How Long Does Ativan (lorazepam) Stay in Your System?

Avitan is the brand name for a drug called lorazepam. Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription medication that is used to help people manage their anxiety disorders, continuous seizures, panic attacks, insomnia, and is a medication that is often given prior to anesthesia. The medication contains benzodiazepines, which work by producing a tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system. The half-life of ativan is about 12 to 18 hours, so it can be expelled from a person’s body completely in about 3 days. Avitan is classified as a Schedule IV drug, which means it has low abuse potential and low risk for dependence.

The medication is only intended for short-term use because it can result in dependence and addiction, even when used as prescribed. Benzodiazepine abuse is a growing problem in the United States. A study published in the Mental Health Clinician mentioned that about 2.3 to 18 percent of Americans have misused sedatives or tranquilizers for nonmedical purposes in their life. Roughly 10 percent of these people meet the criteria for abuse or dependence. The older a person is, the harder it is for them to metabolize ativan. This can ultimately result in death if misused and taken in large doses.

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History of Ativan (lorazepam)

Lorazepam was first created by DJ Richards and went on the market in the United States back in 1977. Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine medication that was commonly used to sedate patients due to its fast-acting onset when administered intravenously. Lorazepam can produce sedative effects as rapidly as 1 to 3 minutes after being injected. This medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for short-term use up to 4 months for the relief of anxiety systems, produce sedation or amnesia, and treat epilepsy. Lorazepam is also used for non-FDA approved uses such as for quick tranquilization, insomnia, panic disorder, delirium, and more.

How Ativan (lorazepam) Affects the Body

Benzodiazepines affect the key neurotransmitter in the body known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating bodily functions such as feelings of calm, drowsiness, and sleep. Ativan works by binding to benzodiazepine receptors and enhances the inhibitory effects of GABA. The activity of GABA is enhanced by benzodiazepines, resulting in slowing nerve impulses throughout the body. This enables people to feel calm and experience a tranquilizing effect. Through calming the overactive brain, ativan is able to relieve symptoms of anxiety such as tension, irritability, and irrational fears.

Common side effects of lorazepam are dizziness, muscle weakness, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, headaches, sedation, fatigue, confusion, irritability, amnesia, appetite changes, constipation, and dizziness.

People can also experience severe negative effects from taking high doses of lorazepam such as behavioral changes, cognitive deficits, mood swings, jaundice, seizures, respiratory depression, respiratory failure, dependency, addiction, and overdose.

Ativan (lorazepam) Addiction

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 2011, there were 1,244,872 emergency department visits relating to nonmedical use of prescription drugs. Of those, lorazepam was responsible for 42,874 emergency department visits or 1 out of every 540 emergency department visits that involved nonmedical use of lorazepam. Lorazepam was also responsible for 12,044 emergency department drug-related suicide attempts. When taken with alcohol, lorazepam was responsible for 15,397 emergency department visits. This shows that the medication is even more dangerous when taken with other drugs.

Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the United States. Avitan contains benzodiazepines which can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Even when prescribed by a doctor this medication has the potential to be addicting and abused. Due to its sedative properties, they have a high abuse and dependence potential, especially when combined with alcohol or opioids.

Signs of ativan addiction include the inability to reduce or stop using the medication, feeling unable to function without the medication, increased tolerance resulting in a higher dosage of the medication to achieve the same effects, displaying suicidal behaviors, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or reduce the dosage.

Long-term abuse of ativan can result in impaired thinking, memory, and judgment, confusion, disorientation, respiratory failure, headaches, slowed breathing, anxiety, depression, nightmares, body aches, slurred speech, muscle weakness, a lack of coordination, dependence, and overdose.

How Long Does Ativan (lorazepam) Stay in Your System?

How long does ativan last? The half-life of lorazepam is about 12 to 18 hours. This means that after a person takes their last dose of the medication it will take about 2 to 3 days for the medication to leave a person’s system. According to a study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, about 90 percent of lorazepam leaves the body in 4 days through urine. However, numerous factors contribute to how long ativan takes to leave your system.

Factors that Influence How Long Ativan (lorazepam) Stays in Your System

There are many different factors that influence how long the medication, ativan will stay in a person’s body. These factors include age, race, kidney function, use with other alcohol, metabolic rate, and frequency of use.

Age and race are factors because the younger a person is the better their body is able to metabolize the medication. Also, elderly Japanese patients have a 20 percent lower mean total clearance than elderly Americans. This means that elderly Japanese people have a harder time expelling the medication from their bodies than elderly Americans. In general, elderly people tend to eliminate the drug much more slowly.

Kidney function plays a role in how long ativan stays in your system because people who have kidney failure take longer to metabolize the medication.

Drinking alcohol while taking ativan also impacts the rate a person is able to get ativan out of their system. An article published in Alcohol Research and Health, mentioned that drinking alcohol while taking ativan reduces the body’s ability to metabolize the drug. This is because the breakdown and excretion of ativan are delayed due to the medication competing with alcohol for breakdown by the liver.

The rate of metabolism is another factor because the faster someone is able to metabolize the medication the quicker it can leave their system.

Lastly, frequency of use plays a role in determining how long ativan stays in a person’s system. For example, a person who is on a high dose of ativan will take longer to get the drug out of their system than someone on a low dose.

Ativan (lorazepam) Testing

The commonly used biological specimens for a lorazepam drug test are urine, saliva, and blood. These tests can be used to determine if a person has taken lorazepam. Drug tests are commonly used in treatment settings to ensure that a person is withstanding drug use during the recovery process.

An ativan urine test can be used to detect ativan for up to 5 days after ingestion. Urine tests are commonly used in lorazepam testing because they are noninvasive, fast, and provide large sample volume. In severe long-term use, detection can be extended up to a week.

Ativan can be detected in saliva for about 8 hours. The main benefit of using saliva samples is that it’s noninvasive and easy to sample. However, saliva can mix with contaminants such as food, drinks, and bacteria, which can affect the results. This is why saliva is hardly used to detect ativan.

Blood is the only form of testing that can determine if someone is currently under the influence of a drug containing benzodiazepine-like lorazepam, at the time of collection. This type of test can determine if a person has ativan in their bloodstream within 6 hours of use and for 3 days after the last dosage was taken. Blood tests are impossible to tamper with providing benefits over blood and urine samples. However, the detection window for blood is a lot smaller than urine, and concentrations are lower.

Finding Help

Lorazepam addictions do not simply disappear. It takes a lot of time and effort to overcome an addiction. Without help, symptoms of ativan addiction and dependence can grow rapidly.  If you or someone you love has an ativan addiction, finding a high-quality rehab can help. With help, a loved one afflicted with an ativan addiction can obtain the support and treatment necessary to overcome their addiction and live a healthier life.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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