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Lorazepam Withdrawal: Symptoms & Timeline

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Lorazepam is classified as a benzodiazepine and used to help treat conditions like anxiety and seizure disorders. Read this lesson to learn the symptoms of withdrawal when lorazepam is taken more than prescribed and is abruptly stopped.

A Sudden Stop

Alex, a student at a local university, is struggling to adapt to the changes of college life. Finding it difficult to effectively manage a demanding schedule, he began taking lorazepam to help manage his anxiety and stress. Lorazepam, a powerful benzodiazepine, reduces anxiety by decreasing the amount of activity in the nerves that causes excitement. Also used to treat seizure disorders and muscle rigidity, lorazepam can have a positive impact on several medical and psychological conditions when used appropriately.

Now that Alex has been taking lorazepam heavily for several months, he begins to feel less anxious and more level-headed. Feeling better, he decides to stop taking the lorazepam. He chooses not to consult with his doctor before stopping the medication because he is abusing the drug by taking more than prescribed.

Lorazepam Withdrawal

Through abuse of the medication over time, Alex's body is now dependent on the drug. This means that his body has changed the way natural chemicals and hormones are produced and used to react to stress. Now that he has stopped taking the lorazepam, Alex may begin to feel ill and possibly require medical attention while his body adjusts back to normal. These feelings and symptoms that he is experiencing are known as the withdrawal process.

Timeline

Withdrawal from lorazepam normally begins within three to four days after stopping the medication, however, early and initial symptoms are likely to start within the first day without the drug. Alex stopped taking the medication yesterday, and now begins to feel some initial symptoms of withdrawal.

Acute Stage

Alex begins to feel unusually ill and visits the health clinic on campus. Fearing that he may be experiencing withdrawal from abruptly stopping the lorazepam, he admits this information to the medical provider. Immediately, he is screened for the following symptoms of initial or acute withdrawal:

  • Tremors, shaking
  • Palpitations, abnormal heart beat or fluttering of the heart
  • Headache
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting with abdominal cramps
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Cravings

Only having abdominal cramps, headache, and mild tremors, Alex is sent back to his dormitory to get some rest. In rare but severe cases, seizures may result from lorazepam withdrawal, and Alex is instructed to return to the clinic if his symptoms change or become worse. Acute withdrawal symptoms may last for three to four days.

Prolonged Stage

Before he leaves, the physician explains that Alex may continue to experience a prolonged stage of withdrawal, also known as protracted withdrawal. Occurring after the initial acute stage, protracted withdrawal may last as long as two weeks. Symptoms of this stage generally include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression and lack of interest
  • Lethargy or tiredness
  • Continued difficulties sleeping

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