When dealing with an Ativan addiction, you probably feel trapped, helpless, or isolated. You may desperately want to quit the drug, but the idea of facing life without the effects of the medication is overwhelming. As time goes by, you need to take more and more of the drug to feel the desired effects, and you become trapped in the addiction cycle.
Addiction is a scary and painful experience, but overcoming your dependence on Ativan is always possible. For many people, withdrawal is the most difficult aspect of the recovery process. Knowing what to expect can help put your mind at ease. You should understand why Ativan withdrawal happens, what the symptoms are, and what you should do to protect your health and well-being as you recover.
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What Is Ativan?
Ativan, also known as lorazepam, is a prescription medication that treats anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. In most cases, the drug is only prescribed for a short period of time or is prescribed to be taken as needed. It belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs known to be highly addictive.
Doctors prescribe Ativan with careful instructions to reduce the risk of dependence and addiction in their patients. Addiction can still happen for several reasons, though. People who are vulnerable to addiction or already struggle with substance use may be at a higher risk of developing dependence on Ativan. Taking more of the medication than is recommended or taking the medication regularly for a long time can also lead to addiction.
Ativan addiction affects people who are prescribed the drug by their doctor and those who take it unprescribed. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your addiction, stopping your Ativan use after becoming dependent can lead to many dangerous health symptoms. Your brain and body quickly adjust to the effects of the medication, so quitting cold turkey can wreak havoc on your system.
Acute Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
Ativan withdrawal can cause both acute and long-term symptoms. As your body gets used to having a steady supply of the drug, it starts to rely on the substance to regulate your hormones, release neurotransmitters, and regulate other body systems. Then, when the supply of the drug stops, your body struggles to function on its own.
Withdrawal symptoms can start within 24 hours of your last dose of Ativan, but symptoms typically peak three or four days after your last dose. The following are the most common physical withdrawal symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle pain
- Heart palpitations or racing heartbeat
- Change in blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
Ativan withdrawal also results in several painful and difficult mental health symptoms. You might experience intense cravings for the drug and do whatever you can to access another dose. Anger and irritability are common during withdrawal, too. Many people experience intense anxiety and panic attacks in the first few days after quitting Ativan.
Extended Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
The physical symptoms of withdrawal usually peak within a few days after the last Ativan dose. Your mind may take longer than your body to adjust to life without the drug. As the physical symptoms wear off, you might experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, which is the continuation of certain symptoms for several days or weeks after quitting.
Anxiety is a particularly common long-term withdrawal symptom of Ativan. You may experience panic attacks or struggle with intense generalized anxiety in the week or two following your last dose. Depression may set in a few days after quitting, too. This causes feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and loss of interest in your preferred activities.
Ativan withdrawal can also cause cognitive symptoms. For example, your mind finds it extremely difficult to concentrate on a conversation or complete a simple task. Memory problems can occur during withdrawal, too.
In addition to the acute and long-term withdrawal symptoms, many people experience rebound symptoms when they stop using Ativan. The drug is prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia and is usually very effective in addressing these problems. However, when you quit, these symptoms may return.
Rebound symptoms don’t last forever, but they can be very intense. People often relapse on Ativan and begin using it again to stop rebound symptoms. Anxiety is a particularly challenging rebound symptom of benzodiazepine withdrawal as it has both physical and psychological effects.
Factors That Affect Withdrawal
Not everyone who uses Ativan will experience the same withdrawal symptoms. If you use the drug exactly how your doctor prescribes, you may not experience withdrawal at all. However, you should always consult with your physician or psychiatrist before you quit using Ativan, as some symptoms can be very physically dangerous. Even if you don’t think you’re at risk of withdrawal, you should always be cautious.
Your regular dose of Ativan has a major impact on whether or not you’ll experience withdrawal and how intense your withdrawal symptoms will be. If you’ve developed a tolerance to Ativan and have started taking larger doses, your body will have a harder time adjusting when you quit.
The frequency with which you take the medication matters, too. If you only take Ativan occasionally, your body might not rely on it to function. If you’ve been taking it daily or multiple times per day, though, the symptoms will likely be worse.
Withdrawal also depends on the length of time you’ve been taking Ativan. Someone who has used the drug regularly for years will have a more intense withdrawal than someone who has taken it for only a few weeks or months.
Co-occurring addictions and mental health disorders make a big difference as well. Many people who take Ativan struggle with anxiety, and this natural predisposition to anxiety can make it harder to recover from an addiction. Similarly, if you also have an addiction to alcohol, narcotics, or other benzodiazepines, you may have a much more difficult experience with recovery.
What to Do if You’re Addicted to Ativan
Recovering from Ativan addiction is not easy, but it is worth it. Although Ativan is a helpful medication when taken as prescribed, feeling dependent on a drug to function can be devastating for your overall health and happiness. You deserve to live a life free from addiction, so you must reach out for support if you’re worried about dependence on the drug.
The most important thing to remember about Ativan addiction is that quitting cold turkey without medical support can be extremely dangerous. In severe cases, Ativan withdrawal symptoms may be life-threatening. Additionally, quitting cold turkey without help increases your risk of rebound symptoms, possibly leading to a relapse. Patients tend to have the best chances of full recovery when they work alongside a team of professionals.
Doctors recommend that Ativan users taper off the medication instead of stopping all at once. Gradually reducing your dosage may not prevent withdrawal symptoms entirely, but it can reduce their severity and make the detox process safer. You should follow your doctor’s recommendation, but tapering off usually takes several weeks.
A medical detox program can be especially helpful when recovering from benzodiazepine addiction. During medically supervised detox, you’re monitored by healthcare professionals who will assess your symptoms and intervene if your health is at risk. Sometimes, doctors prescribe other medications that help you safely detox and withdraw from the drug.
Therapy is incredibly important when addressing any addiction, too. Overcoming your physical dependence on Ativan is only the first step in recovery. You also need to address the psychological factors that drove your addiction and develop coping skills to handle the challenges in your life without feeling the need to turn back to the drug.
Ativan withdrawal causes several uncomfortable symptoms, so detoxing with the help of professionals is your best option. Garden State Treatment Center provides medication-assisted treatment, mental health counseling, and inpatient services for people struggling with various addictions. Please contact us today if you’re looking for help for your Ativan addiction.
What does withdrawal from ativan look like?
Acute withdrawal phase symptoms may include: Headache, sweating, tremors (especially in the hands), difficulty concentrating, and/or confusion. Increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, and a rapid heart rate. Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and/or weight loss.
Does Ativan need to be tapered?
If you have been using Ativan for longer than six months, tapering is the only safe way to stop taking the drug. While tapering will reduce your withdrawal symptoms, it won’t get rid of them entirely. You may have symptoms each time your dose is reduced.
How long does it take for the side effects of Ativan to wear off?
The full sedating effect lasts for around 6 to 8 hours. The most common side effect is feeling sleepy (drowsy) during the daytime. It’s not recommended to use lorazepam for longer than 4 weeks.
What happens if you take ativan everyday?
Benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use. The risk of withdrawal reactions when stopping therapy with lorazepam is increased with prolonged use of the medication.