Ativan Withdrawal

Ativan Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines and the brain

Ativan, otherwise known as Lorazepam, belongs to a class of drugs called Benzodiazepines. They are commonly prescribed in the treatment of anxiety, seizure disorder and as muscle relaxants. Benzodiazepines function as central nervous system depressants that work by decreasing the firing of neurons and nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

On a neuronal level, these drugs work by modifying the behavior of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that functions as an inhibiting agent that when triggered, slows down the processes of the entire nervous system.

Variations exist in benzodiazepines that change the rate of absorption of the drug, and the length of its effects. However, all benzodiazepines are classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule IV controlled substances. This means they are only available with a prescription, are considered to have a moderate risk for abuse, and for some, can lead to the development of physical or psychological dependence.  

Ativan in particular

Ativan is a benzodiazepine considered to be a high-potency drug that typically provides immediate results, and offers to its users prompt relief in the treatment of anxiety. Among the therapeutic effects, Ativan is also known to to produce a mildly euphoric state of relaxation. Due to the strength of the substance, even at very low doses, it creates strong effects, delivering on the intended results.

However, Ativan is also known to have a very short half-life, meaning that as rapidly as someone experiences the calming effects of the GABA-inhibitor, just as quickly the effects will begin to wear off. This is in contrast to other longer acting benzodiazepines, and increases the risks of abuse with this particular substance and the ease to which one might find themselves caught up in addictive patterns.

For long term users, the swift delivery of euphoric-producing effects creates a quick dependence on the substance, as does tolerance, and the need to take more to achieve the same desired outcome. Even for short term users, the risk is high, and there have been reports of individuals developing a physical dependence on Ativan in as little as a week. With Ativan abusers, tolerance can develop to the point where life-threatening and dangerously high levels are ingested routinely and unknowingly.

Symptoms of Ativan withdrawal

When your body learns to rely on an outside source in order to function normally, otherwise known as the state of “dependence” is the primary reason why withdrawal occurs. When the drug, in this case, Ativan, is no longer introduced in the system, the entire body needs to readjust and re-learn how to function without its presence. This is what produces the range of mildly uncomfortable to significant withdrawal symptoms one might experience when detoxing.

Although an individual will experience Ativan withdrawal on a small scale after each use, long-term use or abuse constitutes the presence of more intense withdrawal symptoms. Of course, the severity and duration will depend on previous patterns of use, including how much was used and for how long. Other mediating factors include relevant medical history and the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders.

Initial Withdrawal symptoms include:

• Anxiety or Mood Swings
Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and shallow breathing
• Hallucinations or Confusion
• Tremors or Muscle Cramps
• Profuse Sweating or Fever
• Nausea and Vomiting
• Seizures

Acute symptoms such as these generally last anywhere from 3-5 days to as long as four weeks. Symptoms tend to peak within a week or two of abstinence from the drug, and generally taper off in their intensity. The potential for seizures make Ativan withdrawal especially dangerous and require experienced medical care.

With this drug, in particular, it has been documented that after the initial detox, you may continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS for a longer period of time, including:

• Rebound insomnia
• Anxiety
• Restlessness
• Low Motivation or Apathy
• Mood swings

Rebound anxiety and insomnia

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms and the presence of rebound anxiety make Ativan withdrawal especially difficult to manage. Rebound anxiety can be defined as the temporary, enhanced return of the anxiety that was originally the cause for seeking treatment. This presents a significant risk for relapse to individuals in the early withdrawal due to their inability to effectively manage this state of withdrawal. It is reported that approximately 10-35% of individuals who detox from Ativan will experience rebound effects, and tapering off the substance can help to assuage rebound symptoms until alternative treatment is determined.

Contact us at MD Home Detox to discover how we can help you receive medically- assisted detox right from the comfort of home. 

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