Ativan, or lorazepam, is an anti-anxiety medication classified as a benzodiazepine. Also known as “benzos”, benzodiazepines are characterized by their calming, sedative effects. They work by increasing GABA neurotransmitters in the brain to slow brain activity, and are typically prescribed to patients who suffer from insomnia or anxiety. Other common benzodiazepines include Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
Although it is a common prescription medication for anxiety, it is important to note that it can be habit-forming, so patients should take care not to take it more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. In addition, Ativan can interact with alcohol and other drugs with dangerous effects, so be sure to thoroughly read warning labels and follow the advice of your physician when taking any other medications.
How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?
Ativan is typically administered orally in the form of a pill or tablet. The speed of onset differs depending on the patient’s system, but is usually between 15 and 30 minutes, with peak concentrations occurring at around 2 hours from ingestion. With a half-life of approximately 12 hours, it takes approximately 10-20 hours for the amount in the blood to decrease to half the peak concentration. With typical dosage, the drug can take 50-100 hours to completely clear the patient’s systems. For users who take higher than the recommended dose of Ativan, the elimination time may be longer.
Ativan is metabolized in the liver and eliminated through the kidneys, and can therefore be detected in urinalysis for approximately five days after ingestion. Certain substances, or metabolites, created by the body’s breakdown can be detected for more than 7 days. Depending on the type of drug screening and the amount the user ingests, the drug can be detected in urine, blood, hair, and saliva tests.
- Saliva Tests: Ativan can be detected in saliva tests up to 8 hours after use.
- Blood Screening: Ativan can be detected in blood tests up to 3 days after use.
- Urinalysis: Ativan can be detected in urine tests for 6-9 days, depending on the type of test and amount ingested.
- Hair Testing: Ativan can be detected in hair samples for 30 days or more, but it takes several days for the substance to appear in the hair.
Ativan vs Xanax
Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are two of the most common benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and other psychiatric disorders. They are used to decrease neuron activity in the brain by reducing the transmission of the neurotransmitter GABA. Both drugs are habit-forming and should be used with care.
The primary difference between Ativan and Xanax is the amount of time they take to leave the body. It is metabolized more easily, which allows it to leave the body more quickly, making it less dangerous to the liver and kidneys, and reducing the potential for dangerous side effects. Side effects of both Ativan and Xanax include:
- Cognitive and Memory Impairment
Ativan is less likely to interact poorly with other medications than Xanax, but it is important to note that both medications can have dangerous side effects when taken with alcohol, sedatives, or other anti-anxiety drugs.
Is Ativan Addictive?
Ativan can be habit-forming, or addictive, so it is important that patients only take the amount prescribed. If you find that your prescription is not working, contact your doctor to discuss solutions. Since Ativan is both physically and psychologically addictive, it is only recommended for short-term treatment of anxiety and insomnia. Long-term exposure or abuse can increase the user’s tolerance, causing them to raise their dosage in order to get the same effect. If you or someone you know is increasing their dosage or taking it with other non-prescribed medications, it may be a sign of addiction, and the patient should seek medical assistance. Other signs of benzodiazepine addiction to watch for include:
- Drug-seeking behavior
- Increased tolerance
- Use with alcohol and other drugs to enhance sedative effects
- Excessive sleepiness and sedation
- Loss of coordination, including driving impairment and falls
- Cognitive decline and memory impairment
It is crucial that individuals who are addicted to seek medical assistance when trying to reduce or eliminate usage. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and dangerous to the health of the victim, and a strict regimen of dosage reduction is often necessary to safely remove Ativan from the user’s system.
Ativan and Alcohol
Ativan acts as a sedative, which helps to reduce anxiety in patients with certain psychological disorders. However, when taken with alcohol or other depressants, the sedative effects can be dangerously magnified, and may result in extreme drowsiness, depressed breathing, coma, and even death. In addition, the concurrent use of Ativan and alcohol can result in impaired judgement and reduced physical and cognitive function, which can lead to falls and accidents.
Individuals who suffer from Ativan and alcohol addiction will often use the two substances together in order to enhance the sedative effects of the drug. Since both Ativan and alcohol are addictive, concurrent use can result in increased tolerance, and users will often increase the dosage of both drugs to elicit the same effect. Ultimately, this behavior can result in overdose, coma, and death. In order to avoid the negative effects of Ativan and alcohol addiction, users should seek medical assistance. Do not attempt to detox from Ativan or alcohol without medical help, as symptoms of withdrawal can be severe and sometimes life-threatening.
Ativan and other benzodiazepines are typically prescribed in moderate doses for only short periods of time. Although physicians may consider extending the use of Ativan along with clinical therapy, long-term use is contraindicated. Due to the addictive nature of Ativan, abrupt cessation of use can be dangerous to the user, especially after long-term use or abuse of the drug. Generally, treatment for addiction involves slowly reducing usage to minimize withdrawal symptoms, followed by intensive addiction therapy.
Even when following a prescribed regimen, Ativan withdrawal can be unpleasant. Without medical assistance, it can be dangerous and even deadly. Some of the most common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:
- Headache and hypersensitivity
- Anxiety, tension, and depression
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Confusion, dysphoria, derealization, and depersonalization
- Irritability and mood swings
- Loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps
- Hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions
- Heart palpitations and tachycardia
Due to the severity of these symptoms, it is critical that individuals suffering from addiction seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is a victim of addiction, there is help available. Look for addiction resources, rehab clinics, and professional addiction therapists in your area to start your journey toward health and sobriety!