Lorazepam (Ativan) is a benzodiazepine drug that is used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Lorazepam can be abused recreationally or misused by people who were prescribed the medication. Over time, people who abuse the drug may develop a strong physical dependence and place themselves at risk of addiction.
Quitting lorazepam is not easy to do, particularly because of the withdrawal symptoms. But it is possible, especially with the proper treatment and support.
Benefits of Quitting Lorazepam
Lorazepam addiction can affect health, relationships, mental functioning, and work and school performance. It can also lead to overdose and serious injuries. Some of the benefits of quitting include:
- Prevent risk of drug interactions and overdose. When combined with alcohol, benzodiazepines can dramatically slow down breathing and even lead to death.
- Improve cognitive functioning, attention, and memory. Lorazepam abuse can lead to problems forming new memories and impair mental functioning. 1, 2 Quitting allows cognitive functioning to return to normal.
- Increase self-confidence. Lorazepam users can become dependent on the drug to help them manage anxiety and stress. 1 A recovering user can learn how to manage stress and anxiety without drugs, improving self-efficacy, self-confidence, and overall mood.
- Repair relationships with family members and loved ones. Many people who are addicted to lorazepam may spend less time with loved ones or harm their relationships through addictive behaviors, such as lying or becoming violent. Recovery offers the chance to make amends with people the user has hurt.
- Improve performance at work or school. Lorazepam addiction can impair performance at school or work. 2 Some people even lose their jobs or drop out of school. Quitting offers the chance to focus on these areas again.
- Avoid legal issues. If a lorazepam user has developed an addiction, he or she may be purchasing diverted prescriptions illegally or selling drugs to maintain his or her habit, leading to legal troubles. 2
- Feel better physically and mentally.The highs and lows of a lorazepam addiction can be exhausting. The drug has many side effects, including drowsiness, difficulty urinating, nausea, mental confusion, slowed reaction time, slurred speech, and incoordination. 1,8 In addition, users may continue using to prevent the arrival of several unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
- Lower risk of accidents. Lorazepam can impair driving ability and increase the risk of car accidents. Quitting can reduce this risk, as well as the risk of other accidents such as falling.
- Save money. Many users report that their financial situation improves after quitting, since they are no longer spending as much money on drugs.
Lorazepam Addiction Treatment Center and Recovery Program Options
Treatment centers provide help from professionals and peers, as well as effective techniques to prevent relapse. You can also be treated for any mental health or medical problems, and get to the root cause of your addiction.
Since addiction is different for everyone, recovery should be tailored to the individual. Various treatment options are available based on the person’s needs. Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, group counseling, individual counseling, and 12-step programs are all highly effective treatment methods to help individuals stop using lorazepam.
- Inpatient treatment usually takes place in a hospital or a residential setting. Treatment generally lasts between 28 days to 90 days based on the person’s needs. Inpatient often includes detox, individual counseling sessions, group counseling, education, skill development, and self-help meetings. The treatment staff will also work with you on a plan for ongoing support after you discharge.
- Outpatient treatment is less restrictive and does not require you to live at the facility. Treatment occurs a set number of times per week for a set number of hours. Treatment includes both group and individual therapy, and self-help meeting attendance is often encouraged.
- Group counseling brings together peers in various stages of recovery, allowing for social reinforcement, accountability, and reduced isolation.
- Individual counseling occurs in a one-on-one setting between a person in recovery and a qualified mental health provider. It provides a number of benefits, including assistance in quitting lorazepam and maintaining sobriety, development of relapse prevention skills, and specialized focus on areas of functioning that may have been affected by substance use, including family relationships, socialization, work, or school. If necessary, the therapist may help the user resolve legal issues.
- 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a structured recovery program aimed at resolving the underlying issues that led to addiction, along with peer support. Participants are asked to surrender to a higher power and admit powerlessness over their addiction.
Once formal treatment has concluded, aftercare is often recommended. Aftercare eases the transition from a higher level of care to living independently. Types of aftercare can include:
- Sober living. Sober living involves a safe, drug-free environment where support is available around the clock. Users live with others in recovery and receive support services such as help with a job search.
- 12-step fellowship or other peer support program. Twelve-step programs and support groups allow users to recover in a safe place with peers who can identify with their problems or provide assistance. Users are urged to choose a program sponsor – someone also in the program who may provide valuable recovery experience when it comes to dealing with issues such as cravings or other sobriety struggles.
- Outpatient treatment. Ongoing outpatient treatment is highly encouraged after finishing detox or inpatient treatment to assist with the transition to a less supervised setting.
- Private counseling. Private counseling with a licensed therapist, social worker, or psychologist is another aftercare option. It allows individuals to address any issues surrounding life in recovery in a private setting.
Lorazepam Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects
Medically supervised withdrawal is the safest way to detox.
