How Long Does Ativan (Lorazepam) Stay in Your System?
In This Article
What is Ativan?
Ativan (generic name lorazepam) is a medication belonging to the class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Its primary use is to treat anxiety. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that slow down brain activity.
FDA-approved uses for Ativan include:
- Short-term relief of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders
- Anxiety-associated insomnia
- Anesthesia premedication in adults to relieve anxiety or produce sedation
Off-label uses of Ativan include:
- Tranquilization of an agitated person under medical supervision
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Panic disorder
- Chemotherapy-linked nausea and vomiting
- Psychogenic catatonia1
Benzodiazepines work by binding to a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and increasing its activity. This increases the inhibitory effects of GABA, leading to overall decreased brain activity.
Ativan works by binding to a specific subtype of GABA receptor, the GABAA receptor.
How Long Is Ativan Effective in the Body?
Ativan remains at full strength for about six to 10 hours. After that, there are still effects but they are less powerful.
Half-life is the time it takes for a drug to reduce its original concentration by half (through excretion or metabolism) in someone’s bloodstream.
Ativan’s half-life ranges between 10 and 20 hours, with most people experiencing a significant decrease in the drug’s effect around hour 12. This varies from person to person, often based on their tolerance to the drug.
It takes five half-lives before a drug is gone from the body. This means it takes about 60 to 100 hours for the body to clear a dose of Ativan.
Additionally, the body’s liver breaks the drug down into a metabolite. This byproduct has a half-life of 18 hours, which means it stays in the body for about 90 hours.
False Positive Tests
A drug test can produce a false positive for Ativan. This is true for urine tests and blood tests.
In many cases, a false positive is linked to the use of another prescription drug. A few prescription drugs known to trigger false positives on Ativan and benzodiazepine drug tests include:
- Oxaprozin (NSAID pain medication)
- Sertraline (mood medication)
- Efavirenz (HIV drug)
Speak to a medical professional or the drug testing facility if you’re concerned that a drug test might falsely detect Ativan.
Keep in mind that Ativan is a legal prescription drug. In most cases, the presence of the drug in your system wouldn’t be a problem on a work-related drug test if they are aware you are prescribed and taking Ativan.
However, circumstances vary. If you get drug tested because of substance abuse, Ativan’s presence could be problematic. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Factors that Affect How Long Ativan Stays in Your System
How long Ativan stays in your system depends on various factors, including:
Individual Bodily Function
This includes metabolism, kidney function, overall health, age, weight, and tolerance.
Older people tend to metabolize drugs slower because their metabolisms are slower.
People who weigh more tend to eliminate Ativan faster than those who weigh less.
Chronic users of Ativan, especially those who take higher doses, tend to eliminate the drug more slowly than infrequent users.
Other factors that affect the elimination of Ativan include:
- Other drugs you’re taking
- Your hydration level
- Whether or not you’ve eaten and what you ate
Ativan remains detectable via drug testing in:
- Urine for up to 6 days
- Blood for up to 3 days
- Saliva for up to 8 hours
- Hair for up to 30 days or longer
Can You Overdose on Ativan?
Yes, it’s possible to overdose on Ativan. It most often occurs when someone mixes Ativan with alcohol or opiate medications. Mixing these medications can be deadly.
Symptoms of an Overdose
The symptoms of an overdose of Ativan include:
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficult or slowed breathing
You should call 911 if you or a loved one is taking Ativan or is suspected of taking this medication and is experiencing any of these symptoms.
How to Get Ativan Out of Your System
You should never stop taking Ativan without your doctor’s instruction and supervision.
Frequent users of Ativan can develop a physical dependence on the drug. This means they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug. Addiction treatment could be necessary for those abusing Ativan.
It’s important to speak to your doctor before you stop taking Ativan regardless if you’re misusing or abusing the drug. A doctor will help you prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
One of the most important things you can do to help with the withdrawal process is to stay hydrated. This also speeds up the excretion of the drug from your body.
Ativan is a benzodiazepine approved for treating anxiety and seizure disorders. The drug remains fully active in the system for up to 10 hours and can remain in the body for a week or more.
Various factors affect how long the drug stays in someone’s system and how long it’s detectable in urine screening tests. It’s possible to overdose on Ativan. Overdose can be fatal. The risk is exacerbated when Ativan is mixed with other drugs.
Ativan is addictive and may cause physical dependence. Users shouldn’t stop taking the drug without consulting their doctor or seeking medical help.
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- Ghiasi, Noman, et al. “Lorazepam.” PubMed, 2022.
- NAMI. “Lorazepam (Ativan) | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness,” 2020.
- Bandelow, Borwin, et al. “Treatment of Anxiety Disorders,” PubMed, 2017.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids,” 2022.