Ativan Withdrawal and Detox

When someone has a physical dependence, a psychological addiction, or both to Ativan (lorazepam), they will likely also experience withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological, and they’re a response to the fact that your body has become so used to having the substance in it, that it responds negatively to you not taking it. Detox and withdrawal are an essential but very challenging part of the recovery process, and the best recommendation for a serious addiction such as to Ativan is to go through this process in a medical facility. In some cases, people will attempt to go cold turkey or detox at home but often find that they’re unsuccessful.
Experiencing Ativan (lorazepam) withdrawal symptoms can occur not just when you take the drug illegally without a prescription, or even when you misuse a prescription. There can be psychological withdrawal symptoms as well as physical symptoms even if you had a prescription to Ativan and took the drug as directed. Withdrawal is a response to your body’s need to have a drug to function normally. When you stop using a drug like Ativan, your body has to adjust to not having the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can be particularly severe and prolonged for people who are heavy or long-time abusers of Ativan.  

The symptoms, length, and severity of both physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological withdrawal from Ativan can vary significantly between individuals.

The general recommendation from people in the medical community is that you don’t withdrawal from Ativan cold turkey. A cold turkey withdrawal can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms including Ativan withdrawal seizures and hallucinations.

When people ask the question, “can you die from Ativan withdrawal,” it’s important they realize the answer is yes. The risk of death from symptoms such as Ativan withdrawal seizures is why a medical detox is almost always the best choice for people who are addicted to Ativan and other benzos.

Some of the physical symptoms of Ativan withdrawal may include:

  •       Drug cravings
  •       Insomnia
  •       Irritability
  •       Tremors
  •       Sweating
  •       Confusion
  •       Nausea and vomiting
  •       Abdominal cramps
  •       Headaches
  •       Changes in mood
  •       Changes in blood pressure
  •       Panic attacks
  •       Anxiety
  •       Muscle aches and pains

This is just a short list of the potential physical withdrawal symptoms, as well as some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms.

When talking about psychological withdrawal symptoms, many people who are going through Ativan detox find that they experience rebound symptoms. There are certain symptoms that likely led to a person’s use of Ativan in the first place, such as insomnia or anxiety. During the withdrawal and detox process from Ativan, it’s often the case that these symptoms return, and they may return more severely. Rebound symptoms will usually occur in the earliest stages of detox and withdrawal from Ativan.

There is some research showing that withdrawal symptoms from Ativan usage can occur after only using the drug for as few as four to six weeks on a regular basis.

As mentioned, there is the potential for the psychological withdrawal symptoms and physical symptoms of withdrawal from Ativan to be fatal. Seizures, convulsions, and psychosis are possibilities. These can lead to coma, brain damage or death, which is why it’s not advised that people stop Ativan cold turkey and that they do a medical detox.

Users should also note that withdrawal can intensify symptoms of underlying mental illnesses, so in addition to helping patients cope with the physical symptoms of withdrawal, a medical detox facility can also develop treatment plans for these mental illnesses.

If someone takes multiple drugs including Ativan, the withdrawal process can become further complicated, requiring in-depth medical care and monitoring, as well as treatment plans that address each aspect of the co-occurring addictions.

It is not recommended that users of Ativan try to stop using the drug cold turkey. As well as the potential for severe medical situations to occur as a  result from Ativan, there are other reasons this is not advisable.

Along with needing constant medical attention during the detox phase, when people use Ativan, there may be psychological symptoms including suicidal tendencies that can require treatment and therapeutic intervention. A home detox is the not the appropriate setting for these issues to be addressed.

Also, a professional detox facility will most likely use a process of tapering users off the drug. They can customize the tapering off plan for the individual, based on their other health factors as well as their usage history. This helps people who are addicted to Ativan have more manageable withdrawal symptoms, and it also paves the way for them to be more successful in their treatment and stay off Ativan for the long-term. People who withdrawal from Ativan cold turkey tend to be more likely to either not complete treatment or to relapse.

Every individual is different, and that similarly means every person who goes through detox and withdrawal for Ativan (lorazepam) is going to have a different experience. With that being said, there is a general timeline that usually occurs with detox from Ativan.

The Ativan withdrawal timeline often occurs similar to the following outline:

  • Ativan is considered a drug with an intermediate duration, so on average, it stays in the user’s system for about 12 hours. That means the initial withdrawal symptoms may start within 24 hours of the final dose being taken. There is a period of early withdrawal, in which the person will often feel a rush of anxiety and possibly other symptoms like increases in their heart rate and blood pressure. During the early withdrawal phase, it can also be difficult to sleep. In most cases, the first withdrawal symptoms will take place about a day after the last dose, and then acute withdrawal symptoms will begin.
  • Acute withdrawal starts anywhere from one to three days after the last dose of Ativan, and this is where the majority of withdrawal symptoms usually occur. This period can last for about two weeks, but for heavier Ativan abusers, this can last for a few months. Some of the specific symptoms that occur during acute withdrawal include irritability, aches and pains, tremors and drug cravings.
  • Anywhere from 8 to 14 days later, people will start to notice the severity of their symptoms will usually decline.

