be said that quitting Ativan cold turkey or detoxing cannot guarantee success as there is always a chance of relapsing.

Since Ativan has a short half-life, withdrawal can occur quickly after stopping drug intake. This can prompt users to ingest more Ativan to counter the symptoms and perpetuate a vicious cycle.

Whereas, in a rehab facility, there are appropriate tools and dedicated professionals who are there for you 24/7 while offering a safe and supervised environment where you stand a better chance at long-term recovery.

Ativan Withdrawal Treatment

There are many treatment programs and options available to help those struggling to overcome Ativan withdrawal. A medically assisted detox program can greatly increase your chances for recovery. After detox and during the recovery process, it’s always advised to seek out support groups like Narcotics Anonymous or take up individual therapy to work through the issues that caused addiction in the first place.

Here’s a list of detox programs and treatment options available:

Inpatient and Residential Treatment

Inpatient treatment can take between 28 to 90 days or even longer. While some programs offer detox programs from the beginning, others accept patients who have already detoxed at another addiction center.

This treatment generally includes individual or group therapy along with medical supervision and aftercare treatments and preparation. Inpatient programs enable people to stay away from situations and environments that may encourage drug use. Whether the facilities are destination retreats or hospitals, all have recovery as their central goal. They also offer medications to assist with Ativan withdrawals.

Detox Center

The key responsibility of a detox center is to wean patients from Ativan dependence and help them safely recover from its withdrawal symptoms. There are dedicated medical professionals who monitor and supervise the users for any complications and provide medication as required. Usually, these programs do not offer services past the detox process.

Outpatient Treatment

In outpatient treatment programs, people can go about their daily lives. They can go to work,  fulfill family responsibilities, and live at home while undergoing treatment.

These programs include a combination of group, individual and pharmaceutical therapies. The length and intensity of these treatment programs can vary in intensity and duration but generally requires a person to commit a few hours on select days of the week. Some outpatient treatment facilities can even help people detox from mild withdrawal symptoms.

Dual Diagnosis

Most people who take Ativan suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Ativan is the most prescribed drug for treating clinical anxiety. In dual diagnosis programs, substance abuse and mental health problems are treated simultaneously to prevent relapse during sobriety. These programs may or may not provide detox services.

Support Groups

Since recovery is an ongoing process that continues even after the completion of treatment, support groups can be great sources of long-term treatment and aftercare.

Support groups offer extended care after the completion of major treatment and therapy. Since most therapies are time-limited, long-term and ongoing involvement can better help individuals address situations that may trigger a relapse. They also offer patients an outlet and opportunity to discuss treatments, goals, and challenges with other patients who are undergoing similar experiences.

Is Ativan Withdrawal Deadly?

The risk of death from acute Ativan withdrawal symptoms like seizures and hallucinations is high when not treated appropriately. This is one of the main reasons why it’s always recommended to undergo detox in a medical rehab center instead of going cold turkey and going through withdrawal by yourself.

Tips to Cope with Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Drink fluids, preferably ones with electrolytes, to combat nausea and headaches that are common during recovery.
  • Never detox at home and always seek professional treatment.
  • Seek the support of friends and family before beginning the detox process.
  • Practice deep breathing and meditation for mindfulness and relaxation.
  • Always eat healthy foods.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take up cognitive behavioral therapy which can help you deal with post-acute withdrawal symptoms and negative thoughts.

Final Note on Ativan Detoxification: A Painful Yet Necessary Process

An addict makes the choice between addiction to Ativan and healthy choices in the other direction

Although Ativan detox and the withdrawal process are painful and challenging, they are essential to recovery. Whether it’s a minor or major addiction, it’s always best to detox in a medical center to prevent complications.

A medically supervised detox center not only offers you a safe and secure environment for recovery but can also significantly decrease your chances for relapse.

Together with treatment and therapy, you must also engage in self-care by eating healthy foods, doing regular exercises, and practicing deep breathing and meditation. With patience, determination, and the right attitude, you can reclaim and enjoy an Ativan-free life.

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