Ativan (lorazepam) Withdrawal Timeline

One of the worldwide manufacturers of Ativan — lorazepam in the generic form — is Pfizer, who warns against the usage of the drug for longer than 2 – 4 weeks due to the high risk for dependency and the onset of a wide range of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Ativan is a benzodiazepine medication prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, anxiety related to depression, anxiety before a medical procedure, seizures, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), epilepsy, and insomnia, as well as to manage the side effects of alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are sedatives and tranquilizers that suppress the central nervous system by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, thereby calming the brain and body.

Taking Ativan longer than recommended or abusing it regularly for a period of time can lead to physical and emotional dependence to the drug. The brain will expect and even require Ativan in order to function the same way as before, and withdrawal symptoms are an indicator of a dependence. When a dependence on Ativan is present, detox may include gradually weaning off the drug in order to avoid more serious and intense withdrawal symptoms. It is not usually recommended to stop taking Ativan suddenly or without medical intervention, and professional monitoring through detox at a specialized facility is recommended.

Ativan  (lorazepam) abuse and dependency may be on the rise as admissions to drug treatment programs more than tripled in the 10 years from 1998 to 2008 for benzodiazepine abuse and dependency, according to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) in 2011.

Ativan (lorazepam) withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Hypertension
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Tingling in extremities

Ativan (lorazepam) has a relatively short half-life of between 10 and 12 hours, and withdrawal symptoms may start within 24 hours of the last dose. Early withdrawal usually is indicated by a kind of bounce back by the brain, causing a rush of anxiety as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure and difficulties sleeping.

Acute withdrawal is the second phase and generally starts a few days after the last dose and includes the bulk of the withdrawal side effects. Acute withdrawal typically lasts about two weeks, although higher dependence may increase this phase for up to a few months. Some people who are more heavily dependent on Ativan may continue to have withdrawal symptoms like bouts of depression and anxiety as well as drug cravings for as long as two years, which is considered protracted, or post-acute withdrawal.

Factors influencing withdrawal

The longer Ativan  (lorazepam) is abused and the amount abused at a time can affect dependency levels, as can the method of abuse. For instance, snorting or injecting Ativan may increase dependency levels faster than ingesting the drug. Someone with a co-occurring mental health disorder who abuses Ativan may experience more intense withdrawal symptoms for longer as well. Additionally, abusing other drugs or alcohol along with Ativan can increase dependency and may heighten and potentially lengthen withdrawal. Personal biological and genetic makeup may also play a role in the withdrawal timeline, and no two people will experience withdrawal exactly the same way.

Ativan (lorazepam) detox is often the first step in managing a dependence on the drug, and around-the-clock medical care provided in a detox facility may be the safest and smoothest way to go. The Recovery Village is a full-service treatment center, providing comprehensive recovery programs offering a full continuum of care through detox and beyond. Contact an admissions counselor today for a confidential assessment.

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.