How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Ativan (lorazepam) is a prescription medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine drug class. Ativan is often used to treat anxiety, but due to its potential for abuse and addiction, it is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance.

What Is Ativan Used For?

Ativan is FDA-approved for various anxiety disorders and anxiety associated with depression. Sometimes, a health care provider may prescribe Ativan for another use. However, this would be an off-label use, meaning it is not FDA-approved. Off-label uses can include treating or preventing seizures or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Health care professionals can also use Ativan off-label to help sedate patients.

How Long Does Ativan Take To Kick In?

Ativan generally begins working within two hours after taking a dose. However, certain factors can affect how quickly Ativan’s effects are felt. For example, if you take other medications or have eaten recently, Ativan may take more or less time to work.

How Long Does Ativan Last?

Generally, the effects of a dose of Ativan will last for approximately eight hours.

Ativan Effects

Because Ativan slows down the central nervous system, its effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Feeling unsteady
  • Being tired

Ativan Half-Life

A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for the body to metabolize and excrete half the drug. The half-life of Ativan is approximately 10 to 20 hoursCompared to short-acting benzos like Xanax (6+ hours half-life) and long-acting benzos like Valium (21+ hours), Ativan’s half-life lies in the middle.

How Long Does Ativan Take to Peak?

Ativan typically peaks after about two hours. This is the time when the concentration in the blood is highest and the strongest effect is felt.

How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

After being swallowed and entering the stomach, Ativan quickly reaches the bloodstream. Enzymes in the liver then convert Ativan to an inactive substance. In turn, this inactive substance is removed from the body, mainly in the urine.

Drugs typically remain in the system for five half-lives. Since the half-life of Ativan is 10 to 20 hours, it can take 50 to 100 hours for the drug to be eliminated from the system. However, its metabolites can remain in the body for much longer.

How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your Urine?

Ativan starts to show up in the urine about two hours after use, and it can be found in the urine for about three days. However, some studies have found the drug in urine after as long as six days. One study showed that the detection rate of Ativan in urine is higher than in saliva, which may be why urine tests are the most common way to test for Ativan.

Will Ativan Show Up on a Drug Test?

Most standard drug tests include benzodiazepines like Ativan. For this reason, it is important to notify the person (or employer) requesting the drug test and the person administering it if you have a valid prescription for this medication.

False Positives for Ativan

A few prescription drugs are known to give false positives on Ativan and benzo drug tests. These drugs include:

  • Tolmetin
  • Naproxen
  • Etodolac
  • Fenoprofen
  • Oxaprozin
  • Sertraline

A positive result will always be confirmed with liquid or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC-MS or GC-MS). These tests are very sensitive and specific and can measure the individual “fingerprint” of a drug.

Other Ativan Drug Test Detection Times

Ativan shows up in saliva about 15 minutes after use, and the amount of the drug peaks in saliva around this time. It can continue to show up in saliva for about 8 hours.

In blood, Ativan levels start to peak within one to six hours after use. The drug may show up in blood for several days after being taken.

Studies have shown that Ativan does not always show up in hair. When the drug does show up in hair, it tends to be at very low concentrations.

Factors Affecting How Long Ativan Stays in Your System

Several factors can impact how long Ativan stays in your body, including:

  • Amount used: The more Ativan you use, the longer it may take to leave the body.
  • Frequency of use: The more often you use Ativan, the longer it may take for the drug to work its way out of your body.
  • Method of use: Ativan is most often swallowed, but it can also be injected. Although the drug acts similarly whether you are taking it by mouth or by injection, there may be differences in how quickly your body gets rid of the drug.
  • Age: Some research has shown that the rate of Ativan clearance in older people goes down by about 20% compared with younger people. However, data is inconsistent about how much age matters in terms of how long the drug stays in your body.
  • Overall health: Someone in good health may be able to clear the drug quicker than someone in poor health.

Ativan Withdrawal

If you have been taking Ativan consistently, it is important not to abruptly stop taking the drug. Doing so can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms to occur. Symptoms of Ativan withdrawal include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Stomach or muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Unusual behaviors

Ativan Detox Timeline

There are many factors that can impact the Ativan detox timeline, including how much Ativan is used, how long it has been taken, use of other medications or the presence of alcohol dependence. Generally, there are three phases of Ativan detox.

Within one to four days of stopping Ativan, there is often “rebound” anxiety and insomnia. The second phase typically lasts 10 to 14 days, and this period is usually when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst. During this phase, symptoms can vary from mild headaches and difficulty sleeping to more serious symptoms like hallucinations, tremors or seizures. In the third and final phase, symptoms of anxiety may return and persist until another form of treatment begins.

Ativan Addiction

Ativan is classified as a Schedule IV prescription medication, meaning it carries a risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. It is also a depressant, meaning it works by slowing down signals between the brain and the body. Other depressants include alcohol, cannabis and heroin, and these substances can be particularly deadly if taken with benzodiazepines like Ativan.

Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly misused and misprescribed medications worldwide. In one study, researchers concluded that 12.5% of adults in the U.S. used benzodiazepines, but only 2.1% misused them and only 0.2% met the criteria for a benzodiazepine use disorder.

Signs of misuse or dependence can be nonspecific and may include changes in appearance or changes in behavior that affect relationships or work. Ativan abuse, dependence and addiction can be difficult to address alone, but professional Ativan addiction treatment can help.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Located a short drive from Portland, Seattle and surrounding cities, The Recovery Village Ridgefield aims to help curb addiction throughout Washington and Oregon. Our 80-bed facility sits on five acres of land and provides people with a safe environment that promotes lifelong recovery from addiction. We offer a full continuum of care that includes medical detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient care and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Now, we are also offering online counseling services so we can help make ongoing treatment more accessible.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse or addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Contact us today to learn more about benzodiazepine addiction programs that can work well for your situation.


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