What Is Ativan Withdrawal?
Those who are addicted to Ativan will experience withdrawal when they quit using the drug or rapidly decrease their dose. Even those who follow a prescription and only take the recommended dosage can have withdrawal symptoms. There are reports of people developing a physical dependence on Ativan in as little as a week.
Withdrawal happens because a person using Ativan becomes reliant on the substance to function normally. When the drug is taken away, the brain, nervous system and organs must go through a period of adjustment as they relearn to function properly without Ativan. During this time, the user will experience varying degrees of physical and psychological discomfort in the form of withdrawal symptoms. The severity and duration of these symptoms will depend on how much of the drug was used and for how long, along with a number of other factors such as medical history and the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders.
Symptoms Of Withdrawal
Doctors recommend tapering off of Ativan rather than quitting “cold turkey,” as this can be dangerous. Those who stop taking Ativan without weaning themselves off the drug first may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations and psychotic reactions.
There are two stages of benzodiazepine withdrawal: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal.
Acute withdrawal, commonly referred to simply as “withdrawal,” includes both physical and psychological symptoms. Common acute withdrawal symptoms include:
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle pain or stiffness
- Mood swings
- Blood pressure changes
- Rapid heart rate
- Weight loss
- Panic attacks
The reason that it is critical for patients to attend medically-supervised detox is to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and decrease the chance of adverse and rare side effects during withdrawal, such as hallucinations.
Protracted withdrawal, also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is the presence of withdrawal symptoms, typically psychological, after acute withdrawal is over. Some people may not experience protracted withdrawal.Common Ativan protracted withdrawal symptoms include:
- Depression or dysphoria
- Sleep difficulties
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced interest or lack of initiative
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Constantly feeling tired
- Obsessive compulsive tendencies
- Memory problems
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Rebound Anxiety and Insomnia
Rebound symptoms are common during Ativan withdrawal. Rebound symptoms are the temporary, enhanced return of the symptoms, like anxiety or insomnia, that led the person to take Ativan in the first place. Rebound anxiety and/or rebound insomnia usually occur 2-3 days after the acute withdrawal phase of detox. Many individuals relapse due to their inability to manage this rebound anxiety. Approximately 10-35% of individuals who detox from Ativan will experience rebound effects. Tapering-off of Ativan can help manage rebound symptoms until an alternative treatment is determined.
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Duration Of Withdrawal
The duration of Ativan withdrawal is different for everyone. Typically, those who take higher doses of Ativan, use the drug more frequently and use it for longer periods of time experience longer, more severe withdrawal.
As an intermediate-duration drug, Ativan stays in a person’s system for an average of 12 hours.
Acute withdrawal can start within 10 to 24 hours after the last dose is taken, however, the amount of time varies by person and may be longer or shorter for some.
Full-blown acute withdrawal symptoms usually last 10 to 14 days and lessen over the next couple of weeks. In more severe cases, symptoms can last for several months. Due to a lack of research, there is not a set timeframe for Ativan protracted withdrawal. Some report experiencing symptoms for a few months, while others have symptoms for up to two years. The psychological impact of protracted withdrawal can sometimes lead recovering addicts to feel their life is not as enjoyable without the drug. It’s important to address protracted withdrawal symptoms in recovery to prevent relapse.
Ativan Withdrawal Timeline
|Days 1-3||Acute withdrawal symptoms, like headache and nausea, typically begin within the first 24 hours after quitting use.|
|Days 4-7||Symptoms of withdrawal tend to peak during this time period. The symptoms and severity vary by person, but may include tremors, cravings and irritability.|
|Days 8-14||The symptoms of withdrawal usually begin to lessen during the second week. By this time, acute withdrawal symptoms should have mostly, if not completely, subsided. Rebound symptoms often start 2-3 days after acute withdrawal ends and may include severe anxiety, rapid heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and insomnia.|
|Days 15+||Typically the worst part is over at this point. The acute withdrawal symptoms should mostly be gone. Any lingering symptoms should be mild. Protracted withdrawal symptoms may begin for some Ativan users.|
Those addicted to Ativan and other benzodiazepines often benefit from medically-assisted detox. Medications can help to reduce Ativan withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process more comfortable. It’s also safer to detox with a physician, as he or she can monitor the Ativan user during detox and intervene if any of the withdrawal symptoms become life-threatening.
I have detoxed so many times it’s ridiculous, but the final one was the hardest and took months. You will be sicker than you ever thought possible, but if you work with a doctor, your treatment center and have support—even if it’s just one person to help you—they can make it less unbearable and you will get through it. Just remember that you won’t always feel that way and things will get better. Just don’t give up.
Most often in Ativan detox, users taper off with smaller dosages until their body is less dependent on the drug. A doctor may also provide a less potent benzodiazepine with a longer half-life to help wean the person off Ativan. This tapering-down process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Treatment For Ativan Addiction
Treatment in an inpatient or outpatient program will give Ativan users their best chance at a successful recovery. These programs can help with the detox process, making it both safer and more comfortable. They’ll also teach the skills necessary to remain sober during recovery.
Getting treatment for addiction can help Ativan users connect with support that will be essential during recovery. The relationships built and lessons learned in treatment can help recovering Ativan addicts lead a full, happy and addiction-free life. For help finding an Ativan addiction treatment program, contact a treatment provider today.
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
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- Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines, Professor C. H. Ashton, 2004. http://www.benzo.org.uk/pws04.htm
- Greenberg, Michael I., MD MPH. "Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: Potentially Fatal, Commonly Misse... : Emergency Medicine News." Emergency Medical News 23.12 (2001): 18. LWW. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.
- "The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome." Department of Psychiatry, Borgarspítalinn/University of Iceland, Reykjavik. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856.
- "Benzodiazepine Dependence and Its Treatment with Low Dose Flumazenil." National Center for Biotechnology Information (2014): n. pag. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23126253
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
- "Ativan ®." US Food and Drug Administration, 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/017794s034s035lbl.pdf
Certified Addiction Professional
Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.
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