What is Ativan (lorazepam)?
Ativan is a potent and fast-acting drug that is used to treat anxiety disorders. Also known by its pharmaceutical name lorazepam, Ativan is a benzodiazepine drug that works by quickly increasing the availability of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to the brain. This increase in GABA has a calming effect on the central nervous system. This leads to a tranquilizing effect on the mind and body.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers Ativan to be a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances act. This means that, along with other benzodiazepines, the DEA considers Ativan to be subject to substance abuse.
How Long Does Ativan Stay in your system?
The Half-Life of Ativan
How long does Ativan stay in your system? Well, this will depend on your size, weight, and how much of the drug you have taken. Kidney function studies show that Ativan has a half-life of about fourteen hours. A half-life is the amount of time it takes an individual’s system to metabolize a drug to half its original concentration. This means that Ativan decreases in concentration in the body by half every fourteen hours, until the kidney ultimately eliminates it through urine.
Ativan clearance rates are anywhere between 0.9 to 2.0 ml/min/kg. Clearance rates do not measure how long Ativan stays in your system. They are instead a measure of how much plasma is cleared of the drug per minute. Younger people tend to have a quicker clearance rate than those who are older.
Testing for Ativan
How long Ativan stays in your system also depends on the system that is being used for testing. A drug test for Ativan can detect the presence of the drug at varying times from ingestion. The time it takes for Ativan to be undetectable in a person’s system depends on the type of drug test that a tester might carry out.
It can take anywhere between three to thirty days for the drug to fully leave an individual’s system. These drug tests can include:
- Urine screening tests
- Blood tests
- Saliva tests
- Hair tests
Urine tests detect Ativan that passes through the kidneys. The body then uses urine made by the kidneys to eliminate the drug. Urine screening tests can detect the drug in samples up to six days after the last dose. This window of time may be longer for those who take the drug regularly at higher doses.
One form of urine testing for Ativan involves looking for the metabolite lorazepam-glucuronide. The body produces this substance when breaking down the drug. With this form of testing, the detection of Ativan may take place up to nine days after the last use.
Sometimes, a false positive urine test may occur. This is when the test shows a positive result even if the tested individual has never ingested Ativan. This can occur if the individual is taking an anti-depressant drug, sertraline, or the anti-inflammatory drug, oxaprozin.
A blood test can detect Ativan as quickly as six hours after ingestion. From then, blood tests can still detect the drug for up to three days. The duration of this period could be longer in cases where an individual has been taking Ativan at higher doses for three days or more.
Drug testers rarely use saliva tests as a way to screen for Ativan. Even so, if a drug tester uses a saliva drug test, they may detect the drug for up to eight hours after last use.
When screening for Ativan using hair testing, much like other substances, testers send hair samples to a testing lab. These testing labs can detect Ativan in hair samples for much longer periods of time than with any other method of drug test. This period can be as long as 30 days after use.
Ativan and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A surprising use of Ativan is its use in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Doctors may prescribe the drug to individuals who suffer from IBS if anxiety is a trigger for their IBS symptoms. There is no cure for IBS; however, reducing an individual’s anxiety reduces negative symptoms associated with it. Medical professionals may avoid the use of Ativan if the individual they are treating has a history of substance abuse.
Being a Schedule IV drug, the DEA considers Ativan to be subject to drug abuse. Taking Ativan for any period of time can lead to both physical dependence and psychological dependence. Those who have a history of alcohol abuse or mental health disorders are more likely to struggle with an addiction to Ativan.
Ativan is addictive, meaning that individuals who use it may experience physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Ativan dependence makes it hard for someone struggling with a substance use disorder to stop using the drug, even in the face of problems associated with it, such as:
- Family and friend issues
- Not carrying out obligations associated with work, school, or home
- Getting into dangerous situations
- The loss of interest in things that formerly mattered to the individual
- Social isolation from friends and work colleagues
- Financial problems
Those with a long history of Ativan addiction may build a tolerance to the drug. This is when an individual uses a drug regularly for long enough to need a higher dose to achieve the same effects. Building a tolerance to Ativan can mean that an individual struggling with substance abuse is at risk of an overdose.
An overdose on Ativan is possible at any level above what your doctor has prescribed for you. The same warning goes for anyone taking many different types of prescription drugs.
Overdoses involving benzodiazepines can be either intentional or not. In either case, it is important to know the signs and symptoms involved in an Ativan-related overdose. These can include:
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Uncoordinated behavior
- Excessive sweating
- Memory loss
- Decreased organ function (liver impairment)
- Fatal respiratory depression due to central nervous system sedation (possibly leading to heart attack, coma, or death)
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you receive professional medical advice immediately. Call 911 to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible. If a medical professional is able to get to the individual in enough time, the less likely it is that they will suffer from health issues.
Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms
Even after a short period of usage, Ativan can be physically addictive. This means that experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be common when an individual goes through an Ativan detox.
If you have been taking Ativan regularly, for even a short period of time, and stop using the drug suddenly, it is possible that you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Muscle spasms and hand tremors
- Increased anxiety
- Increased heart rate
- Seizure disorders
Ativan and Alcohol
No matter how long Ativan might stay in your system, consuming alcohol alongside the drug can be dangerous. It is not recommended that someone taking Ativan engages in even short-term alcohol consumption. Dangers involving mixing the two substances are as follows:
- As both drugs are depressants, each amplifies the other’s effects. This can lead to slowed breathing, extreme drowsiness, coma, and death.
- The extreme drowsiness and loss of motor function associated with mixing Ativan and alcohol can impact decision-making. This increases the risk of an individual putting themselves in dangerous situations.
Doctors may, however, prescribe Ativan to individuals with alcohol use disorder in order to ease withdrawal from alcohol. This should only be done with the guidance of licensed medical professionals.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a disease. Treatment involving Ativan, or other drugs, is widely available. Understanding that underlying mental health disorders and behavioral health conditions can be the driving force of addiction is a vital aspect of addiction treatment. Treatment centers use different forms of treatment involving:
- Cognitive-Behavioral therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Medication management
At our residential treatment center in Utah, we at Cirque Lodge understand that rehabilitation is not a punishment. That is why our programs provide effective inpatient treatment that nurtures personal development in a supportive environment. We offer addiction treatment, not only for Ativan and benzodiazepines but also for alcohol and other substances.
Treatment that cares, is a treatment that works. This is why our phone lines are open twenty-four hours a day. Contact us if you are ready to start your journey to a better life and leave addiction behind you.