Ativan (lorazepam) is an anti-anxiety medication commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, and seizures. Ativan withdrawal can produce uncomfortable symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, irritability, agitation, headaches, worsened insomnia and other sleep disturbances, and drug cravings.
Those dependent on Ativan will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug or significantly reduce their dose. Even those who have strictly adhered to a prescription as directed and take the recommended dosage can encounter withdrawal symptoms, and these can occur in some instances in as little as one week.
Withdrawal occurs because a person’s body becomes dependent on Ativan to function correctly. When Ativan use is discontinued, the brain and central nervous system (CNS) must go through a period of readjustment as it struggles to re-establish its natural balance of chemicals and function normally.
During this time, an individual may experience varying degrees of mental, physical, and emotional discomfort through the onset of withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and duration of these symptoms will be largely based on how much of the drug was used, how frequently, and for how long.
Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
Health providers often suggest tapering off Ativan instead of stopping “cold turkey,” which can be hazardous. This is true of all benzodiazepines, and those who quit using Ativan without weaning tapering their dose first may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, chronic insomnia, and even hallucinations and psychosis.
There are two stages of benzodiazepine withdrawal: acute and protracted. Acute withdrawal involves both physical and psychoemotional symptoms and may include the following:
- Drug cravings
- Agitation and irritability
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Impaired concentration
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Blood pressure fluctuations
- Elevated heart rate
- Heart palpitations
Protracted withdrawal, also referred to as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), consists of persistent symptoms, mostly psychoemotional, after acute withdrawal has subsided. Not every person will experience PAWS.
Common Ativan PAWS symptoms include the following:
- Drug cravings
- Sleep disturbances
- Impaired memory
- Impaired concentration
- Reduced interest/motivation
- Obsessive-compulsive tics
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Tiredness and lethargy
Rebound Anxiety and Sleep Disturbances
Rebound symptoms frequently occur during Ativan withdrawal. Rebound symptoms are an intensified return of primary symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia, that initially compelled the individual to take Ativan. Rebound anxiety or insomnia usually occurs 48-72 hours after the onset of the acute withdrawal phase.
Many individuals relapse during this time due to their inability to manage these rebound symptoms. As many as one-third of persons who discontinue Ativan use will encounter some rebound effects. Using a tapering schedule can help control rebound symptoms until health providers can determine an alternative treatment.
The duration of Ativan withdrawal varies between individuals. Typically, those who use excessive doses more frequently and more extended periods suffer from a more prolonged, more intense, and unpleasant withdrawal.
As an intermediate-acting drug, Ativan remains in a person’s system for an average of about 12 hours. Acute withdrawal typically onsets within 10-24 hours after the last dose is ingested, but this period may be shorter or longer depending on individual factors.
Full-blown acute withdrawal effects may persist for 10-14 days and gradually subside over the next couple of weeks. In more extreme instances, symptoms can ensure for several months or longer.
Ativan Withdrawal Timeline
- Days 1-3: Acute withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and nausea, usually onset within the first 24 hours after stopping use.
- Days 4-7: Common withdrawal symptoms tend to persist during this period, but their severity varies between individuals and may include drug cravings, anxiety, agitation, and tremors.
- Days 8-14: All withdrawal effects, including rebound symptoms, usually start to wane during the second week.
- Day 15 and beyond: Acute withdrawal symptoms should mostly be gone. Lingering symptoms should be mild, but protracted withdrawal symptoms may manifest in some former Ativan users.
Treatment for Ativan Addiction
Professional, multifaceted addiction treatment offers those dependent on Ativan, other drugs, or alcohol the best opportunity for long-term recovery. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers provide programs that include evidence-based services, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, substance abuse education, individual and group counseling, peer support, aftercare planning, and more.
We employ compassionate health providers and addiction specialists who deliver services with expertise and provide those we treat with the coping skills, tools, support, and education they direly need to achieve abstinence and foster long-term wellness. We are committed to ensuring that every individual receives effective, customized care designed for their unique needs and goals.