Why You Should Never Quit Ativan Cold Turkey

Also known by the generic name Lorazepam, Ativan is a benzodiazepine designed to treat anxiety (via WebMD). The drug enhances the effects of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA and helps to calm both the brain and the nervous system. According to Windward Way, Ativan is most commonly used for the sudden onset of anxiety and has proven to be useful, improving the quality of life of numerous patients.

However, Windward Way also cautions that Ativan use can lead to dependency, and quitting the drug can lead to painful and very serious withdrawal. These symptoms include rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and coma. In addition, there can be psychological effects of Ativan withdrawal, ranging from panic attacks and paranoia to depression and suicidal thoughts. If someone decides to simply stop using Ativan, they run the risk of their body reacting with a sudden and dangerous rise in temperature, leading to seizures and possibly even death. Additionally, someone who goes off Ativan without any help will most likely relapse, especially when the withdrawal symptoms become too much to cope with.

Suddenly stopping Ativan can scramble your brain chemistry

According to the Columbus Recovery Center, prolonged Ativan use changes the chemistry of the brain, enhancing the effects of GABA. In addition to GABA, another neurotransmitter in the brain is called glutamate which works opposite to GABA. Whereas GABA calms your brain's activity, glutamate stimulates it. Stopping a medication that provokes GABA activity can lead to the brain overcompensating by becoming flooded with glutamate. As a result, your brain can become dangerously overstimulated.

The Addiction Center recommends that, instead of simply trying to give up Ativan in one swift motion, patients need to slowly wean themselves off the drug. People going off Ativan may first experience acute withdrawal, followed by protracted withdrawal. Acute withdrawal is the standard withdrawal process, which features such symptoms as insomnia, irritability, abdominal cramps, palpitations, and mood swings. Protracted withdrawal occurs in the wake of acute withdrawal and can manifest itself with such symptoms as memory problems, difficulty focusing, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Divine Detox notes that a detox program may be the best course for someone looking to safely and hopefully permanently wean themselves off of Ativan. Once through the initial stages of weaning themselves off the drug, the patient should also consider seeking out support groups to help themselves through the recovery process. Additionally, making healthy lifestyle choices, such as a proper diet, meditation, and exercise, can contribute toward helping one break their Ativan use and keep it broken for good.