What You Should Know About Quitting Ativan

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Ativan (lorazepam) is a central nervous system depressant (CNS) that is used to treat anxiety and seizures. Some people may abuse the drug due to its sedating and calming effects and develop an addiction (also known as an Ativan use disorder).

People who wish to quit Ativan should seek medical care for a safe withdrawal. Detoxing from Ativan at home has many risks, including the potential for seizures.

Benefits of Quitting Ativan

Quitting Ativan can benefit your mental and physical health and allow you to take back control of your life.

Specific benefits include:

  • More energy. Ativan slows down the functions of the central nervous system. Once a person quits using Ativan, he or she will have more energy, feel more alert, and be able to get more done.
  • Fully experience emotions. Because of the depressant action of Ativan, people who regularly use this drug experience blunted emotions or the sensation of being emotionally distant. Once a person quits using Ativan, he or she may experience an improved ability to relate to others, experience happiness, and enjoy life at a level that they had forgotten they were capable of.
  • No more dealing with tolerance. Chronic use of benzodiazepines such as Ativan quickly results in the development of a higher tolerance. Most people who take Ativan for lengthy periods of time find that the drug does not work the way it did when they started taking it.
  • Relief from side effects. Quitting Ativan will relieve side effects such as headaches, irritability, fatigue, stomach pains, and problems with memory and attention.
  • Stopping the substance abuse cycle. People who develop an Ativan use disorder have to worry about numerous issues. They are constantly worrying about how to get more Ativan, drug interactions, avoiding withdrawal symptoms, and legal issues.
  • No more blackouts. Ativan is a powerful amnestic drug that can cause memory loss, especially when taken in excess.
  • More self-control. A person who quits Ativan can make clear-headed decisions, be held accountable for them, and move in the direction he or she wants to go.

Ativan Addiction Treatment Center and Recovery Program Options

woman in individual counseling session for Ativan addiction

Engaging in a professional, structured recovery program is the best approach to quitting the use of an addictive drug such as Ativan. Many people who attempt to quit experience withdrawal symptoms, severe cravings, emotional and physical stress, and self-doubt. In addition, it is extremely difficult to develop insight into the reasons for drug abuse without professional help.

Several professional treatment programs are available to help someone quit Ativan. These options include:

  • Inpatient treatment: The person spends the entire day and night in a clinic or a hospital during the treatment process while engaging in therapy and participating in healthy, recovery activities. Inpatient treatment is especially helpful for people who will undergo detox. They can be closely monitored for any potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Inpatient also takes the person out of toxic environments that substantially increase the risk of relapse.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment programs are part-time programs that allow the person to continue engaging in his or her daily activities and still attend treatment. Treatment is typically delivered in a clinic or a hospital setting. People who begin treatment in an inpatient setting may transition to some form of outpatient treatment. This allows them to return to their day-to-day lives and still engage in structured, targeted, and effective treatment.
  • Group counseling and individual counseling: In a group counseling environment, several people are treated at once by one or more therapists, whereas individual counseling is a one-on-one process between the therapist and one person. Both types of therapy have advantages, and many people in substance abuse treatment will attend both types. Groups allow for the development of social support, learning from other individuals, and sharing of experiences. Individual sessions allow for more targeted interventions. They also provide greater confidentiality and demand the full attention of both the therapist and the client.
  • 12-step groups: Narcotics Anonymous(NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are the most well-known 12-step groups. These groups offer a number of advantages including a structured approach to recovery, the opportunity to bond with other recovering individuals, wide accessibility, and a low cost of attendance. Twelve-step groups are often the foundation for people who are attempting to maintain long-term recovery because they are ongoing, while therapy and counseling programs are typically time-limited.

Aftercare

Aftercareis any type of care or support a person receives after leaving formal treatment . These programs are designed to help a person face the inevitable challenges in recovery, such as stressful conditions, associating with old “drug buddies,” and dealing with the personal issues that made the person vulnerable to substance abuse.

Aftercare programs can consist of:


Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects

Withdrawal symptoms include tremors, increased heart rate, insomnia, and muscle cramps.


Ativan withdrawal symptoms can be quite distressing and include:1,2,3

  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Headache.
  • Tremors.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle stiffness and cramps.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Sweating.
  • Seizures (in some cases).

The seizures associated with Ativan withdrawal can be potentially fatal and require immediate medical attention.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

The length of withdrawal will vary from person to person. However, studies have found that symptoms usually emerge within the first week and can last from 5 to 28 days with a peak in symptoms around the two-week period.3

Some users may experience a “protracted withdrawal” that can last for months or even years. Symptoms during this period may gradually lessen in intensity and come and go in “waves.” Protracted withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, depression, cognitive impairments, tinnitus (ringing in ears), muscle pain and weakness, tremors, and gastrointestinal problems. 3

Medically Supervised Detox

Because of the serious nature of Ativan withdrawal syndrome, including the potential to develop seizures, a medically supervised detoxification program on a tapering schedule is highly recommended for anyone trying to quit Ativan.

