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Ativan Detox: Timelines, Tips & How to Safely Detox

Ativan is a prescription medication, and it’s taken on a set schedule. Typically, people use Ativan for short periods, but some people keep taking it long after their health issue has resolved. 

Struggling with Ativan Addiction? Get Help Now

Physical dependence (in which a person needs to take Ativan to avoid feeling sick) can develop with regular use lasting two weeks or longer. People dependent on Ativan develop severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening if they try to quit abruptly. 

Treatment programs can help you detox safely. They can also ensure that you’re free from temptation, so you don’t relapse to drug use. 

Why Is Ativan Detox Necessary?

Benzodiazepines like Ativan work directly on brain cells, increasing relaxation and muscle rigidity. For short-term use, they can be safe. However, over the long term, they can cause damage you may not notice until you try to quit.

Benzodiazepines work by reducing the impact of the neurotransmitter GABA. Essentially, Ativan chemically quiets and sedates the brain and reduces its ability to communicate with other cells.

When long-term users quit taking benzodiazepines abruptly, these sedated cells awaken and start trading signals at a very rapid pace. Sometimes, they trade so many signals that they cause “kindling,” or an excess of activity in the brain that can cause seizures.

Since Ativan detox can be so dangerous, it’s never smart to try it without a doctor’s help.

How Long Does It Take to Detox From Ativan?

Brain cells become accustomed to Ativan very quickly, but they need time to adjust to sobriety. Timelines can vary, but you can expect the process to take weeks. 

People who stop taking Ativan abruptly can experience withdrawal symptoms for several weeks to more than a year. A structured program comes with a slightly shorter timeline. Doctors typically taper your doses slowly, allowing your brain to recover. 

A typical Ativan detox process might look like this:

  • Week 1: Your dose is reduced by 10%.
  • Week 2: Your dose is reduced another 10%.
  • Week 3: Your dose is reduced another 10%.
  • Week 4: Your dose is reduced another 10%.
  • Week 5: Your dosing schedule is adjusted (perhaps from three times per day to two).

This process is repeated as long as required until you’re not taking Ativan at all. And if you handle dose reductions with ease, it might move faster.

Prescription solutions your doctor might use include carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant) or pregabalin (a nerve pain medication). These options could ease some of the nerve-related pain associated with Ativan detox.

What Are Common Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms?

Benzodiazepines like Ativan cause serious symptoms during withdrawal, and some are life-threatening. This is why it is never recommended to stop taking benzodiazepines suddenly after a period of sustained use.

Ativan is a long-lasting medication with a half-life of about 12 hours. That means your body can process only half of your dose in 12 hours. This persistence means it can take time for Ativan symptoms to appear. When they do, they can be extremely dangerous.

Remember that quitting Ativan abruptly can cause life-threatening problems.

Ativan withdrawal symptoms tend to come in phases, and the symptoms felt in each stage can be slightly different. This chart can help you understand how they might work:

PhaseTypical Time FrameSymptoms
1 (Early)1-4 days after you quitRebound anxiety and insomnia
2 (Acute)5-20 days after you quitAgitation, anorexia, anxiety, diarrhea, hallucinations, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, light sensitivity, nausea, tremor, and unusual heartbeat
3 (PAWS or post-acute withdrawal syndrome)20 days after you quit, potentially lasting monthsAnxiety and depression

Is Ativan Detox Dangerous?

Untreated and unmanaged Ativan withdrawal is incredibly dangerous. Symptoms like seizures and rapid heartbeats can quickly lead to death. Ativan detox is different.

An Ativan detox program is managed by doctors, and it’s considered both safe and effective even in fragile patients.

How to Detox From Ativan 

Ativan detox is required for people with substance misuse issues. You can’t move forward with your life and your future if you keep using drugs. Detox can help you to get sober. 

Several options exist, and researchers say they can all work well. Here are some of them:

Outpatient Care

Some people work with doctors on a dose reduction schedule and carry out the plan at home. If you’ve used the drug as directed by your doctor and you have a stable home life, you might be able to follow a program like this. But if you’ve misused the drug in the past and you’re surrounded by relapse risks, you may be safer with a different type of plan.

Detox Center

Facilities like this are exclusively focused on helping people transition from intoxication to sobriety. Work with experts who understand what recovery looks like, and emerge from the program with your sobriety. In this setting, you’ll have continual supervision and support during detox.

Treatment Facility 

Some organizations offer a full spectrum of care, helping you move through detox to independent life. When the detox portion of your program is through, you will have therapy and support group meetings to help build sobriety skills to support the rest of your life.

What to Look for in a Detox Center for Ativan Addiction

Many organizations offer detox services for families in need. The one you choose should have the following characteristics:

  • Staff trained in addiction medicine
  • Doctors available to provide prescriptions 
  • A track record of success in treating Ativan misuse 
  • Personalized treatment schedules to help you recover at your own pace
  • Robust aftercare plans to help you develop relapse prevention skills 

Any program you choose will be more successful than tackling a cold-turkey detox on your own. Remember that quitting Ativan abruptly can cause life-threatening problems. Never try this at home.

Tips to Help You Detox From Ativan 

Ativan is powerful, and it’s not easy to quit the drug for good. But a few simple tips can help you tackle this process. 

  • Remember that you’re on your own schedule, set by your body and your doctor. Don’t worry if the process seems too fast or too slow when compared to others. You’re on an individual path. 
  • Surround yourself with people who understand how detox works and are dedicated to helping you recover. This is a delicate time, and you’ll need support.
  • Steer clear of your relapse triggers. You may need to move into a facility for care to ensure you don’t return to drugs to make withdrawal discomfort stop. Prioritize your recovery above all else.

How to Tell if You Have an Ativan Misuse Issue 

Anyone who uses Ativan for several weeks can develop dependence and require help to quit. But people with Ativan misuse may need more help to avoid relapsing to drugs when detox is through.

You could have an Ativan misuse issue if you have the following symptoms:

  • Using more of the drug than your doctor recommends 
  • Visiting multiple doctors in an effort to get multiple Ativan prescriptions
  • Mixing Ativan with other substances like alcohol
  • Snorting or injecting Ativan instead of taking  the pills orally as prescribed
  • Feeling desperate for drugs between doses
  • Buying Ativan from dealers (not pharmacies)
  • Trying to quit but feeling unable to do so 

Anyone with these symptoms should consider enrolling in a treatment plan immediately. It’s the best way to ensure the problem is handled appropriately.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated February 14, 2024
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