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How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

A typical, healthy person using a normal Ativan dose will eliminate almost all of it within 70 hours (or about three days).[1,2]

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People who abuse Ativan may take large doses for long periods. Metabolites will persist, and sometimes, those show up on standard drug tests for longer than three days. 

Concealing Ativan abuse is difficult. Blood, urine, and hair tests could highlight just how much you’ve used and for how long. But failing a test could entice you to get the help you need to stay sober for a lifetime.

Understanding Ativan’s Half-Life 

A half-life of a drug refers to the amount of time the drug’s active substance in the body is reduced by half. This rate is used in order to determine the frequency of dosage on your prescription and can also be used to estimate how long the drug will remain within your system. 

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Ativan’s half-life is about 14 hours.[1] When five half-lives have passed, up to 97% of the drug has been eliminated from your body.[2] This means a typical person taking a typical dose will clear it in about three days. 

Researchers use healthy people taking normal drug doses to establish a substance’s half-life. These measurements are little more than estimates, and your experience can vary dramatically. 

Factors That Affect How Long Ativan Stays in Your System 

While a typical user taking a standard dose can clear it within three days, your experience may be very different. Several factors can change how quickly (or slowly) Ativan moves through your body. 

Factors that can impact Ativan’s processing include the following:

  • Body composition: People with a higher amount of body fat can store Ativan particles for longer periods, increasing the drug’s persistence.[3] If you take large amounts of Ativan for long periods, it’s likely your body has stored a lot of it. Your processing times could be increased accordingly, and this means the drug may stay in your body for longer.
  • Metabolism: Some people are genetically programmed to process drugs more quickly than others do.[3] There will always be some degree of individual variation.
  • Liver health: Your liver does the hard work of removing drugs from your bloodstream. If this organ isn’t functioning properly, Ativan could stay within the body longer.[3] 
  • Age: Body changes caused by aging can impact the way medications are absorbed and processed.[4] Sometimes, this means drugs last longer than they once did. 
  • Administration method: Injecting Ativan can alter its excretion rate, when compared to swallowing the drug. Bypassing the digestive tract typically means making all of the drug available quicker, and it will exit faster too.[3]
  • Other drugs: Combining Ativan with substances like steroids can entice the body to clear it faster than it would normally.[5]

Drug Testing for Ativan 

Several different drug testing methods exist. All of them involve providing a sample that’s sent to a laboratory. Technicians look for the drug or its metabolites. Failing a test like this could come with significant consequences, including loss of employment. 

The following types of drug tests are typically offered by laboratories: 

Urine

Ativan molecules are detectable in urine samples for about a week. They’re easiest for chemists to spot within the first 24 hours of use.[6]

Saliva

Chemists can detect Ativan for about eight hours in saliva.[6] After that time frame, it’s almost impossible to find it in a typical saliva test. 

Hair

Most drugs are detected in hair samples for months. Even washing your hair won’t remove them. However, Ativan is a little different. Researchers say Ativan deposits are rare in hair samples.[6] Some hair follicle tests won’t detect the drug at all. 

Blood

Ativan remains detectable in the bloodstream for about three days. It’s easiest to find within about 12 hours of the last dose.[7]

Testing methodDetection time frame
Urine 1 week 
HairNull (Ativan rarely shows up in these tests) 
Saliva 8 hours 
Blood3 days 

How Ativan Is Broken Down in the Body 

When consumed orally, Ativan is digested and then enters the bloodstream via the stomach and small intestine. Within approximately 15 to 30 minutes, it penetrates the blood-brain barrier, where it begins to produce a psychoactive effect by stimulating brain and spinal cord nerve cells.

Ativan specifically acts on GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It increases the spread of impulses between nerve cells and calms the central nervous system.

Ativan is broken down in the body by the liver into metabolites. It is then eliminated from the body by the kidneys in the form of urine.

When it’s time to quit, doctors recommend tapering off Ativan. Taking a smaller amount each day allows your brain to adjust to sobriety slowly. Doing so can help you avoid potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like seizures. A doctor should always design and supervise the tapering process.

Ativan Detox Timeline 

A typical Ativan detox program involves tapering your dose very slowly, under the direction of a medical team. This reduces the likelihood of Ativan withdrawal symptoms.

A taper timeline can vary. People using very large doses need more time to eventually take none at all. Typically, people reduce their initial dose by about 25%, and then take up to 10% less per day.[8]

Following a schedule like this, you could be through with Ativan detox in a few weeks. If you develop uncomfortable symptoms during the process, such as severe anxiety or seizures, your taper should move more slowly. 
When detox is through, you’re sober. However, you will need more treatment to stay that way.[9] A rehab program can help you learn healthy habits that support long-term recovery. You should transition to a program like this as soon as detox is through. 

Updated January 19, 2024
Resources
  1. Lorazepam. Ghiasi N, Bhansali R, Marwaha R. StatPearls. Published January 31, 2023. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  2. Half life. Hallare J, Gerriets V. StatPearls. Published June 20, 2023. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  3. The practical importance of half-life in psychopharmacology. Andrade C. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2022;83(4):22f14584.
  4. As you age: You and your medicines. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  5. Ativan. Baxter Healthcare Corporation. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  6. Windows of detection of lorazepam in urine, oral fluid and hair, with a special focus on drug-facilitated crimes. Kintz P, Villain M, Cirimele V, Pépin G, Ludes B. Forensic Sci Int. 2004;145(2-3):131-135.
  7. Ativan tablets. Biovail Pharmaceuticals. Published March 2007. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  8. Effective treatments for PTSD: Helping patients taper from benzodiazepines. National Center for PTSD. Published January 2015. Accessed November 21, 2023.
  9. Treatment and recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published July 10, 2020. Accessed November 21, 2023.
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