Lorazepam withdrawal can be a difficult and even life-threatening process. It can include physical and psychological symptoms, including:
- Increased anxiety.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Seizures. 1, 9
Lorazepam withdrawal symptoms are likely to develop within 6 to 8 hours after the last dose wears off, peak in intensity on the second day, and improve by the fourth or fifth day.9
Factors That Affect Withdrawal
As with many other drugs, the type and intensity of withdrawal symptoms are based on a combination of factors, including:
- The length of time the user was addicted.
- The average dose used.
- The frequency of use.
- The overall health and personality of the person.
- Whether the person used other drugs.
Treatment for Withdrawal
The safest way to detox from lorazepam is to seek medically supervised detox at a treatment program. A physician can supervise your withdrawal and make the process more comfortable.
A physician will likely use a taper to help you withdraw from lorazepam. A taper can take one of two forms:
- Lorazepam taper. A physician can slowly reduce or taper your dose of lorazepam at a detox facility or at an inpatient or outpatient program. 6 Tapering helps make the withdrawal process less uncomfortable and reduces cravings.
- Long-acting benzodiazepine taper. A physician may prescribe a long-acting benzodiazepine such as Valium or Librium as a substitute for lorazepam and then taper it to ease withdrawal symptoms, curb cravings, and reduce the risk of seizure. 6
Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine and valproate, as well as antidepressants, such as trazodone and imipramine, may also be used to treat withdrawal.
There are also some risks associated with withdrawing from lorazepam, such as a dramatic increase in anxiety or depression, along with seizures. At a treatment center, a physician can monitor you for any complications during withdrawal and address these if they occur.
While detox can occur in an outpatient setting, the process can be more safely conducted at a professional detox facility or inpatient center that is able to provide careful medical monitoring.
Tips for Quitting
Who Answers? to speak to a recovery support representative about treatment programs to help you stop using lorazepam.
- Don’t give up. Addiction is a chronic illness, and relapse is often part of the process. Many users require multiple treatment episodes. 7 Stick to your treatment plan, and participate in some form of aftercare after you leave a formal program.
- Focus on the real problem. Many addicts will say that addiction is just a symptom, while the underlying issue (or issues) leading to addiction is the true problem. Simply quitting the drug doesn’t address the behavioral, psychological, and social issues linked to addiction. 3, 7 Treatment is vital to address these issues.
- Seek treatment. Treatment facilities and addiction treatment professionals can facilitate the recovery process by providing education, relapse prevention techniques, support, and medication-assisted treatment to ease withdrawal, reduce cravings, and lower the risk of relapse. 7
- Get some support. The risk of relapse is much higher in those who do not have a solid support system. Reach out and connect with family, friends, and other people in recovery. Supportive services may also help those in recovery and include housing, employment, education, and health care. 5
- Know your triggers. Work with a therapist or sponsor to identify the people, places, and things that make you want to use. Then, figure out how to avoid these or deal with them if you cannot avoid them.
- Avoid people who are still using drugs. Being around people who are using drugs is a major trigger for relapse. Find other people to hang out with who do not use drugs.
How to Help an Addict Quit
- Don’t be angry or threaten the person. If you have a loved one with an addiction, you may be upset, scared, or angry. In fact, you may be willing to do anything to get the person to accept help. However, acting in an angry, threatening, or confrontational manner can have the opposite effect, creating an argument or possibly a violent confrontation. 4
- Let the person know how much you care. Express concern for the person’s wellbeing. Make sure the person knows you’re aware of the difficult and scary step he or she is taking to get help.
- Provide assistance and support. Offer to support the person throughout the recovery process and attend 12-step or support groups meetings with him or her.
- Have the person talk to an addiction professional or someone in recovery. Instead of threatening, it can be more effective to offer incentives to your loved one to speak to a professional, such as a therapist or a doctor. 4
- Don’t enable the person or cover for him or her. Giving the person money or lying for him or her allows the addiction to continue and even get worse.
Addiction often affects family members and other loved ones. You may be dealing with your own feelings about the addiction. If so, consider therapy or self-help groups for loved ones of addicts, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These groups help you see that you are not alone, and you can learn how to manage anger, frustration, fear, or resentment. These options will also help you learn about setting boundaries and helping your loved one to stay sober.
Can I Quit Cold Turkey? Is It Dangerous?
As mentioned earlier, quitting lorazepam cold turkey can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms, and it increases the likelihood of developing life-threatening complications, such as seizures. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, and strong cravings for lorazepam can be difficult to manage without support, especially in the presence of external stressors.
Medically assisted detox or a closely monitored, slow taper is strongly suggested to avoid the painful and often dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals can stabilize those withdrawing from lorazepam with other, relatively long-acting benzodiazepines, or a different type of medication, such as an anticonvulsant or sedating antidepressant to help ease the withdrawal process.
Find a Rehab Center for Lorazepam
. Longo, L.P., & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: part I. Benzodiazepines – side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.
. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Drug addiction.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012). Types of treatment programs.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to do if your adult friend or loved one has a problem with drugs.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral health treatments and services.
. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: Quick Guide for Clinicians.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide (3rd edition).
. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Lorazepam.
. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: Author.