0 sources cited

Ativan for Alcohol Withdrawal: Is It Safe?

Last Updated: March 5, 2024

Authored by Tania Kelly

Reviewed by Dr. Ash Bhatt

Alcohol withdrawal is a common problem with an addiction. It can cause some health, socioeconomic, financial and legal problems. Sometimes, Ativan is used for alcohol withdrawal. It occurs as an aftereffect of chronic alcohol abuse. It is also called alcohol discontinuation syndrome. The symptoms develop when one suddenly stops or reduces the intake by a significant amount. Typically, they include minor anxiety and tremors.

However, in other cases, they can be very severe and may cause convulsions or Delirium Tremens (DT). The latter is a potentially life-threatening complication. Death due to DT may occur in up to 5% of the patients who had it.

What Ativan Is

Lorazepam, the active ingredient in Ativan, is a CNS depressant. It belongs to a class of medications which they call Benzodiazepines or only Benzos. It boosts the activity of a brain chemical GABA. As a result, it gives a feeling of relax and away from abnormal worries. They do not recommend using it continuously for more than four months.

Primarily, doctors prescribe it to treat anxiety which may occur alone or combined with depressive symptoms.

Though the manufacturers do not promote Ativan as a treatment for alcohol withdrawal, a doctor may write it. In all cases, make sure to follow a doctor’s instructions. That way, one can reduce the chance of an addiction problem, and also enhance its beneficial effects.

Why Use Ativan For Alcohol Withdrawal

The main aim of an alcohol withdrawal therapy is to relieve the signs and symptoms. Once they are under control, the treatment shifts towards preventing the complications. For example, DT.
One may need depressant medications like Ativan in case of moderate or severe depression. Doctors are usually able to treat the mild cases with supportive treatments. They include proper nutrition and management of agitation.

Benzos are the most valuable medications to treat alcohol withdrawal. They control anxiety and as well as seizures. In essence, they help the patients stay calm and peaceful. Additionally, they may also prevent complications.

Studies suggest all the members of “Benzodiazepine” class are almost equally effective in treating alcohol withdrawal. Nevertheless, Ativan has certain unique characteristics. That’s why it may be superior to other Benzo medications.
Ativan benefits compared with other benzos:

  • It is an intermediate-acting benzo. Interestingly, it does not transform into an active chemical even after some chemical changes inside the body. Because of this, it is safe for the patients who have liver diseases.
  • Next, it has a lower potential to cause sedation and drop in the breathing rate. This unique property is particularly useful in alcohol withdrawal. It is because respiratory problems are common during the withdrawal.
  • Additionally, it is relatively safe and can produce desirable results with a lower dose. In fact, the duration of the therapy is also shorter when they use it. This is according to a 2014 study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, Oxford Academic.

The Risks Of Using Ativan For Alcohol Withdrawal

Ativan significantly impairs the mental activity. It includes focus, attention, and ability to take an appropriate decision. This can be problematic especially during alcohol withdrawal counseling classes.
One may experience serious symptoms if drink alcohol while taking it. They include marked depression in respiration and mental ability. Both of which can be potentially fatal.

Ultimately, the greatest fear with the use of Ativan to treat alcohol withdrawal is its risk of the addiction. Benzodiazepines are notorious for their addictive properties.

Regrettably, it may occur even when used correctly.

New studies also suggest the risk of Ativan addiction is higher in the patients who have a history of alcohol abuse.

Ativan for alcohol withdrawal can be an option, but only after doctor’s consultation. It is always wise to discuss the possible treatment options with a doctor before decidinge to start one.

If one has a co-occurring mental illness, a doctor is more likely to prescribe Ativan.

Tips To Get The Best Outcome While Using Ativan For Alcohol Withdrawal

  1. Follow the doctor’s instructions and ask questions.
  2. Make sure to get a balanced diet and other dietary supplements, if necessary. Chronic heavy alcohol use causes the deficiency of many essential vitamins and minerals.
  3. If any issues during the therapy with Ativan are noticed, seek a medical consultation right away.

Page Sources

  1. Kumar CN, Andrade C, Murthy P. A randomized, double-blind comparison of lorazepam and chlordiazepoxide in patients with uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 May;70(3):467-74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19371497
  2. Fullwood JE, Mostaghimi Z, Granger CB, Washam JB, Bride W, Zhao Y, Granger BB. Alcohol withdrawal prevention: a randomized evaluation of lorazepam and ethanol--a pilot study. Am J Crit Care. 2013 Sep;22(5):398-406. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4324835/

Published on: March 1st, 2024

Updated on: March 5th, 2024

About Author

Tania Kelly

Tania Kelly, author of Keep Calm and Treat Addiction is a credentialed Mental Health Nurse and Tobacco Treatment Specialist, passionate about addiction recovery. As a senior clinician, Tania constantly shares the concepts outlined in her book with health service providers, aiming to demystify addiction treatment and equip others in evidence-based practice.

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ash Bhatt

Throughout his professional life, Dr. Bhatt has been conferred with diplomate status by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, certifying him in both adult and child/adolescent psychiatry. His experiences in emergency rooms, frequently encountering patients with simultaneous health and addiction issues, directed his attention to these specific fields.


Leave a comment

  • Carlos
    I been in ativan 6 days now and actually been short and impatient with my wife but tired and get headaches.
  • Jc
    This is so freaking hard. I had a horrible mean abusive alcohol father. I have sworn for all my life, I would never be like him. I’m currently 55 and have been in denial myself for over 40 years. The last few years have been bad but the last few months have been horrific. I’m way too ugly, ashamed, embarrassed and depressed to talk about it with friends and family.
    • Lmm
      JC – you have been brave enough to speak out anyway. I’m sorry you feel so much shame and guilt. And I’m sorry things have been so hard. You can break the cycle I did a long time ago. I have to let go of my past, the bad and the ugly and just keep going. Do what you have to, to get sober. My son still struggles with alcohol abuse but not as often. I take ativan for my panic attacks, I’m a cancer patient! But it is also helping me to get off medicinal marijuana. Don’t give up and please stop beating yourself up! Addiction is hard!!!! And you have value! We all do!

Free Insurance Verification

Our team is available to guide you through the steps of assessing your insurance coverage for addiction treatment.