A trained physician can address withdrawal symptoms using medications or a tapering program, where decreasing doses of medications are given as a person’s system slowly detoxifies from Ativan. Weaning off the medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

In addition, if seizures develop, they can be addressed immediately, and the person can be safely treated without serious medical complications.


Tips for Quitting

Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful for someone who has made a commitment to quitting Ativan:

  • Seek professional treatment. Find a treatment program that will address all aspects of recovery, including detoxification services, counseling services, support group services, and long-term aftercare planning.
  • Make a commitment to long-term recovery. Find friends and family members who can hold you accountable.
  • Find a potential mentor.This person can be a sponsor in a 12-step group or another person in recovery who can provide advice and assistance.
  • Determine how to handle any prescriptions. Learn how to manage any other prescription drugs you are taking and how to deal with friends and family members who take these drugs.
  • Develop a long-term mindset. Approach the recovery process as an ongoing and even lifelong process that involves continued participation in a support group or therapy, vigilance about potential triggers, and continued efforts to improving one’s outlook and approach to life.

How to Help an Addict Quit

man confronting wife about Ativan addiction

It is difficult to watch a good friend or a loved one engage in the dysfunctional behaviors associated with a substance use disorder. It is often tempting to try and force them into treatment. However, this is often a counterproductive approach.

Things to Avoid

  • Being confrontational.
  • Being judgmental.
  • Yelling or threatening the person.
  • Talking to the person when he or she is intoxicated.

Approaches to Try

  • Consult with a professional such as a physician or a therapist before talking to the person.
  • Express concern for the person. Remember the goal is to help them, not to punish them.
  • Point out how his or her behavior affects you and only stick to observable facts.
  • Discuss and express the need to seek treatment. If possible, suggest specific treatment options such as a specific clinic, a 12-step group, or someone with whom they can further discuss the issue, such as a long-term recovering addict or a therapist.
  • If the person becomes angry or denies using drugs, simply try to roll with the reaction and redirect the person. Do not express anger, but continue to express concern.
  • Sometimes, the best approach is to recruit concerned family and close friends and perform a formal intervention.

Is It Dangerous to Quit Cold Turkey?

Many people think that the best approach is to just stop Ativan “cold turkey” and attempt to quit on their own. Detoxing at home has several risks.

  • Medical risks. It is impossible to predict who might develop seizures or other serious withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychological risks. The Ativan recovery process often causes psychological symptoms such as depression and even feelings of self-harm. The potential for someone intentionally or unintentionally harming themselves is extremely high. This can be avoided under the supervision of professional addiction treatment providers.
  • Untreated problems. The potential for relapse is much higher when someone attempts to quit on his or her own and doesn’t address many of the issues that fueled the substance use disorder.

All of these potential dangers can be significantly minimized and even avoided by using a medically supervised detox program, professional counseling and supervision, and strong social support.


How Hard Is It to Quit Ativan?

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan are extremely hard to quit because their use results in:

  • The development of tolerance. This means that as one continually takes the drug, their system adjusts to it and the person needs higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects that were achieved at lower doses. Tolerant individuals taking higher doses may experience more severe withdrawal effects, and the appearance of these symptoms often spurs the individual to take even more of the drug.
  • Psychological dependence on Ativan to blunt emotions. Once the drug is discontinued, users begin to regain sensitization to physical and emotional stimuli. In order to blunt these feelings, they take more of the drug instead of dealing with them directly.
  • Structural changes in the central nervous system that increase cravings in response to stress or other triggers. People who are trying to quit Ativan will often find themselves craving the drug. When they give in to these cravings, they develop a cycle of continual reinforcement. Habits that are reinforced and are associated with physiological changes in the brain are extremely hard to break.

Find a Rehab Center for Ativan

When you speak to a treatment center for your admissions consultation, have your insurance information ready. Also be ready to answer questions about your Ativan use, including how long you’ve been taking it, what the dose is, whether you’ve abused other drugs, and whether you have other issues that need to be addressed in treatment, such as sleep disorders. Think about what you can afford for treatment and whether you want to stay in your local area or travel for rehab.

Sources

[1]. Petursson, H. (1994). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction 89(11), 1455-1459.

[2]. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2013). Lorazepam (Ativan).

[3]. Ashton, H. (2004). Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines. Comprehensive Handbook of Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

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Last updated on December 7, 2018
2018-12-07T06:45:58+00:00