Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline: What to Know
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Ativan withdrawal symptoms vary by phase, but generally include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, increased blood pressure, high heart rate, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and body aches.
Other symptoms may include sensory changes, hallucinations, memory loss, loss of appetite, and restlessness. Later symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, cravings, and depression.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan is a prescription medication from the benzodiazepine drug group. It is prescribed to help treat anxiety disorders, anxiety caused by depression, anxiety before medical procedures, insomnia, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as a way to cope with alcohol withdrawal. Ativan works as a sedative and tranquilizer which slows down the central nervous system, calming and relaxing the body by suppressing blood pressure, respiration and heart rate.
Addiction to benzodiazepines is unfortunately not uncommon. Drug treatment programs have seen admissions for benzodiazepine addiction triple in just the 10 years from 1998 to 2008. These addictions are tricky because they often start out with a simple visit to a doctors office where benzodiazepines are prescribed for a legitimate ailment. But as we’ve mentioned before it is extremely easy to grow dependant on these drugs and Ativan is no exception. Addiction does not happen overnight, it requires the persistent use of Ativan over a long period of time. As our bodies continuously receive doses of the drug they build up a tolerance, requiring higher and higher doses of Ativan to have the same effect. This increases the risk of addiction.
Addiction to Ativan occurs when one has grown physically and psychologically dependant on the drug. Though symptoms of that can vary from person to person here are some signs to look for:
- No longer caring about work obligations
- Neglecting family responsibilities
- Cutting oneself off from family and friends
- Financial struggles from trying to fund the addiction
- Legal issues from criminal activities
These signs of addiction may grow stronger as the dependency continues. It is important to know that one should never have to deal with addiction alone, help is available. If one decides to no longer continue using Ativan, it is incredibly important to talk to a medical professional to get a help guide through the process of withdrawal and further recovery.
Once the body gets used to the effect of any drug, and it is continuously provided, patients grow accustomed to it. If then suddenly we discontinue its use, the body notices. It begins to feverishly try and return to the state it functioned in before the drug was introduced. This process of the body trying to return to normal often causes unpleasant symptoms. This is what calls withdrawal.
Ativan is habit-forming and can lead to physiological and psychological dependence, and many users who take the drug for extended periods or for recreational purposes experience uncomfortable and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, although it’s a popular drug, Ativan should be taken with caution. Ativan’s main manufacturer, Pfizer, put out a warning against using the drug for a period of more than 2-4 weeks because of its high potential to create dependency which can lead to addiction.
Attempting to Quit Ativan
If someone chooses then to discontinue the use of Ativan after prolonged use, a problem occurs. It is never a good idea to stop taking Ativan suddenly, and without a medical consultation first. For those heavily dependent, whom withdrawal symptoms will most likely hit hardest, there are special detox centers at which they can safely undergo this process. Either way, it should never be done before consulting a doctor.
Ativan has an intermediate half-life (around 12 hours), and so withdrawal symptoms may begin within 24 hours after cessation of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are often divided into two stages: acute and prolonged.
What is The Ativan Withdrawal Timeline?
The Ativan withdrawal timeline begins within 24 hours after the last use of Ativan. Withdrawal from Ativan begins with the acute phase—with the most severe physical symptoms—which will continue for 3-4 days. The prolonged withdrawal phase will follow for 10-14 days, during which symptoms will lessen somewhat. Lesser symptoms may continue for years after quitting Ativan.
A third phase of Ativan withdrawal may continue for up to a few years until proper treatment of anxiety and craving-related thoughts and behavior is received.
Ativan Acute Withdrawal Phase
The acute withdrawal phase can last up to 3-4 days after the last dose. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Increased blood pressure
- High heart rate
- Abdominal cramps
- Body aches
There might be some cognitive and emotional symptoms, such as confusion and anxiety. Insomnia is also very common. Users also report:
- Loss of appetite
- Involuntary movements
- Sensory changes
- Memory loss
Ativan Prolonged Withdrawal Phase
The prolonged withdrawal phase happens after the acute period and can last between 10 and 14 days. Apart from the usual symptoms, such as general malaise, headaches, and nausea, patients can experience depression and cravings. Many patients who deal with depression have suicidal thoughts, which can lead to real suicide attempts.
The symptoms listed above are not a complete account of withdrawal symptoms, and depending on some individual factors and history of abuse, the duration of the withdrawal symptoms may vary. Note that some users experience withdrawal symptoms, such as lack of motivation and mood swings, for up to a few years after detox.
Factors that may influence withdrawal
There are a couple things that may influence how long it takes to go through Ativan withdrawal. Of course, every organism is different and reacts to medication differently but there are things that can prolong detox. The first two things are how long Ativan has been used and the dosage. The longer and larger amounts the brain is used to receiving, the more difficult it may be for the body to cope with its loss.
Another factor is a method of use. Having a prescription for Ativan and using it medically, it is most likely to consume it in pill form. On the other hand, if a person is a non-medical user or abuse prescription, doing this can be by alternative forms of administering the drug such as injection or snorting crushed pills. This may increase the speed of dependency more than by taking Ativan orally.
Ativan Potential Dangers
Like other benzodiazepines, the best way to quit Ativan is by tapering. Quitting “cold turkey” can be dangerous, as withdrawal symptoms have been known to induce seizures, which can be life-threatening.
When one wants to reduce Ativan intake, always consult a health professional for the correct dosage and available treatment options. Note that sometimes other drugs can be prescribed to deal with Ativan withdrawal. Generally speaking, anticonvulsants are commonly prescribed to treat seizures.
Withdrawal should be managed carefully, as withdrawal can cause severe brain damage and coma. Comorbid disorders that occur, such as mental illnesses, should not be left untreated.
If one is heavily addicted to Ativan and has been using it for a considerable amount of time it is likely that withdrawal may be difficult. The patients should never quit a prescription medication without consulting a medical professional but they may also look into enlisting the help of a detox center. These centers are equipped to help one manage withdrawal and help move on and regain health.
A doctor can help by setting up a gradual tapering off of Ativan as well as prescribing medication to alleviate some of the worst symptoms. One will be monitored continuously, having vitals checked to watch for seizures and respiration issues. One will also receive the emotional support many need to stay resolute throughout the detox. Many people suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts while going through withdrawal and having help and support can greatly decrease the risk of acting on these feelings. Detox centers are the safest way to go through the process of Ativan withdrawal.
Ativan Withdrawal & Treatment
Individual differences and history of abuse will determine if a person will experience withdrawal symptoms and how long they will last. There’s one thing in common for all users addicted to benzodiazepines, however: tapering down is the best way to quit the drug. Slowly reducing the dosage can help users deal with rebound symptoms as well. Rebound symptoms are the symptoms that have led to Ativan administration in the first place, mainly anxiety or insomnia.
Therapy and social support will be very helpful after a detox, and more active lifestyles and pleasurable activities are beneficial when dealing with anxiety. Research shows that practicing yoga, meditation and breathing techniques for three months is enough to improve someone’s emotional state.
- Pétursson H. The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction. 1994. 89(11):1455-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856.
- The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Lorazepam – Medical Countermeasures Database. 2019. https://chemm.nlm.nih.gov/countermeasure_lorazepam.htm.
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