Tapering off Ativan

Pile of white ativan pills on a blue counter

Tapering is when someone slowly takes less and less of a drug over time. An Ativan taper is a useful treatment tool for avoiding side effects that occur when Ativan use stops abruptly.

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

Risks of Abruptly Stopping Ativan

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

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

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

Without proper medical management, someone on Ativan has a high likelihood of developing dependence and addiction.

How to Taper off Ativan

Tapering Ativan should only be done with the help of medical supervision. People taking a legitimate Ativan prescription should speak with the prescribing physician about tapering their dose.

Those who are 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.

Dry Tapering

A dry taper is a method created by people on the internet to taper their Ativan slowly. The idea 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 weight 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.

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.

Micro-tapering

A micro taper is another tapering method. Micro-tapering is not supported by the medical community.

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 are hoping 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 it is not sterile. Additionally, there is no evidence supporting this method.

Tapering Strips

Tapering strips are only available by prescription and are not available in the United States.

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.

Ativan Taper Medications

Ativan is usually 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 to 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” symptoms of withdrawal 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 symptoms of withdrawal.

Ativan Taper Schedule

Each taper schedule will be different, depending on the needs of the person. In general, Ativan taper schedules are slow and the dose changes are low.

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

Anyone needing to taper off Ativan should always speak with their doctor because each person’s needs are different.

If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to Ativan, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment can help. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

National Center for PTSD. “Helping Patients Taper from Benzodiazepines.” 2015. Accessed September 18, 2019.

Oregon Pain Guidance. “Opioid Tapering Guidelines.” 2018. Accessed September 18, 2019.