Beyond the two-week period, many people will feel like the worst has passed, but there are still lingering symptoms that may occur. These can be called protracted withdrawal symptoms, but this doesn’t happen with everyone who uses Ativan. Protracted withdrawal symptoms can include primarily psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression, and potentially drug cravings. These symptoms may extend up to two years after stopping the use of Ativan.

Some factors affect withdrawal. These can include the method of cessation you use, for example, cold turkey versus tapering. Also relevant are the length of time you used Ativan and your dependency level.

Relevant when discussing factors that affect withdrawal and how to wean off Ativan is how you abused the drug. If you’re trying to learn how to wean off Ativan and you snorted it or injected it, this could mean more severe and longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms. Also, if you have co-occurring mental health issues or abuse other drugs or alcohol, these can all play a role in withdrawal.

A big question a lot of people have is whether or not there is Ativan withdrawal medication that can be taken, particularly during an Ativan withdrawal peak. The answer to this question is mixed. There is currently no drug that’s specifically approved for Ativan withdrawal treatment, but that doesn’t mean there are no treatment options.

During a medically-assisted detox, a person is going to have a lot more treatment options that can help lessen the symptoms they’re experiencing, particularly at the Ativan withdrawal peak. A medical team is going to be able to not only monitor the entire detox process, but they’re also going to be able to make necessary medical interventions and make sure the process doesn’t become life-threatening. For example, some detox programs might utilize not just the tapering process, but also the use of other, less powerful benzodiazepines with longer half-lives during detox. The result is that the person is better able to wean off the primary drug which is Ativan.

There can also be treatments administered for co-occurring disorders, and in some cases, there may be natural herbal remedies or supplements that can help the process of withdrawal from Ativan.

What anyone who is abusing Ativan should understand, however, is that these aren’t treatments or home remedies they can do at home, themselves. They’re medical remedies that should be administered in the proper setting and with the right supervision.

Just with the tapering off method alone, people need to have doctor supervision. Only a physician can determine the right amount of Ativan to begin with, and then how to gradually move the dosage down throughout the detox process. The tapering down process can be complex, particularly if other addictions are involved, and it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

When someone is addicted to benzodiazepines including the potent Ativan (lorazepam), they will often require medically-assisted detox during their journey to stop using them. The medically-assisted detox protocol for Ativan and other benzodiazepines can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and make people more comfortable as they detox. Medical detox programs are also best because a team of professionals can provide constant monitoring, and if necessary, interventions if something severe happens or symptoms become life-threatening.

The most common course of action in an Ativan detox protocol is to wean the person off the drug. A detox center will work with the patient to determine the right dosage to begin the process with, and will also outline a plan for slowly tapering that dosage down over time, which can take weeks or months.

What happens in the general sense during a drug detox is that your body begins to be able to eliminate toxins and move back toward a more reasonable level of functionality. Along with the general medical problems and risk of death that can occur with a home detox as opposed to a rehab center and medical detox, the uncomfortable symptoms that occur through Ativan withdrawal can lead to a higher likelihood of relapse. When someone experiences the Ativan detox symptoms in a medical detox center, they’ll have the support and therapeutic resources that can help them avoid this tendency.

Many medical detox programs can provide supportive services such as cognitive behavioral therapy as well as psychiatric treatment, which helps people cope with Ativan withdrawal in a holistic way that’s more likely to lead to better outcomes.

The first step in how to safely detox from Ativan will likely be the creation of an individualized tapering schedule. There are different recommendations as to the bet way to detox from Ativan that can include moving to taking the same dose of a less potent benzodiazepine, to using smaller doses. Withdrawal symptoms will start within a few days. During the Ativan detox protocol, some medications may be used to deal with the Ativan detox symptoms, including drugs that can prevent seizures.

Many people also wonder how long does it take to detox from Ativan. There’s no definitive answer to this question, although recommendations in medical journals for the ideal Ativan detox protocol range anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks. That is a lengthy detox protocol compared to many other drugs, but that is due to the tapering schedule, which is safer than cold turkey methods.

Detox for Ativan can occur in an inpatient or outpatient programs, but outpatient programs may not be advisable for someone who has been taking high doses of the drug, because of the likelihood their withdrawal symptoms could be very severe.

Inpatient medical detox programs are often best for long-term and heavy Ativan abusers, and your care providers will create a personalized detox and tapering down schedule for your individual needs.

Following detox, you’ll then move toward comprehensive rehabilitation and treatment that will address things such as the underlying factors leading to your abuse of Ativan. There will be a combination of both emotional and physical therapies, and you’ll learn coping skills to help you deal with triggers in your life. The first stepping stone to a successful treatment program for Ativan abuse is a medical detox program.

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.

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