0 sources cited

Ativan For Opiate Withdrawal: Is It Safe?

Last Updated: March 5, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Norman Chazin

Studies have backed the use of Ativan in the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. However, the same positive effects may not apply to patients experiencing opiate withdrawal.
Ativan, generically known as Lorazepam, belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It works by increasing the activity of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid,) the brain chemical responsible for depressing the central nervous system, inducing sleep and calming the mind and body. Doctors prescribe it primarily to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and sleeping disorders.

Risks Of Using Ativan For Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant and even life-threatening. Most patients going through withdrawal experience anxiety, insomnia, and muscle aches (issues Ativan is commonly used to treat.). As such, Ativan may appear as an attractive treatment for opiate withdrawal.

However, because of its potential for addiction, it is not commonly prescribed to patients with a history of opiate abuse. Studies show opiate addicts are at a greater risk for developing an Ativan addiction than non-addicts.

Lorazepam (the active ingredient found in Ativan) is known to have negative interactions with opiates. During the withdrawal period, small traces of the opiate are still present in the blood, often enough to cause dangerous drug interactions and unwanted side effects like severe sedation, reduced respiration, and even coma and death in patients with long histories of opiate abuse.

The Standard Treatment For Opiate Withdrawal

The standard treatment for opiate withdrawal consists of treatment with the following medications. Patients are typically instructed to take one or more of them in addition to other supportive treatments.

  • Methadone for opiate detox and as a maintenance therapy. Patients with severe addiction may need this therapy for an indefinite time.
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex,) also for opiate detox and maintenance therapy.
  • Clonidine to control anxiety, agitation, and muscle aches.

This is according to information made available by the US National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.

Ativan For Opiate Withdrawal Warnings

Using Ativan For Opiate Withdrawal
Opiate addiction is a very serious condition. Its effects can be physical and psychological. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, painful, and can even be life-threatening. Those attempting to overcome an opiate addiction should do so under close supervision by a medical professional.

Preventing Ativan Abuse

  • Consult a doctor: Patients should always speak to a doctor when seeking treatment with any powerful medication.
  • Ask a doctor if there are other medications (besides Ativan) approved for treating opiate withdrawal. For example, the antidepressant medication Amitriptyline (Elavil) has shown promise in relieving withdrawal-associated insomnia.
  • Consider using over-the-counter medications to ease your symptoms. For example, Tylenol or Advil can be used to treat pain. Benadryl, an anti-allergic medication, may be helpful in treating nausea and may also help with sleeping by inducing drowsiness.

Want To Know More?

Want to know more about the risks of using Ativan to treat opiate withdrawal or opiate addiction? Talk to a doctor or addiction specialist. They can provide accurate information on a variety of addiction-related topics. Their knowledge and experience are invaluable to any journey to sobriety.

Need a professional help fighting an addiction? Visit the best rehabs page here.

Page Sources

  1. Lonergan E, Luxenberg J, Areosa Sastre A. Benzodiazepines for delirium. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006379.pub3/full
  2. McDonald CF, Thomson SA, Scott NC, Scott W, Grant IW, Crompton GK. Benzodiazepine-opiate antagonism--a problem in intensive-care therapy. Intensive Care Med. 1986;12(1):39-42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2872242

Published on: March 2nd, 2024

Updated on: March 5th, 2024

About Author

Juliette Siegfried, MPH

Juliette has been working in the health communications field since 1991, when she began working at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her initial campaigns focused on smoking cessation and cancer prevention. Juliette later moved to the corporate side of health communications, including working at Kaiser Permanente, where she designed interactive computer-based training for health education.

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Norman Chazin


Leave a comment

Free Insurance Verification

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