Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Causes And Treatment

  1. Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal
  2. Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal
  3. Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms
  4. Treatment for Withdrawal from Ativan
  5. Inpatient and Outpatient Programs
  6. Help Someone Cope with Withdrawal

What is Ativan? Are There Withdrawals from Ativan Use?

Ativan is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders but may also be used to treat someone during alcohol withdrawal.

It can be an addictive medication when taken over long periods of time or when it is used recreationally, outside of prescribed dose regulations.

What is Ativan? Are There Withdrawals from Ativan Use?

Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Ativan may occur if you suddenly stop taking it, so it is important you talk with your prescribing physician for the safest plan to taper off of it. High doses of Ativan place you at risk for severe and even deadly symptoms of withdrawal.

If you have been taking Ativan for a prolonged period, you increase your risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms as you start to become physically and psychologically dependent on it.

It is not recommended to take Ativan longer than 4 months, so it is important that you and your doctor have a plan for the short-term use of Ativan, so you minimize your risk of withdrawal.

High doses of Ativan place you at risk for severe and even deadly symptoms of withdrawal and can make tapering off of it a lengthier process.

Benzodiazepines can lead to blackouts and memory loss, so if you notice your prescription is running out, it is possible that you are taking more and do not remember.

This can place you at risk for withdrawal if you run out before it is time for your refill.

Ativan is a short-acting benzodiazepine, which means that it is eliminated from the body much faster than longer-acting benzodiazepines, and this rate of elimination also increases the chances of developing withdrawal symptoms.


Symptoms of Ativan Withdrawal

Woman experiencing neck cramps

Initially when you are coming off Ativan, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Increased heart rate and breathing.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Tremors.
  • Sweating.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.

These acute symptoms lessen over time, but you may continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) for a longer period. PAWS symptoms include:

  • Rebound insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Changes in mood.

Difficulty concentrating, incoordination and slight tremors may last for weeks while PAWS may continue for months.

Some research indicates that there is a high dropout rate for patients who are in the process of tapering or have tapered off benzodiazepines due to lengthy withdrawal and cravings, which inevitably lead one back to active use.


Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms

If you have been using Ativan for 6 months or longer, it may be more difficult to abstain.Research reports that short-term benzodiazepine users are more likely to experience mild symptoms of withdrawal.

If you have been using Ativan for 6 months or more, you are likely to experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms, making it more difficult to come off of it safely.

Additionally, a family history of addiction and/or a profile of drug use may increase your likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, due to a shared environmental and genetic etiology.

If you are concerned about getting off Ativan because withdrawal symptoms scare you, call our treatment support team at 1-888-993-3112Who Answers?. We can guide you to the best resources for medical detoxification to safely see you through your withdrawal symptoms.


Treatment for Withdrawal from Ativan

Since Ativan is a short-acting benzodiazepine, pharmacological treatment for withdrawal can include using longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium or Librium.

  • Medication

    You may receive additional medications to treat symptoms of withdrawal such as:

    • Clonidine for high blood pressure.
    • Gabapentin for seizures or restlessness.
    • Buspar for anxiety.

    These will be important during the acute withdrawal phase but are not necessary when the risk of seizures is not present.

    Mindfulness, yoga, and massage therapy are all effective non-pharmacological remedies to treat mild to moderate symptoms of withdrawal.

  • Behavioral Therapy

    Cognitive behavioral therapy, which challenges the user to confront negative thoughts related to using, has been effective for treating post-acute withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and may be used in place of Ativan for treating an anxiety disorder.

  • Individual Therapy

    If you have been prescribed Ativan for an anxiety disorder, meeting with an individual therapist or psychologist can help you identify the cause of the anxiety.

    They can also help you learn alternative techniques to cope with anxiety. Self-help groups can provide support during this time, by offering you the companionship of other people who are experiencing the same problem.


Inpatient and Outpatient Programs

  • Inpatient Treatment

    You may prefer a longer detoxification process at an inpatient treatment facility to help prevent relapse due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

    A study reported in BioMed Central Psychology (2015) found inpatient treatment to be more effective with long-term treatment approaches.

    Inpatient treatment will be medically necessary if you have been using Ativan for a long period to prevent seizures and other deadly withdrawal symptoms.

    You may benefit from seeking treatment in a facility that treats both the dependence on Ativan and the co-occurring anxiety, in the case that your Ativan dependence was the result of misusing a valid prescription.

  • Outpatient Treatment

    If you have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms and your risk for seizures is negligible, you may benefit from treatment at the outpatient level of care.

    Outpatient rehab allows you to continue to work or go to school while engaging in-group or individual therapy, at different times during the week.

  • Self-Help Programs

    Outpatient treatment is most effective in preventing relapse when it is combined with attending self-help programs or individual psychotherapy to develop coping skills and reduce compulsive thoughts about using.


Help Someone Cope with Withdrawal

It is important to be supportive and compassionate so that your loved one doesn't feel worse than they are already feeling.

If they are taking medications for withdrawal, they may need help with everyday tasks, such as picking up a prescription or eating meals, because of troublesome symptoms like tremors or difficulty concentrating.

If someone you love has seen their prescription Ativan use turn into a daily struggle, marked by an inability to cope without the drug, or a profound fear of withdrawal symptoms, it is time to seek help. Our treatment support team can provide more information at 1-888-993-3112Who Answers?.

References

  • Hood, S.D., Norman, A., Hince, D.A., Melichar, J.K., & Hulse, G.K. (2014).
    Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatment with low dose flumazenil. British
    Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 77(2), 285-294.
  • Liebrenz, M., Gehring, M.T., Buadze, A., & Caflisch, C. (2015). High-dose benzodiazepine
    dependence: A qualitative study of patients’ perception of cessation and withdrawal.
    BioMed Central Psychology, 15(1), 116.