How to Stop Ativan Cravings, Prevent Relapse and Find Help
Ativan (lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication used for the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks and seizures. Ativan dependence is typically accompanied by cravings for the drug, which may persist long after a person has completed addiction treatment.
Ativan Cravings Signs and Symptoms
Ativan cravings can have both physical and psychological components.
Long-term use of Ativan creates physical changes in the brain. When the brain becomes reliant on the drug to function normally, cravings may occur as soon as the person stops using. Cravings are typically at their worst during the initial withdrawal period. Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, so users crave the drug to ease symptoms.
Some of the physical symptoms that may accompany Ativan cravings are: 1,2,3
- Trembling and shaking.
- Muscle spasms.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Loss of appetite.
Cravings can also occur due to the psychological addiction to Ativan. People may use Ativan in certain situations such as social activities or stressful times. Environmental triggers can induce cravings in recovering users who haven’t used Ativan in months or even years.
The psychological symptoms that may accompany Ativan cravings include: 1,2,3
- Fear and apprehension.
- Feeling anxious.
- Being easily distracted.
- Thinking about using.
Treatments for Ativan Cravings
Properly managing cravings is an important part of maintaining sobriety after recovering from Ativan addiction. Many coping techniques and therapies are available to deal with cravings and help avoid relapse. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques: Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be used to cope with Ativan cravings. Some common CBT techniques include examining the consequences of continued Ativan use, self-monitoring, identifying situations that might lead to cravings and developing strategies for coping with cravings. 4,5
- Self-talk: Self-talk consists of using logic and reason to combat your cravings. When you feel an urge to use, remind yourself why using would be a bad idea. If it helps, you can have a script prepared and read it to yourself when you have a craving.
- Memory reconsolidation: Memory reconsolidation is a relatively new form of treatment for drug cravings. It consists of reducing the strength of drug-associated memories that may arise due to environmental cues and trigger cravings for the drug. 6
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a practice of cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and environment. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) trains recovering users to recognize the early warning signs of relapse, develop coping skills, and increase acceptance and tolerance of cravings instead of fighting against them. 7
- Urge surfing: Urge surfing consists of complete acceptance and awareness of a craving. When you feel a craving coming on, find a place where you can sit comfortably, close your eyes and observe your thoughts and sensations. Describe to yourself what you are experiencing. Next, pick one area of your body where you are experiencing the craving, focus on what you are feeling and continue to describe the sensations to yourself to keep your mind from wandering. Continue to move throughout your body, describing the sensations until they inevitably pass away.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, visualization, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can all be used to combat Ativan cravings. 8
- Sleep hygiene: For those who used Ativan as a means of combating insomnia, practicing good sleep hygiene can help you reduce Ativan cravings and prevent relapse. Good sleep hygiene entails keeping a routine sleep schedule every day; using your bed only for sleep and sex; engaging in a relaxing activity before bed; keeping the room dark; avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine; and using relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep. 9
Addiction Recovery Centers
While the techniques mentioned above can be helpful, it can still be incredibly difficult to resist the urge to use. If you are experiencing strong cravings and are concerned about the possibility of relapse, seek professional help as soon as possible. Treatment options that are available for Ativan addiction and relapse prevention include:
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment usually consists of some combination of individual and group therapy, counseling, 12-step programs, support groups, medically assisted detox, education, recreational activities and possibly other alternative treatments. Treatment takes place in a residential center on a 24/7 basis. Inpatient rehab is highly structured and contact with the outside world is limited so that people can focus on recovery. People may reside in an inpatient treatment center for 30 to 90 days on average, though some people may stay months or years in severe cases.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is more affordable than most inpatient treatment and is more likely to be covered by insurance plans. This type of treatment is also ideal for those who wish to carry on with their personal and professional lives while in a rehab program. Treatment takes place a few hours per week and includes many of the same type of services offered in inpatient rehabs.
- Individual therapy: Individual therapy helps people addicted to Ativan address their reasons for abusing the drug in the first place. Therapy helps users learn to cope with stressors and triggers as well as treat the symptoms of any co-occurring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and insomnia.
- Group counseling: Group counseling is a powerful recovery tool that allows people recovering from addiction to witness the recovery of others and feel less isolated.
- 12-step programs: Twelve-step programs are free support programs that help users recover from addiction using an outlined course of action with the support of peers and a sponsor.
Medications Used to Curb Ativan Cravings
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medications for the treatment of Ativan addiction and cravings. Instead, behavioral therapies are primarily used. However, your physician may prescribe you non-habit-forming medications to help combat symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia.
