Ativan is the brand name of lorazepam, a benzodiazepine drug prescribed primarily to treat anxiety. This overview covers how long it takes to leave a person’s system, how Ativan is used, its side effects and its potential for abuse and addiction. 

Ativan’s Half-Life

The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes the body to remove half of a single dose from its system. Ativan’s half-life is about 12 hours. Because it takes five half-lives before a drug is removed from the body, it can take about 60 hours for the body to clear a dose of Ativan. 

Additionally, Ativan is broken down into a metabolite by the liver. This breakdown product has a half-life of 18 hours, meaning that it stays in the body for about 90 hours.

Combining Ativan with other drugs can change the half-life. For example, the gout medicine Probenecid can increase the half-life of Ativan, while the asthma drug Theophylline can shorten it.

Factors that Influence How Long Lorazepam Stays in Your System

Several factors can impact how long Ativan stays in the body, including:

  • Amount taken: The higher the Ativan dose, the longer it may take to leave the body. This is because it will take longer for the liver to clear.
  • Frequency of use: The more often someone uses Ativan, the longer it may take for their body to clear the drug.
  • Method of administration: Ativan is usually swallowed as a tablet or liquid, but it can also be injected. Although the drug has similar effects whether it is taken by mouth or via injection, a person’s body may clear the drug differently.
  • Age: Older people generally clear Ativan about 20% more slowly than younger people.

Infographic detailing how long ativan stays in system

Ativan Drug Testing

There are several tests that can be administered to test for the presence of lorazepam. Ativan can show up on tests for different lengths of time, depending on what is being tested. 

  • Urine tests: Ativan shows up in urine about two hours after use and can be found for three to six days. Urine tests are the most common way to test for Ativan.
  • Blood tests: Ativan levels start to peak in blood one to six hours after use and may continue to show up in blood tests for several days.
  • Hair tests: Ativan does not always show up in hair tests, and it tends to be at very low concentrations when it does show up.
  • Saliva tests: Ativan shows up in saliva about 15 minutes after use and can remain present for about eight hours.

False positives for Ativan are also possible. A few prescription drugs are known to give false positives on Ativan and benzodiazepine drug tests, including:

The pain drug oxaprozin

Other FAQs about Ativan

  • What is Ativan used for?

    Ativan was first approved by the FDA in 1977 for anxiety. In 1980, the injectable form of the drug was approved for seizures and pre-anesthesia use.

  • Is Ativan addictive?

    The drug is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance because it has the potential for abuse. For this reason, the FDA recommends limiting Ativan use to a maximum of four weeks. Continued or long-term use of Ativan can cause dependence, and withdrawal can occur when use is abruptly stopped or reduced.

  • What are the signs of Ativan addiction?

    Ativan dependency can turn into addiction over time. The warning signs of addiction include:

    • Needing large doses of the drug to get the same effects
    • Persistent misuse of the drug despite negative health effects and other consequences
    • Unsuccessful attempts to stop using Ativan
    • Preoccupation with getting and using Ativan at the expense of relationships and important responsibilities
    • Buying or selling Ativan in a recreational manner

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.