Ativan Detox, Withdrawal, Symptoms, Signs of Addiction, Overdose & Treatment Options
What is Ativan?
Ativan (lorazepam) is an anxiety medication often prescribed to help people feel calmer and relaxed. Lorazepam is part of a class of substances known as benzodiazepines, which affect the central nervous system, that includes the brain and nerves. If an individual takes Ativan for a long time, the potential for misuse increases.
Withdrawal from a benzodiazepine like Ativan can be potentially dangerous and even fatal due to the potential to develop seizures during the withdrawal process. A medically-supervised Ativan detox is very needed in these cases.
Ativan is strong and fast-acting, and long-term misuse could result in building tolerance and dependence on it. Ativan Addiction is a very serious disorder. It is designed to help people with the symptoms of short-term anxiety and is not necessarily meant for long-term use because it has the potential to be habit-forming.
Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs and they are used primarily in the treatment of anxiety but may also be used to treat panic disorders, seizures, insomnia, and trouble sleeping. In some cases, benzodiazepines can also be used for anesthesia, sedation before surgery or medical procedures, muscle relaxation, withdrawal from alcohol and drugs, nausea, vomiting, and depression.
This drug is also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, and side effects from cancer treatment. Ativan is extremely addictive, and because of how habit-forming it can be, as well as how potent and fast-acting it is, it’s not often prescribed for use for more than a few months at a time. The maximum period it’s prescribed to patients for use is about four months.
Ativan Detox & Withdrawal
Physical dependence occurs as a result of an individual taking certain types of drugs over rather long periods. When an individual chronically uses or abuses certain classes of drugs, the individual’s system becomes acclimated to having the drug present and learns to function at a steady level only when the drug is present in the individual’s tissues.
The system automatically adjusts its release of chemical substances, such as neurotransmitters, hormones, and so forth, to account for the presence of the drug. Once the individual abruptly stops taking the particular drug, the system is thrown off balance, and this produces several physical symptoms known as withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from a benzodiazepine like Ativan can be potentially dangerous and even fatal due to the potential to develop seizures during the withdrawal process. Ativan withdrawal usually occurs in two stages: an acute stage and a prolonged stage. Going into a supervised Ativan Detox in a rehab facility will reduce the symptoms and potential risks.
Ativan has a half-life of 10-12 hours on average, so withdrawal symptoms can start relatively quickly (within 24 hours) following the last dose. The average onset of withdrawal symptoms is 3-4 days. Acute withdrawal may begin with rebound effects that consist of a rush of anxiety, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. Acute withdrawal phase symptoms may include:
- Headache, sweating, tremors (especially in the hands), difficulty concentrating, and/or confusion
- Increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, and a rapid heart rate
- Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and/or weight loss
- Irritability, feelings of anxiety, mood swings, and/or even panic attacks
- Seizures can occur in rare cases
A protracted withdrawal syndrome (in some sources, this is just referred to as a withdrawal syndrome) occurs after the acute phase and typically lasts 10-14 days; however, in individuals who use very high doses of Ativan, it could last even longer. In this stage, individuals will continue to experience symptoms of anxiety, drug cravings, nausea, vomiting, headache, general malaise, and may even begin to develop depression.
Some individuals who have co-occurring anxiety or panic disorder may also experience a return of anxiety symptoms that may persist until treatment is put into place. Certain individuals may continue to experience mood swings, depression, general malaise, and lack of motivation for months to years following discontinuation of Ativan. Some sources refer to this as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Symptoms of Ativan Addiction
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), for a person to receive a diagnosis of a Sedative Use Disorder, at least two of 11 symptoms must emerge within the same 12-month period. The criteria represent the physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of addiction. The following are the 11 DSM-5 elements as they would be applied to Ativan use:
- The person doesn’t partake in important work activities, hobbies, or social events due to the Ativan abuse
- The person repeatedly uses Ativan even when doing so puts them in danger or at risk for a host of troubles (e.g., drugged driving)
- The person continues to use Ativan even though it is causing or exacerbating an existing psychological or physical problem
- The person develops a tolerance for Ativan. Tolerance is a natural process that requires a person to take more of a drug as time passes
- The person goes into withdrawal when they stop using Ativan. Withdrawal is a natural process that occurs when a person stops using the drug or reduces the familiar amount of the drug used
- Despite initial intentions, the person takes too much Ativan or takes it for a longer period of time than expected
- The person senses that there is a need to stop using or to cut down on Ativan use but is not able to do so
- The person spends a disproportionate amount of time using Ativan, getting Ativan, or recovering after using Ativan
- The person has cravings to use Ativan (or other benzodiazepine drugs)
- Due to Ativan abuse, the person is not able to perform to the necessary standard at work, school, or home
- The person continues to use the drug even though doing so is causing interpersonal problems
Understanding the symptoms of a clinical diagnosis of a sedative use disorder is helpful, but it’s also necessary to know about the short-term side effects of Ativan or other benzodiazepine abuse. Side effects are essentially symptoms of Ativan use or abuse. The following are symptoms that may be experienced if a person takes too much Ativan in a short time or experiences an overdose:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Lack of motor coordination
- Having a hard time breathing
Factors Affecting Ativan Detox & Withdrawal
The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms individuals experience depend on a couple of different factors. Most often, these include:
- The dose and frequency of Ativan: Chronic users or abusers of Ativan develop tolerance relatively quickly. Individuals who become physically dependent on Ativan and have been taking it for some time typically take doses that are far higher than the daily recommended maximum dose and take them relatively frequently to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The higher the dose one takes and the more often one takes Ativan, the more intense and lengthy the withdrawal syndrome will be.
- How long the individual was taking Ativan: This will determine in part the intensity and duration of the withdrawal symptoms.
- Individual differences in physical, emotional, and psychological makeup: Personal factors – such as body composition, history of addiction, and co-occurring mental health issues – can play a role in the intensity and length of the withdrawal syndrome associated with Ativan.
Benzodiazepines are commonly abused in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol, narcotic pain medications, other benzodiazepines, and even sedatives. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines becomes even more complicated when an individual also stops using other drugs that involve physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, such as alcohol.
Medications to Assist During Ativan Detox
Withdrawal symptoms can be eased via medical Ativan detox. The program should be supervised by a physician who can slowly taper down the dosage of Ativan for the individual, minimizing withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, the physician and other medical professionals can supervise the client and prescribe medications as needed to facilitate the process.
Certain drugs or substances can be given to assist in the process of withdrawal. Melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep, is sometimes used during Ativan detox. There is research to indicate that it can be useful in addressing insomnia in individuals withdrawing from Ativan and other benzodiazepines; however, the research is mixed.
The antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine) has some research evidence to indicate that it can help ease some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with Ativan detox. It may be associated with increased success rates during withdrawal.
Reclaim Your Life With Ativan Detox
Ativan addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe Ativan detox. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Nakao M, Takeuchi T, Nomura K, Teramoto T, Yano E. Clinical application of paroxetine for tapering benzodiazepine use in non-major-depressive outpatients visiting an internal medicine clinic. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2006 Oct;60(5):605-10.