April 5, 2024

Ativan Side Effects & Withdrawal

woman with hand on chin representing Ativan side effects

Experiencing withdrawal from Ativan can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and irritability. Opting for a medically-assisted detox can alleviate these symptoms, ensuring a safer and more manageable detoxification process. Read on to learn more about Ativan side effects, withdrawal syndrome, and ongoing evidence-based treatment.

Side Effects of Ativan

Ativan (lorazepam), a medication belonging to the benzodiazepine class, is believed to enhance the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, helping in the management of anxiety disorders. The medication is prescribed for adults and over-12s for treating anxiety disorders. It’s also used to manage insomnia related to anxiety or short-term stress.

Typical side effects of Ativan include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Weakness
  • Unsteadiness

Blood tests may be necessary to monitor the blood counts and liver function of someone taking Ativan.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of an allergic reaction to Ativan. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of lips, throat, or tongue
  • Hives

Lorazepam can dramatically slow or even stop breathing, especially in those who have recently consumed alcohol or opioids. If the person exhibits symptoms like slow breathing, blue-colored lips, or difficulty waking, call for medical assistance immediately.

Consult your prescribing physician if you experience any of the following serious Ativan side effects:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Mood changes
  • Behavioral changes
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Insomnia
  • Vision changes
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine

Older adults taking Ativan may experience prolonged dizziness or drowsiness, increasing the risk of falls or accidental injuries.

woman looking away representing Side effects of ativan

Ativan Withdrawal Side Effects

Ativan withdrawal can be especially risky, with life-threatening seizures a real possibility during detox. Benzo withdrawal usually unfolds over two main phases: the acute phase and a more protracted phase.

Given the short half-life of the medication – from 10 to 12 hours – withdrawal symptoms can manifest quite quickly, usually during the first day of detox.

During acute Ativan withdrawal, symptoms may include:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty with focus
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures

A protracted withdrawal phase often follows acute withdrawal, potentially lasting for 10 to 14 days or more. During this phase, symptoms like nausea, anxiety, depression, cravings, and headaches may persist.

For those with pre-existing anxiety or panic disorders, the withdrawal process may trigger rebound symptoms which remain until treated.

Some people may experience depression, mood swings, and malaise that last for months or even years after discontinuation. This extended condition is clinically described as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome).

A gradual and tapered reduction in dosage can streamline the benzo withdrawal process, making withdrawal much more manageable. There are two recommended approaches to tapering: direct tapering and substitution tapering.

  • Direct tapering: This approach involves your healthcare provider methodically reducing your dosage of Ativan with the goal of eventually discontinuing use entirely. If withdrawal symptoms become pronounced, the taper may be paused or slowed down. Typically, the initial reduction is between 25% to 30%, followed by subsequent decreases of 5% to 10% on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Substitute tapering: In cases where a direct taper might be challenging, substitution tapering may be advised. This method involves switching from a short-acting benzodiazepine like Ativan to a longer-acting one such as Valium. The advantage of long-acting benzodiazepines is their extended duration of action, which reduces the need for frequent dosing.

Long-Term Side Effects of Ativan

The long-term use of Ativan is associated with many adverse effects, including:

  • Tolerance: Over time, the body becomes accustomed to Ativan, requiring higher doses to deliver the same therapeutic effects. As tolerance forms, the risk of side effects increases.
  • Dependence and addiction: Prolonged use of Ativan can lead to physical dependence and addiction, with individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
  • Cognitive impairment: Long-term Ativan use may trigger memory problems, reduced cognitive function, and difficulty with learning or retaining new information.
  • Sleep disturbances: Although used to treat insomnia, long-term use of Ativan can actually alter sleep patterns, leading to issues like rebound insomnia when the medication is stopped.
  • Mood and behavioral changes: Extended use of benzos can result in mood swings, increased anxiety, depression, and other changes in emotional well-being.
  • Motor function impairment: People using Ativan long-term might experience coordination loss, dizziness, and an increased risk of falls and accidents. This risk increases in seniors.
  • Gastrointestinal complications: Some people may experience nausea, constipation, or other digestive problems as a result of prolonged Ativan use.

Anyone who is taking Ativan, especially for extended periods, should do so under the close supervision of a healthcare provider. Regular assessments can help mitigate these risks by adjusting doses or exploring alternative treatments.

inside look at Gratitude Lodge's housing representing Side effects of ativan

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Effective treatment for prescription drug addiction begins with supervised medical detox. At Gratitude Lodge, we have inclusive and pet-friendly detox centers located in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA, where you can get your recovery started the right way.

With a tapered reduction in dosage, and access to continuous care and medications, you can move beyond physical dependence on prescription drugs, moving directly into ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our luxury beachside facilities.

All treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge deliver a personalized blend of therapies like:

Call Gratitude Lodge at 800-994-2184 and begin living free from addiction to prescription drugs like Ativan.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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Psychotherapy

An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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