Using Ativan (Lorazepam) To Treat Alcohol Withdrawal During Detox

Ativan can be used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that develop when someone with an alcohol dependence stops drinking. Ativan works by acting on the central nervous system, and it may have some side effects.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Alcohol use disorder tends to lead to withdrawal symptoms once a person stops drinking.

Acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) usually lasts around two weeks and can include symptoms like tremors, intense pain, and seizures.

Ativan can help to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and even prevent life-threatening symptoms, like seizures, that may develop during severe alcohol withdrawal, including delirium tremens (DTs).

Ativan is a benzodiazepine, or “benzo” drug. Other benzos and medications used for withdrawal include diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), oxazepam, baclofen, clonidine, carbamazepine, and gabapentin.

How Ativan Helps Relieve Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

As an anticonvulsant and anxiety medication, Ativan can reduce the risk of seizures and help to calm people down during alcohol withdrawal.

The medication works by affecting certain neurotransmitters.

Affects Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps to calm the nervous system. Heavy alcohol consumption makes the brain reliant on alcohol to activate GABA.

When someone stops drinking, benzos like Ativan may be needed to enhance the effects of GABA and calm the body and mind.

Glutamate Sensitivity

Glutamate is another neurotransmitter that is thrown out of balance by alcohol addiction.

Glutamate has the opposite effect of GABA, working to excite the nervous system rather than calm it.

Glutamate is suppressed by both alcohol and benzos. During alcohol withdrawal, it may contribute to feelings of anxiety and panic. Benzos like Ativan affect glutamate to calm these symptoms.

Side Effects Of Using Ativan For Alcohol Detox

Though Ativan can be a helpful intervention for the management of alcohol withdrawal when taken under medical advice from healthcare providers, it can also cause side effects.

Disclaimers for Ativan include the following side effects.


Dizziness is a relatively common side effect of Ativan.

In some cases, it may lead to people falling over, which is one reason why inpatient treatment is always better than an outpatient setting for detox.


Weakness is a well-known side effect of Ativan. Weakness is also one of the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, which may make it difficult to tell the cause.

Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic acidosis refers to an imbalance of acid in the blood. In rare cases, Ativan use may contribute to this condition. Cases can range from mild to severe.

Ativan As Part Of An Intensive Alcohol Treatment Program

The use of benzodiazepines like Ativan can help manage mild to severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Substance use treatment requires a wide range of treatments to be successful.

After the detox process, addiction treatment can truly begin. Elements of alcohol treatment include medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and more.

A team of clinicians, addiction specialists, psychiatry experts, and more will come together to design a treatment plan that is right for you.

Find Drug And Alcohol Rehab Services At Bedrock Recovery Center

Are you or a loved one suffering from alcohol addiction? Bedrock Treatment Center can help.

We are a state-of-the-art addiction treatment center located just outside of Boston, MA. We specialize in inpatient detox and treatment programs.

If you’re ready to put addiction behind you, call our helpline today to learn more about our programs.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  2. National Library of Medicine
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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