Pros and Cons of Using Ativan to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal July 1st, 2021 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Pros and Cons of Using Ativan to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal

Pros & Cons of Using Ativan to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal

Ativan can help those with an alcohol use disorder get healthier as they go through withdrawal.

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Ativan & Alcohol Withdrawal

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable, painful and even life-threatening in some cases. The most common symptoms are rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea and vomiting, tremors and exhaustion. Some of the more dangerous symptoms include hallucinations, panic and seizures.

In a recent study by The Recovery Village involving over 2,000 respondents, people who underwent detox for alcohol (either at home or at a facility) reported experiencing the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • 1 in 2 respondents reported irritability (46.8%)
  • 1 in 2 reported fatigue (42.3%)
  • 1 in 2 reported sweating (44.9%)
  • 1 in 2 reported stress or anxiety (48.6%)
  • 1 in 3 reported hand tremors (33.5%)
  • 1 in 4 reported nausea or vomiting (23.6%)
  • 1 in 4 reported mood swings (23.6%)
  • 1 in 5 reported rapid heart rate (22.9%)
  • 1 in 8 reported hallucinations (13.4%)
  • 1 in 10 reported Delirium tremens (DT) (11.4%)
  • 1 in 12 reported seizures (8.2%)

One way that addiction treatment specialists help their patients avoid these symptoms is by using Ativan during the initial alcohol withdrawal period.

How Ativan Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal

Ativan is the brand name of a benzodiazepine (nicknamed “benzo”) drug with the generic name lorazepam. Ativan is generally prescribed for the treatment of sleep problems, anxiety, and panic disorders. This drug activates GABA receptors in the brain, which alcohol also does; therefore, it will help ease withdrawal symptoms when you stop using alcohol.

The positive benefits of using Ativan during alcohol withdrawal are numerous.

As a taper medication, Ativan can:

  • Prevent life-threatening symptoms
  • Stop panic attacks that can occur during withdrawal
  • Stop intense cravings for alcohol that can often lead to more alcohol use

Although alcohol withdrawal is not an official use of Ativan, many doctors have begun to use it in this way.

Most benzos will work in the same way to decrease alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but Ativan is safer than most for people with liver disease. Ativan is also less likely to depress breathing than other benzos, making it a safer choice generally. It can also be used at a lower dose and for a shorter duration than other benzos.

Ativan is safe for those with liver disease as a result of alcohol abuse alcohol.

Drawbacks of Ativan Use for Alcohol Withdrawal

While Ativan can be beneficial for treating the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, there are also some potential drawbacks to its use. Ativan, like all benzodiazepines, is highly addictive, even when used correctly. It is entirely possible that using Ativan for alcohol withdrawal could lead to Ativan misuse and, in turn, traded one problem for another.

Treatment professionals generally recommend only short-term use of Ativan, such as for 10 days to two weeks, for alcohol withdrawal. This short duration of use should prevent addiction from developing and still allow alcohol to leave your system without serious symptoms. This length of use will not prevent alcohol cravings that persist for weeks or months after the alcohol has left your system, however. Feelings of anxiety may return when Ativan is stopped as well.

Another possible drawback of using Ativan to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms is that it can interact with alcohol and intensify its effects. If relapse does occur while Ativan is being taken, it can lead to breathing problems or a fatal overdose in some cases because both alcohol and Ativan act on the nervous system in the same way.

Find the Help You or Your Loved One Needs

Weighing the risks and benefits of Ativan for alcohol withdrawal is an important step in deciding what treatment might be right for you or a loved one with an alcohol use disorder. For more information on medical detox and other treatment options, contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake.

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.