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How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

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Anyone who receives a prescription for Ativan should speak with their doctor about the medication’s features and benefits before they start to use it. Important questions to ask can include how does the drug work, can you become addicted to it, and how long does Ativan stay in your system?

What Is Ativan?

Ativan is the brand name of a prescription medication that has been available in the United States since 1977. It is most commonly used to treat people who have been experiencing symptoms of various anxiety disorders. It is also prescribed to individuals who have been struggling with seizures or insomnia, as well as those who are going through alcohol withdrawal.

The active ingredient in Ativan is lorazepam, which is a benzodiazepine. Other frequently prescribed medications in the benzo category include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), Clonazepam (Klonopin), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Ativan as a short-term medication that should not be used for longer than four months. It can be taken orally in pill form or as a liquid. It can also be administered via either intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injection. 

How Does Ativan Work?

Researchers are not 100% certain how Ativan works, but they believe its effectiveness is related to its influence on a neurotransmitter called γ-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA:

  • GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it slows the delivery of messages throughout the central nervous system (CNS). 
  • Ativan attaches to neural receptors that are associated with GABA. 
  • Ativan’s presence on these receptors seems to enhance the effectiveness of GABA. This promotes outcomes such as relaxation, drowsiness, and diminished anxiety.

If a person receives Ativan by injection, they may start to feel the medication’s effects within about three minutes. For those who take the drug orally, it may take 15-30 minutes before they begin to experience relief.

How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

In the previous two sections, we answered two common questions about Ativan: How quickly does the medication start to work, and how long can you continue to safely use it?

In this section, we turn our attention to two additional time-related questions: How long do the medication’s effects usually last, and how long does Ativan stay in your system?

The Duration of Ativan’s Effects

The duration of Ativan’s effects can be influenced by several factors, such as a person’s age, body weight, and metabolism; how much Ativan they took; and if they have also been taking other medications.

In general, a person who takes Ativan can expect to feel the effects for about six to eight hours:

  • Ativan’s effects usually increase during the first two hours after a person take the medication. 
  • These effects then level off and remain steady for three or four hours, before beginning to dissipate. 
  • By the eight hour mark after a person received their last dose, it’s unlikely that they will continue to feel any positive effects.

Testing Positive for Ativan on a Drug Screen

While Ativan’s effects rarely endure beyond eight hours, this doesn’t mean that all traces of the substance are eliminated from a person’s body in that period of time. 

Ativan has a half-life of about 12 hours. It usually takes four to five half-lives for a substance to fall below a clinically significant level. This means that a person may have traces of Ativan in their system for 48-60 hours (or up to about two and a half days). 

Of course, as we noted earlier in this post, the elimination timeline can be influenced by several factors, so this is a general estimate of how long Ativan stays in your system.

Also, a drug screen won’t only look for Ativan itself. It can also detect metabolites, which are byproducts that are created as the body breaks Ativan down and prepares it for elimination. (It can be helpful to think of metabolites as fingerprints, as they can prove that the medication was present in a person’s system even if it’s no longer there).            

Considering all of these factors, plus the type of drug screen a person completes, here are estimates of how long someone may test positive for Ativan:

  • Blood: About three days after their last dose
  • Urine: Up to about five days
  • Hair: As long as 30 days

Can You Get Addicted to Ativan?

One of the reasons why experts don’t recommend taking Ativan for longer than a few months is that you can become addicted to it. 

Addictions to Ativan and other benzodiazepines can be extremely difficult to overcome without appropriate professional help. The longer a person struggles with untreated Ativan addiction, the greater their risk becomes for a range of negative outcomes, such as:

  • Cognitive deficiencies, which can include confusion, disorientation, and memory problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Headaches and stomach aches
  • Agitation, irritability, and aggression
  • Impaired coordination
  • Injuries due to impulsive or reckless behaviors
  • Being arrested, fined, and/or jailed
  • Poor performance at work or in school
  • Difficulty getting and keeping a job
  • Financial setbacks
  • Ruined relationships with friends, family members, and intimate partners
  • Onset or worsening of anxiety or depression

Anyone who is unable to stop using Ativan on their own should consult with an addiction treatment expert or another qualified professional. Completing a thorough assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be essential steps on the path toward effective treatment and a healthier future, free of compulsive Ativan abuse.

Find Ativan Addiction Treatment in Atlanta

If you or someone in your family has become addicted to Ativan, please know that help is available. Peachtree Wellness Solutions is a premier provider of life-affirming addiction treatment services for adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

Treatment options at our addiction rehab center include detoxification, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) with both day and evening sessions available. We also offer gender-specific programming for both men and women.

Our team will work closely with you to identify the full scope of your needs and determine which programs and services are best for you. To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.