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Ativan for Alcohol Withdrawal

To help people struggling with alcohol, doctors prescribe medications like Ativan, which can help relieve the moderate symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.

What is Ativan?

Ativan is the brand name of lorazepam, a benzodiazepine used to treat people with anxiety disorder. At US clinics, doctors administer Ativan to help patients overcome panic attacks, insomnia and seizures related to stress. Ativan can be taken intravenously or ingested in pill form.

Ativan is a long-lasting drug. Once consumed, it takes between 45 minutes and two hours for the drug to take effect. The typical duration is 20 hours, but it can remain in the body for up to 100 hours. 

As a Schedule IV narcotic, Ativan cannot be used without a prescription. Due to its potency, side effects and addictive qualities, Ativan is rarely prescribed to patients for longer than four months. 

Can Ativan Treat Alcohol Dependence?

Ativan is used to treat symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. The drug itself works as a relaxant that calms the central nervous system. People who struggle with jitters take Ativan to sleep better and get through the day with better peace of mind. Likewise, Ativan helps people who struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD) get through the day without alcohol.

When people struggling with alcohol dependence stop drinking and commit to sobriety, the first week can be a rough period. Most people cannot get through the first few days without relapsing unless they get help and take withdrawal medication.

While not exclusively an alcohol addiction medicine, Ativan can help people overcome alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which peaks during the second and third days of abstinence. 

How Ativan Works on Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Ativan helps people get through alcohol withdrawal because it enhances gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural brain chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter. GABA blocks select brain signals and lessens arousal of the nervous system.

When a person struggling with AUD halts alcohol consumption, Ativan blocks the signals that would otherwise trigger the nerves and cause the user to suffer withdrawal. 

Ativan can work on moderate symptoms and more severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms such as nervousness, irritability and agitation — common among people who struggle with alcohol dependence — are usually calmed by the drug when administered at the recommended dosage level.

Ativan for Mild Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

When a person over-drinks, the body’s alcohol tolerance level rises. To repeat the buzz, the person will increase his/her alcohol intake to get the same effects. Ativan is one of the more effective alcohol treatment medications for acute alcohol withdrawal. The mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxious feelings – When a drinker gets used to the numbing effects of alcohol, he/she can easily get agitated when there’s no supply. It’s the brain’s way of telling the body that it needs more alcohol.
  • Depression – People often drink to cope with depression. When drinks become mood elixirs, the individual has trouble coping emotionally without high alcohol concentrations.
  • Fatigue – Some people feel constant lethargy and lack of inspiration when they don’t have their substance of choice at hand. Their mind is distracted by the absence.
  • Jitters – Addiction leaves most people unable to cope with the absence of drugs or alcohol. An addicted individual might shake or tremble when the substance is not at hand.
  • Mood swings – People abuse alcohol and drugs to regulate their moods. Alcohol makes people feel fearless, emotional and manic. Once addicted, a person in withdrawal is prone to feel paranoid, irrational, angry and depressed.
  • Brain fog – Once an individual gets hooked on a substance, it’s hard to perform any task outside that state. Without alcohol, the person is often too eager for another drink to concentrate on anything else.
  • Nightmares – Some people have vivid nightmares. In a lot of cases, these nightmares reoccur over and over. For people who suffer depression, paranoia and anxiety, this can compound the problem.
  • Insomnia – People often drink to cope with depression. During bouts of depression, people typically have trouble sleeping. Some people drink themselves to sleep to get through these rough patches.

Doctors prescribe Ativan to help patients get through the mild and moderate levels of symptom severity. Ativan is not meant to be taken as a mood booster or supplement. It’s a medication that blocks the brain transmitters that tell the body that it needs more alcohol. Even when the user suffers from a more severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome, Ativan is an effective mood stabilizer.

The Worst Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

At rehab centers, doctors administer medical detox medication to treat severe symptoms of withdrawal. Doctors generally use benzodiazepines for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. However, people with severe withdrawal symptoms should enter a supervised treatment program. Dangerous symptoms in need of supervised treatment include:

  • Fever – Abnormal body temperature, regardless of the cause, requires immediate medical attention.
  • Alcohol withdrawal seizures – When the brain has a sudden, uncontrolled disturbance. This results from disrupted electrical activity in the brain. Two or more seizures in 24-hours is known as epilepsy, which requires urgent care. 
  • Extreme confusion – In cases of severe alcohol withdrawal, some people become disoriented and muddled. These people can be a danger to themselves and others if left roaming.
  • Hallucinations – A sudden sense of things that aren’t really there. In a hallucinogenic state, people are liable to do dangerous stunts such as climbing up polls, walking on ledges and jumping out windows.
  • Health problems – Issues like respiratory depression, high blood pressure and problems with the central nervous system are red flags of symptom severity.

People with these and other severe symptoms (agitation, delirium) should enter a supervised medical detoxification program, followed by treatment at a residential rehab facility. 

In cases where people have tried and failed multiple previous alcohol withdrawals, it’s usually because they lacked proper support and supervision during the crucial stages of alcohol withdrawal and recovery.

Side Effects of Ativan

Ativan should only be taken at the medication-dosage level prescribed by a doctor for the period when alcohol withdrawal symptoms persist. 

Upon the discontinuation of Ativan use, a person might experience side effects, such as mood shifts, nausea, muscle pain and hallucinations. To prevent Ativan withdrawal symptoms, a doctor might slowly wean the patient off the medication with a gradual decrease in dosage.

Get Help: Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are common among addicted individuals. People who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse should always enter a treatment facility, where doctors, nurses and counselors offer 24/7 care and supervision.

At most of today’s drug addiction treatment centers, they treat drug and alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental disorders. 

Treatment centers usually offer residential inpatient and intensive outpatient programs. This gives patients the choice of whether to stay at the facility for 30-90 days or sleep at home and come in during the day for treatment. 

If someone you know has a problem with alcohol, contact a nearby treatment center and get help for that person today.

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