Lorazepam (Ativan) Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment
Many people believe that taking a prescription drug is always safe. But some prescription drugs, including Ativan (lorazepam), carry a risk of addiction. When people try to stop taking Ativan suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms that can make it challenging to avoid relapse.
People living with Ativan addiction often require treatment to overcome the condition so they can safely stop using the drug. Understanding what happens during each stage of the lorazepam withdrawal timeline may help you know what to expect and help you make informed choices about your care.
For information about Ativan withdrawal or starting an addiction treatment program, contact the New Jersey Addiction Interventions staff today.
What is Ativan (Lorazepam)?
Ativan–the brand name for lorazepam– is a prescription benzodiazepine that doctors may prescribe to treat anxiety, seizures, and other medical conditions, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Nausea caused by chemotherapy
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Muscle spasms
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
People who take Ativan may become addicted to it, even when they take it as prescribed. Some people use Ativan recreationally for its sedative, euphoric effects. Using a drug recreationally poses a higher risk of addiction. Understanding the risk of addiction and knowing the signs of substance abuse when taking Ativan is essential.
Some common signs of Ativan abuse include:
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Tremors, especially in the hands
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of consciousness or passing out
Ativan abuse can harm your health and lead to short and long-term damage to your health. People who abuse Ativan may experience long-term health complications, including:
- Excessive sedation or drowsiness
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Poor concentration
- Loss of consciousness
Over a prolonged period of Ativan abuse, people may become addicted to it. Addiction causes changes in the body and brain that make it nearly impossible to stop using it without treatment.
What Causes Ativan Withdrawal?
After a period of prolonged or heavy substance abuse, your body may start to depend on drugs to function. It can be very difficult to stop using Ativan once your body has become dependent on it because your body is reliant on the way the drug interacts with the brain’s receptors.
Like other benzodiazepines, lorazepam increases the reuptake of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for the stress response. Increased levels of GABA produce feelings of relaxation, calmness, and even sedation.
To overcome the sedative effects of benzos, the body has to work harder to maintain autonomic body functions such as breathing and heart rate. If you stop suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the lack of lorazepam in your system because your body is still working harder as if it has the drug in the system.
This overactive, overexcited state results in withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, sweating, tremors, seizures, and more.
What Symptoms Do People Have During Lorazepam Withdrawal?
Lorazepam withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. Generally, the length and severity of your withdrawal symptoms depend on how long you’ve been abusing Ativan, your general health, and other personal factors.
Lorazepam withdrawal symptoms include:
- Poor concentration
- Abdominal cramping
- Anxiety, including panic attacks
- Rapid heart rate
- Weight loss
Symptoms can vary from person to person and may change throughout your withdrawal period. Understanding the Ativan withdrawal timeline may help you prepare for what is to come and find the support you need to have a safe, complete detox from the drug.
Understanding the Lorazepam (Ativan) Withdrawal Timeline
Lorazepam has a short half-life–meaning the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug. You may begin to experience symptoms within 24 hours of your last dose.
The lorazepam withdrawal timeline is divided into two phases: acute and prolonged withdrawal.
Acute Ativan withdrawal
The acute phase of Ativan withdrawal typically lasts about 3 to 4 days. At the beginning of this phase, you may experience:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Throughout this phase, you are likely to experience other physical and mental symptoms, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Mood swings
Rarely, do people in acute Lorazepam withdrawal have seizures. The acute stage is very uncomfortable for most people, and the rate of relapse is high.
Prolonged Ativan withdrawal
After the acute phase is over, prolonged Ativan withdrawal can last for an additional 10 to 12 days or more, depending on the severity of your substance abuse and other factors. During this phase, you may continue to experience anxiety, headaches, nausea, and malaise. Some people develop depression during this stage of withdrawal.
Intense drug cravings raise the risk of relapse during this stage. Getting the treatment and support you need to avoid relapse during withdrawal is essential.
Treatment for Ativan Withdrawal
Addiction is a complex condition. Comprehensive addiction treatment gives people the skills and support they need to address the physical, emotional, behavioral, and environmental aspects of addiction so they can move forward in life.
Most comprehensive treatment plans begin with medically-supervised detox. During a detox program, medical and support staff monitor and treat people’s withdrawal symptoms. Medications, emotional support, and comfort care can keep people safe and comfortable during withdrawal, which increases their likelihood of a safe, complete detox.
In the case of Ativan addiction, patients may taper off of lorazepam or another benzodiazepine to slowly wean themselves away from physical dependence. Tapering can significantly reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications from occurring.
After completing detox, it’s essential to continue getting treatment to help address the root causes of addiction and help you learn the skills you need to live a healthy, sober lifestyle.
Get Help for Lorazepam Withdrawal Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with Ativan abuse and addiction, the time to get help is now. For more information about treatment for Ativan withdrawal, reach out to the New Jersey Addiction Interventions staff today.
Medically Reviewed: September 28, 2022
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.