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Ativan Withdrawal

High levels of anxiety can be debilitating.  If you have struggled with anxiety, you may have been given the prescription Ativan to help reduce anxious feelings.  Ativan is a sedative-hypnotic or tranquilizer medication used primarily to treat anxiety, insomnia, and some types of seizures. It belongs to the benzodiazepine class of medications and as such, has been found to be habit forming and addictive.

Ativan is usually prescribed “as needed”. It is not meant to be a long-term solution for anxiety, but rather a short-term aid to help people contend with high stress loads, anxiety, or insomnia.  After taking Ativan, you should begin to feel more relaxed.

Some people abuse Ativan, taking more than prescribed in order to experience that relaxed feeling and euphoria. Or, they use other drugs, including alcohol, with Ativan, and thecombination can be deadly. 

If you have become addicted to Ativan, good news as it is treatable. However, at times professional help may be needed to help you get through the uncomfortable Ativan withdrawal symptoms that may come when trying to get off the drug.

ATIVAN ADDICTION

Not everyone who gets addicted to Ativan get their pills from doctors. Some get their pills on the streets and end up getting hooked to them.  Regardless of how you have become addicted to Ativan, it is in your best interest to gradually taper off the drug because long-term abuse can damage your mental and physical health.  

WHAT ARE ATIVAN WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS?

Once you are addicted, your body will experience withdrawal symptoms when coming off the drug. Note that tapering off benzodiazepines is recommended by doctors rather than stopping cold turkey, which can be very dangerous.

The following are a range of Ativan withdrawal symptoms you may experience. Withdrawing from benzodiazepines, in general, occurs in two stages: acute and protracted.

ACUTE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

  • Cravings
  • Increased sweating
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased anxiety
  • Muscle cramping
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Panic attacks

The second stage of Ativan withdrawal is referred to as protracted or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and includes:

  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of energy or interest in activities
  • Dull emotions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Memory issues

WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF ATIVAN WITHDRAWAL TIMELINE?

When you take Ativan, it can stay in your system for about 12 hours. When coming off Ativan, the timeframe for the onset of withdrawal symptoms to the time your body is free from symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on factors like:

  • Age
  • Condition of health
  • The dose of Ativan you were taking
  • How long you’ve been on Ativan
  • The frequency you took Ativan
  • How you ingested the drug (pills, snorted, injected)
  • Substance abuse history
  • Social support
  • Environment
  • Tolerance level
  • Dietary habits
  • Polydrug use
  • Schedule of taper

Typically, mild withdrawal symptoms will begin within 10 to 24 hours after the last dose. Symptoms will peak within the first week and then start subsiding. However, lingering symptoms – mostly psychological – can continue for weeks or months.

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ATIVAN WITHDRAWAL TIMELINE

DAYS 1 – 3

The first few days you’ll begin feeling some of the acute withdrawal symptoms, like muscle aches, nausea, stomach cramping, cravings, headache, and so on.

DAYS 4 – 7

Your symptoms may peak during this time frame, meaning that it’ll be the most uncomfortable period, usually between days three and five depending on your level of addiction. Typical symptoms include cravings, agitation, trouble sleeping, tremors, confusion, restlessness, palpitations, and increased heart rate.

DAYS 8 – 14

Once you get past the first week, you should be experiencing less and less withdrawal symptoms and feel more like yourself. You may still feel some anxiety, have some trouble sleeping, and have cravings every now and then, but you should be well on your way to feeling better.

DAYS 15 AND BEYOND

Some Ativan users, especially those that were heavily addicted to the drug, may continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms for weeks, months, or a year or more. These are more psychological in nature, and include continued cravings, depression, lack of energy or interest in doing things once enjoyed, and dull emotions. For those that fall into this category, long-term psychological care is recommended.

WHY SHOULD I DETOX?

If you’re addicted to Ativan or any other benzodiazepine, detoxing in a safe way is essential.  Some people think they can quit cold turkey, and this is very dangerous. You should never try to get off Ativan cold turkey, as doctors recommend tapering off the drug over time.  

This decreases the severity of withdrawal symptoms and gives you a better chance at staying off them, rather than relapsing.

A medical detox at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center is recommended to get off Ativan. This way you can be monitored by a physician and receive therapy from substance abuse professionals who can help you address the addiction and any anxiety issues you’re contending with. You may also be given a different benzodiazepine that has a longer-half life than Ativan to help you taper off.  This helps when it comes to the withdrawal symptoms and can take a few weeks or months to get completely free from Ativan.

WHAT IS THE NEXT TREATMENT STEP?

Detoxing is the first step toward freedom from Ativan addiction. This is best done in a medical detox facility such as an inpatient or outpatient treatment center. Because Ativan is a short-acting benzo, sometimes you will be prescribed a longer-acting benzo to help you taper off Ativan, such as Librium or Valium. Then, over time you will be able to get off the longer-acting benzo as well.

INPATIENT TREATMENT

If you attend an inpatient treatment center, you will live at the center while you undergo treatment.  Many people opt to stay 30, 60, or 90 days in treatment under the care of addiction specialists who monitor and assist you around-the-clock. This is a great option for those who are heavily addicted to Ativan or have had relapse after relapse trying to stop using the drug on their own.

OUTPATIENT TREATMENT

If your addiction to Ativan is mild, you may benefit from attending an outpatient treatment center, in which case you will reside at home and commute at various times throughout the week for sessions. This level of care works well for those that have family or work responsibilities and cannot leave home to attend treatment long-term.

Regardless of whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, you will receive high qualityAtivan addiction recovery care that may include:

MEDICATION

Doctors can prescribe medication to treat some of the withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, high blood pressure, or seizures.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY

You will be able to see a therapist who will help you understand addiction better and ways you can go on to live your life free from addiction. You’ll be able to explore possible reasons for your anxiety and other mental health issues you may be contending with. You may be able to learn alternative methods for anxiety reduction too, such as yoga, deep breathing techniques, and meditation.

Sources

US Food And Drug Administration. Ativan Facts. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/017794s034s035lbl.pdf

RX List. Ativan. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/ativan-drug.htm

Everyday Health. What Is Lorazepam? Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/lorazepam

Cuthbertson, Richard. (2019, January 7). CBC News. The common pill that’s killing in the shadow of the opioid crisis. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/benzodiazepines-opioids-deaths-nova-scotia-1.4937134

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