Ativan’s specific purpose is to treat symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, and it has become a valuable asset when used as intended. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 or older each year. It has been reported that 18.1 percent of the entire adult population struggles with some variation of the mental illness, and it makes anti-anxiety medication a highly sought out commodity.
With drugs like Ativan, anxiety disorders are highly treatable disorders, but unfortunately, an estimated 36.9 percent of those who are struggling will seek help. People with an anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not have anxiety.
The staggering numbers of those affected by anxiety are high, and most of these individuals all share something in common; it is typical for people with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness to use drugs as means to escape their disorders and self-medicate.
Benzodiazepines initially were created as a successor to barbiturates, which were deemed highly addictive and not suitable to treat these disorders. The sole purpose of these drugs was to help give someone their life back who is struggling with anxiety. It is a crippling disorder that can swiftly remove someone from their daily lives and not allow them to return. When it is used responsibly, and as the doctor prescribed, it can be a useful tool in the battle against anxiety.
Unfortunately, responsible use is seldom the case, and many people succumb to the powerful grip of addiction. If Ativan is not taken as prescribed, or if it is taken at a higher dose, it can lead to a chemical dependency that causes withdrawals if the person suddenly stops using it.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is one of the most dangerous of all drugs on this planet, and it is something that requires intense monitoring to ensure safety in the detox process. Ativan withdrawals can be extremely uncomfortable, but they can also be dangerous is not taken seriously. Let’s take a look at what Ativan is below and what can be done to treat its withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Ativan?
Ativan is a potent benzodiazepine medication classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule IV. Its generic name is lorazepam, and it is obtainable only with a prescription. Chemist Leo Sternbach of Austria initially stumbled across benzodiazepines on accident at Hoffmann-La Roche Company. At first, the drug was thought to be a failure and was put on the shelf for a year. A colleague of Sternbach’s later stumbled onto the drug and saw the potential for it to replace barbiturates. It was a step in the right direction to fight against barbiturate addiction and anxiety disorders.
Ativan is used to treat anxiety disorders. Although rarer, some cases will call for Ativan to treat epileptic disorders and seizures. Ativan is a central nervous system depressant (CNS) and falls into a broad category of drugs called depressants. Other depressant drugs include alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates.
Benzos are not intended for long-term use, and physicians rarely prescribe them for more than three weeks of use. Taking these drugs for more than three or four weeks can lead to chemical dependency. Once a dependence has developed, the user will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms?
Like other benzo drugs, Ativan can cause severe physical dependence in two specific ways: developing a high tolerance requires high doses to feel the euphoria from the drug, and experiencing intense Ativan withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
Ativan boasts a relatively short half-life of around 12 hours, and on average takes about two to three days after the last dose to be eliminated from the body entirely.
Typical Ativan withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irregular heartbeat
- Involuntary movements
- Hallucinations, delirium
- Hypersensitivity to light, noise, and physical contact
- Loss of appetite
- Numbing/tingling of extremities
- Panic attacks
- Rebound phenomena
- Short-term memory loss
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate)
What Are the Stages of the Ativan Withdrawal Timeline?
While the length and severity of withdrawal will vary from one person to another, there is still a general timeline one can use to get an idea of what to expect. The stages will depend on a few factors, however, and these include:
- The last dose taken
- The dose that was being used regularly
- Genetic makeup
- The length of time the drug was consumed
- Age, health, medical history, environment
- Substance use history
- Other drugs that may have been used in conjunction with Ativan
24 to 48 hours: Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 24 hours following last use or after the first two days.
One to two weeks: The second stage of Ativan withdrawal is when individuals will find themselves dealing with mental, emotional, and physical symptoms such as muscle pain, insomnia, nausea, and tremors.
Three to four weeks: Those who remained active during their detox will begin managing their symptoms better and feeling better at this point.
Five weeks and beyond: To achieve this milestone is not an easy feat; those at this stage who were heavily dependent on Ativan could experience what is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), and it means their symptoms could reappear at random for several months or years after cessation.
Should I Detox?
Sudden cessation of Ativan, also known as “cold-turkey” is strongly discouraged. Physicians and addiction specialists alike will strongly advise against this method due to the dangers involved with Ativan withdrawal. Detoxing from benzodiazepines can be met with challenges or be dangerous. Some longer-acting benzodiazepines are available to alleviate painful and deadly Ativan withdrawal symptoms.
During medical detoxification, medical professionals and addiction care specialists monitor clients who are in active addiction around the clock to ensure they are weaned off the drug appropriately. The process often includes a tapering schedule that allows the body time to adjust to not having the drug in its system. Detox can range from three to seven days or longer if needed. All situations are different and will be treated as such.
What Is the Next Treatment Step?
One aspect of detox that some fail to understand is that it is not a magic cure-all. Detox is designed to get the drugs out of your system, but it will not change your behaviors or help you deal with your addiction. To avoid relapse and practice healthier habits, you will be encouraged to move into the next level of care. Residential or outpatient treatment will be the place medical professionals can focus on various elements of your addiction that gives you the traction necessary for long-term sobriety.
The only way treatment will work as designed is if you stay for the recommended amount of time. Studies show that 90 days is the ideal time, but each situation is different and an addiction specialist may recommend either more or less time. During your stay, you will attend therapies designed to help you manage triggers and learn how to live life without drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a conventional and practical means of treating addiction.
Ativan addiction can lead to a path of feeling alone and stuck. The sooner you understand that you need help, the sooner you can jump on the road to recovery. If you are struggling with Ativan addiction, you must enter a treatment program immediately. Benzodiazepine addiction can not only ruin the quality of your life, but it can affect those around you as well.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, there is help available. Speak to an addiction treatment specialist at Serenity at Summit now to learn more about addiction and how it can be treated. Call 844-432-0416 or contact us online to learn more about your addiction therapy options. Get the help you need to stop using Ativan safely today.