Ativan is the brand name for a benzodiazepine drug called lorazepam. Lorazepam was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the late 1970s for the short-term (4 months) treatment of anxiety symptoms. It is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, anxiety-associated insomnia, epilepsy, and before surgery or anesthesia. Lorazepam may also be prescribed off-label for the treatment of alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Like other benzodiazepines, Ativan is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Increased GABA levels have a calming, sedating, and euphoric effect on the CNS, leading to relaxing and tranquilizing effects that may be sought by drug users.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers Ativan a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This indicates that the medication has legitimate medical use, but can be subject to abuse and addiction.
Taking too much Ativan at one time can cause dangerous levels of lorazepam to build up in your system, leading to a potentially severe drug overdose. Even after the effects of Ativan wear off, the drug can still be detected in your system for several days or weeks after the last use.
How Long Do the Effects of Ativan Last?
Ativan can be taken orally or injected. When taken orally, it is absorbed slowly and has an onset of between 15-30 minutes. Peak effects typically occur after 1.5-2 hours and can last for 12-24 hours.
When injected, the effects may appear within minutes and can last for several hours.
Side effects of Ativan include:
- Blurry vision
- Loss of coordination
- Stomach pain
- Daytime sleepiness
- Poor muscle coordination
- Loss of balance
- Low energy levels
Although the effects wear off within a day, the drug can be detected in your body for longer periods of time.
What is the Half-Life of Ativan?
Understanding a drug’s half-life is the first step to determining how long it will stay in your body. Half-life is a measurement of how long it takes half of a single dose of a substance to be metabolized and clear the body. On average, it takes 4-5 half-lives for a substance to leave the body completely.
Ativan has a half-life of about 12 hours, so it can take up to 60 hours for the average person’s body to clear a dose of Ativan. Although your body can clear lorazepam from the system in just 60 hours, the drug is broken down further in the liver into byproducts or metabolites that can remain in the system for even longer. For example, the breakdown product of Ativan has a half-life of about 18 hours, meaning certain drug tests can detect the drug in your body for over 90 hours.
Factors that Impact How Long Ativan (Lorazepam) Stays in Your System
Some people can clear Ativan and other drugs from their bodies faster than others. The elimination and detection time varies based on several different factors, including:
- Dose taken – Higher doses will take longer to be metabolized by the kidney and liver, allowing the drug to stay in the body longer.
- Frequency of use – People who use Ativan more often will take longer to clear it from their system compared to people who have only taken one or two doses.
- Age – Research indicates that older individuals metabolize lorazepam 20% slower than younger individuals.
- Weight – Individuals with a higher body mass index tend to eliminate Ativan from their bodies faster than those with lighter body weights.
- Method of administration – Ativan is usually taken via the mouth in tablet or liquid form, but it may also be injected. The route of administration may affect how long it stays in your body.
- Using Ativan with alcohol or other drugs – Polysubstance abuse can increase the amount of time it takes your body to process Ativan. For example, drinking while taking the medication can cause it to stay in your system longer because your liver is focused on metabolizing alcohol before anything else.
- Metabolism and overall health – Individual differences in metabolism and health, especially involving liver or kidney function, can slow down the rate at which drugs are metabolized. Liver impairment can affect how long Ativan stays in a person’s system by slowing down the rate at which it is metabolized.
How Long Can Ativan be Detected in the Urine, Blood, Saliva, and Hair?
Different types of drug tests have different detection windows, so some drug tests can only detect Ativan in your system for a couple of days while others, such as hair, can detect the drug for 30-90 days after your last dose. Estimated detection times for how long Ativan stays detectable in the body are as follows.
Ativan may show up in urine tests about two hours after your last use and for up to 3-6 days. Urine screening tests are the most widely used type of drug test.
Blood tests can detect Ativan 1-6 hours after you took the drug and can continue to detect it for 2-3 days.
Saliva tests can detect Ativan about 15 minutes after you take it and can continue to detect it for 8-10 hours.
Ativan may or may not show up on a hair test, but when it does, it can be detected for up to 30 days after the last time you used the drug.
False Positive Drug Testing for Ativan
There are a handful of medications that may cause a false positive for Ativan or other benzodiazepines on a drug test. These medications include:
- Sertraline (Zoloft) – A popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.
- Oxaprozin (Daypro) – A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is prescribed to treat pain and arthritis.
- Efavirenz (Sustiva) – An HIV antiviral that is used in combination with other drugs to slow the progress of HIV and prolong life in HIV-positive individuals.
If you take any of these medications as prescribed by a doctor and have to take a drug test, it’s important to inform the administrator of the test so they are prepared for a false positive to occur and can take the appropriate steps.
Find Help for Ativan (Lorazepam) Abuse and Addiction Today
If you’ve found yourself concerned about failing an upcoming drug test because you can’t stop taking Ativan, you may be struggling with benzodiazepine addiction. There is no way to speed up Ativan detoxification, and stopping cold turkey can be harmful to your health. Instead, you should consider asking for help for Ativan addiction.
Moving Mountains Recovery Center is a premier drug and alcohol rehab center in New Jersey that focuses on helping individuals create happy, fulfilling lives outside of substance abuse. Our dedicated team of addiction specialists can connect you with a top-dated drug detox center so you can detox safely before transitioning to our compassionate addiction treatment program. Then, we’ll guide you through recovery with support and understanding, until you’re ready to navigate sobriety on your own.
Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with a qualified admissions coordinator about starting treatment.
- N Ghiasi, R K Bhansali, R Marwaha, National Library of Medicine: Lorazepam, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532890/
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA): Drug Scheduling, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Ativan (Lorazepam) Tablets, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/017794s034s035lbl.pdf
- DailyMed: Lorazepam Tablets USP CIB, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=a0fbf748-b127-420b-8ad9-5e3e36f82568
- P Kintz, M Villain, V Cirimele, G Pepin, B Ludes, National Library of Medicine: Windows of detection of lorazepam in urine, oral fluid, and hair, with a special focus on drug-facilitated crimes, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15451084/