Weaning Off Ativan (Lorazepam): Ativan Taper Schedule

Pile of white ativan pills on a blue counter

If you take Ativan (lorazepam) and are thinking about stopping, you may want to learn how to quit the drug safely. The first step in stopping Ativan is to discuss it with your doctor, who may recommend an Ativan taper to wean you off gently. Tapering is when someone slowly takes less and less of a drug over time. An Ativan taper schedule is a useful treatment tool for avoiding side effects that occur when Ativan use stops abruptly.

Risks of Stopping Ativan Cold Turkey

Ativan and other benzodiazepines are known to be some of the most difficult drugs to stop taking once someone develops a dependence on them. When dependence develops, the person’s body will struggle to adapt to the lack of the drug when they attempt to stop their drug use. Ativan dependence can develop as quickly as two to four weeks when taking Ativan daily. An Ativan taper reduces the severity of Ativan withdrawal symptoms that occur due to Ativan dependence.

Stopping Ativan without a taper can produce some of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Appetite loss
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping

Abruptly stopping Ativan can trigger cravings to take more of the drug. The cravings are usually in response to a person wanting to alleviate the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Without proper medical management, someone on Ativan has a high likelihood of developing an addiction to the drug.

How To Stop Taking Ativan Safely 

If you want to stop Ativan, you should only do so under medical supervision. This is because, without training, it can be tricky to stop the drug safely.

People taking a legitimate Ativan prescription should speak with the prescribing physician about tapering their dose. Those abusing Ativan illegally can seek the help of a drug rehab program. The goal of drug rehab is to make the detox experience as manageable and safe as possible for the person withdrawing.

Generally, stopping Ativan will involve a taper, slowly decreasing your Ativan dose over time until you can safely stop. 

Tapering Methods

Several Ativan tapering methods exist, including changing benzodiazepines, tapering strips, dry tapering and micro-tapering. 

Changing Benzodiazepines

Ativan is sometimes tapered with lower doses of Ativan. However, among benzodiazepines, Ativan has one of the shorter half-lives. A half-life is the amount of time it takes the body to remove half of a drug. For Ativan, 10–20 hours is enough to metabolize half the drug from the body. While this may seem like a long time, people dependent on Ativan may still experience some “breakthrough” withdrawal symptoms even with a slow taper.

Benzodiazepines with much longer half-lives can alleviate this problem, usually diazepam (Valium) or clonazepam (Klonopin). Benzodiazepines with long half-lives steadily metabolize from the body over several hundred hours, easing some withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering Strips

Tapering strips are only available by prescription and are not available in the U.S. A tapering strip is a tool that contains a daily taper schedule and smaller increments of the drug than are normally available from the manufacturer. Tapering strips allow an extra layer of control for the patient, who can make daily adjustments to their taper speed.

Dry Tapering

A dry taper is a method created by people on the internet to taper their Ativan slowly. This type of taper method is dangerous. Dry tapering is not supported by evidence or the medical community, and someone should always speak with their doctor about a different taper schedule instead of trying this method. 

The idea behind a dry taper is that some are more comfortable decreasing their dose in smaller increments that are not normally available. For example, a 1 mg tablet can be cut into quarters, yielding pieces with 0.25 mg each. Someone dry tapering might instead weigh their tablet and “shave” off enough to get 0.1 mg or 0.15 mg. A problem with this method is that Ativan may not be distributed evenly throughout the tablet, so shaving off 10% may only shave off “fillers” and not Ativan itself.

Micro-tapering

A micro taper is another tapering method found online that is not supported by the medical community and can be dangerous. For micro-tapering, a person slowly lowers the dose of Ativan themselves. They may do so by dissolving the medication in liquid to get doses that are not available normally. For example, a 1 mg tablet can only be safely cut into quarters (0.25 mg) before it begins to fall apart. By dissolving the tablet in liquid, people hope to split the taper into increments of 0.2 mg or smaller. Micro-tapering should be avoided because the liquid may interfere with the stability of the drug and is not sterile. Additionally, there is no evidence supporting this method.

Example Ativan Taper Schedule

Once you and your doctor have decided on a taper schedule, it will be individualized to your needs. This means everyone’s Ativan taper schedule will be different, depending on the person’s needs. Ativan taper schedules are generally slow with low dose changes.

For illustration purposes, here is an example taper schedule:

  • Week 1: 4 mg daily
  • Weeks 2 and 3: 3 mg daily (25% reduction)
  • Weeks 4 through 8: 2 mg daily (25% reduction)
  • Weeks 9 and 10: 1.5 mg daily
  • Weeks 11 and 12: 1 mg daily (25% reduction)
  • Weeks 13 and 14: 0.5 mg daily

Again, remember to always speak with your doctor before stopping Ativan. Each person’s needs are different, and recommended taper schedules can vary widely.

Find an Ativan Detox Center in Washington

It can seem overwhelming if you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to Ativan, but help is available. The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers a medical detox program that can help those addicted to Ativan withdraw safely from the substance. Detox time can differ but usually ranges from 5–10 days at our facility. 

Call to speak with a representative about how Ativan addiction treatment can help you or a loved one live a healthier life.

National Center for PTSD. “Helping Patients Taper from Benzodiazepines.” 2015. Accessed July 18, 2022. Oregon Pain Guidance. “Opioid Tapering Guidelines.” 2018. Accessed July 18, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer: 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.