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How Long Does Ativan Withdrawal Last? Timeline, Tips, and Symptoms


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Benzodiazepines are some of the most widely prescribed medications in America. Ativan is the name brand for the prescription benzodiazepine medication, lorazepam. It comes in tablet or liquid form, and is primarily used to treat short-term anxiety, although it is sometimes used as an anti-convulsion medication or for sedation prior to surgery. Ativan is highly addictive and not intended to be used long-term.

Recognizing Ativan Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine medications may have dangerous and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. As a result, they should not be stopped suddenly, or “cold turkey,” without direct medical supervision and intervention. Potential side effects of Ativan withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Hyperthermia
  • Involuntary movements
  • Hypersensitivity to noise and light
  • Vertigo
  • Panic attacks
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Sensory changes
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Lack of ability to feel pleasure
  • Numbness of extremities
  • Hallucinations and/or delirium
  • Depersonalization
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors

Withdrawal is your brain’s attempt to regain natural balance after it has become dependent on chemical interference. Convulsions and seizures as well as psychosis can occur during benzodiazepine withdrawal. These are serious side effects requiring immediate medical attention as they can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or even death. Additionally, in the case of benzodiazepine medications like Ativan, withdrawal can be potentially fatal.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal may induce suicidal tendencies that need to be closely monitored by a medical professional. If you are suffering from a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or a mood disorder, Ativan withdrawal may need to be even more carefully managed as the side effects may heighten any mental illness symptoms and vice versa

The combination of a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder may further complicate withdrawal, and specialized treatment may be required. Mixing Ativan with other medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol can also exacerbate withdrawal symptoms and increase the risk factors for a dangerous interaction or overdose.

Ativan Withdrawal Timeline

Abusing medications such as Ativan is likely to increase tolerance and dependence levels in the brain. The severity of dependence is directly related to the intensity and duration of abuse, including the dosage amount and length of time one took the medication. The duration of withdrawal from Ativan may be variable from person to person, although a general timeline can be loosely established.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal may start slowly within 24 hours to a few days of the last dose, with mild symptoms such as trouble sleeping and mood disturbances, and then increasing in severity and symptoms. The average onset of withdrawal symptoms is 3 to 4 days.

The most common side effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal may be a “rebound” effect wherein the symptoms you took the medication for – in the case of Ativan, anxiety – returns. The continuation of these anxiety symptoms may continue until treatment is received.

Successfully Managing Ativan Withdrawal

You should not attempt to detox alone from a medication like Ativan. The symptoms and side effects of withdrawal can be highly unpredictable, come on slowly or suddenly, and last an indefinite amount of time. Medical professionals and counselors can work together to determine a course of action that will best suit your individual needs and circumstances. For example, if you began taking Ativan to combat anxiety, you will likely benefit from an integrated treatment model wherein both the mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder can be simultaneously managed.

When the brain’s chemical balance is disrupted due to the presence of drugs, it can take time to repair itself, and in the meantime, you may suffer from psychological side effects that need to be addressed and managed. Sometimes these symptoms are controlled with other lower-dosage benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or mood stabilizer medications. Antidepressant medications may also be used in some cases.

A slow and controlled tapering schedule may help to reduce the amount benzodiazepines you take over a set amount of time, in addition to potentially alleviating withdrawal symptoms and potential drug cravings. By reducing the dosage amount slowly and under medical supervision, you may be able to safely detox from these medications.

Futures of Palm Beach offers specialized and comprehensive treatment models rooted in scientific study and ensconced in a supportive, compassionate, and collaborative environment. Call Futures today to learn about our Ativan addiction treatment programs.


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