How to Stop Cravings Naturally
There are many effective ways to curb cravings naturally without the use of drugs. These include:
- Nutrition: People with addictions are more likely to give in to cravings and relapse if they eat a poor diet. Eating a balanced diet not only helps make withdrawal symptoms less severe, but it also helps improve overall mental and physical health, which makes a person far less likely to use drugs. 10
- Exercise: Several studies have provided evidence that exercise can help reduce drug use. 11 Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes each day can help you stay healthy and reduce cravings.
- Hobbies: Hobbies are a great way to keep you occupied and distract yourself from cravings. Engaging in activities that you enjoy also will promote overall wellbeing, which makes people less likely to want to use drugs. Some examples of hobbies include dancing, playing an instrument, athletics, arts and crafts, cooking, carpentry and sewing.
- Meditation: As mentioned previously, meditation can be an effective method for dealing with cravings. A simple 10-minute daily meditation practice can also help promote feelings of inner peace and acceptance.
Cravings and Relapse
According to research, approximately 70% of people recovering from substance abuse will relapse within 1 year of initial treatment. 11 To help maintain sobriety and avoid relapse, those in recovery should be aware of the common relapse warning signs, such as:
- Associating with old friends: It’s common to miss your old friends, but spending time with people you misused Ativan with is one of the easiest ways to relapse. You might think that you can spend time around these people without using, but the triggers often are too intense and many people end up relapsing.
- Stopping attendance at recovery meetings: If you are no longer attending support groups or 12-step meetingsv, you may be headed for relapse. Ongoing attendance at recovery meetings is an important part of maintaining sobriety.
- Major life events: Major life events that cause stress, anxiety and grief can often lead to a relapse. These events include divorce, loss of a loved one, the diagnosis of a serious mental or physical health condition, getting fired from a job or moving to a new place. If you experience a major life event, seek extra support to maintain your sobriety.
- Isolating yourself from friends and family: If you are spending more time alone and avoiding friends and family, you may be more likely to relapse. Maintaining an active social life with healthy interpersonal relationships is an important part of the recovery process.
- Romanticizing drug-using days: If you often reflect on your days of Ativan use with a sense of nostalgia, remembering all the fun you had, you may forget about the negative consequences and be tempted to relapse.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Relapse prevention strategies help you maintain your sobriety over the long-term. Some strategies include:
- Following up with aftercare: Recovery does not end after initial treatment, and ongoing aftercare is crucial to avoiding relapse. Types of aftercare include 12-step meetings, sober housing and individual and group therapy. Some people may also enroll in relatively short, formally conducted outpatient rehabilitation programs when they’re experiencing challenges to their ongoing recovery efforts.
- Attending support groups regularly: Attending support groups can help you process your feelings, cope with drug cravings and empathize and connect with others who are going through similar struggles.
- Building a solid support system: People are less likely to relapse when they have a solid support system of friends and family they can count on in times of need. Cultivate and nurture relationships with people who do not use drugs to help prevent relapse.
- Getting a sponsor: A sponsor is a sober person who is also a recovering addict. This person is available for you to call when you have a craving. Many support groups and 12-step programs will help set you up with a sponsor.
Find a Recovery Center
If you or someone you know is having a hard time quitting Ativan or is in danger of relapsing, call one of our recovery support specialists at . They can help you find a treatment program that is right for you.
. Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Ativan: Medication Guide.
. Mol, A., Oude, V., et. al. (2007). The role of craving in relapse after discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(12):1894-900
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2010). Protracted Withdrawal. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory: News for the Treatment Field, Volume 9, Issue 1.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Treating Addiction to CNS Depressants.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide.
. Torregrossa, M. & Taylor, J. (2013). Learning to Forget: Manipulating Extinction and Reconsolidation Processes to Treat Addiction. Psychopharamacology (Berl) 226(4): 659-72.
. Bowen, S. et al. (2009). Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Substance Use Disorders: A Pilot Efficacy Trial. Substance Abuse 30(4):295-305.
. Ehrlich, S. (September 24, 2013). Relaxation Techniques. University of Maryland Medical Center.
. Williams, A. & Carey, M. (2003). Sleep Hygiene: Several Methods to Improve Your Sleep. University of Michigan Health System.
. Berger, F. (2014). Diet and Substance Abuse Recovery. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
. Smith, M. & Lynch, W. (2011). Exercise as a potential treatment for drug abuse: Evidence from preclinical studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2:82