Ativan is a commonly prescribed prescription drug that is used by millions of Americans for anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders. It is the brand name for the generic drug lorazepam. 

The medication has the potential to cause physical and psychological dependence and is commonly abused, so many employers include the medication in their drug screening protocols. 

If you use Ativan to manage your health but are curious about how long Ativan lasts in your system, we have all the information you need!

What is Ativan?

Ativan is a prescription tranquilizing drug that is sometimes referred to as a sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic medication.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Ativan for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, but it is most well-known for the treatment of anxiety.

Ativan belongs to a family of drugs called benzodiazepines, which also includes anti-depressant and mental health medications like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. 

How long does Ativan stay in your system?

Ativan is a relatively fast-acting benzodiazepine that starts working quickly to treat symptoms of anxiety associated with anxiety disorders.

Most patients start to feel the effects of the medication within 15 to 30 minutes of taking the drug, and the medication reaches its peak effects about an hour to an hour and a half after the dose is taken. 

Effects of the medication typically last between 8 and 12 hours for most patients, and the half-life of Ativan is 12 hours.

Therefore, the amount of Ativan in your body will decrease by half every 12 hours.

How long can Ativan be detected?

The length of time that Ativan can be detected in the body by a drug test varies depending on a number of factors, including the type of drug screening test that is performed. 

What factors determine how long Ativan stays in your system?

There are a number of different factors that influence how long Ativan lasts in your system and how long it can be detected by the different types of drug tests. 

These factors include:

  • Dosage of the medication used and how often it is taken
  • Biological factors such as height and weight, age, and kidney health
  • Use of other substances

Patients who take higher doses of Ativan take longer to metabolize the medication, and more frequent doses of the medication impact the absorption time of the drug.

Patients who take Ativan regularly at higher doses will have the medication last at detectable levels for a longer period of time than other patients.

Biological factors such as your height, weight, and age also play a role in how quickly your body eliminates Ativan.

Shorter, lighter people eliminate the drug more slowly than people who are taller or heavier, and older people also eliminate the drug more slowly in general due to a slower metabolism and decreased kidney function.

Using other substances, including alcohol and opioids, can change the way that Ativan is processed by the body.

Studies show that alcohol slows the rate at which Ativan is metabolized by as much as 18 percent.

The drug will take longer to kick in when consumed with alcohol, but the effects will last longer and the medication will be detectable in your system for a longer period of time.

Are there any side effects associated with Ativan?

Side effects for Ativan are generally divided into three categories and include common, less common, and serious side effects.

Common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness

Less common side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depression
  • Restlessness

Serious or life-threatening side effects of Ativan include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychological and physical dependence
  • Serious allergic reaction (antihistamines may be needed)
  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory failure

Be on the lookout for signs of psychological and/or physical dependence on Ativan, Ativan addiction or substance abuse, or signs of Ativan withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms of dependence may include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches
  • Depression 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vomiting 

If you experience an allergic reaction to Ativan, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, or face
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing


Most patients will feel the effects of Ativan for up to 12 hours, but the drug remains detectable in your system for much longer.

Depending on the type of testing that is performed, Ativan can be detectable for up to 30 days. 

Long-term use or short-term use of Ativan can lead to antidepressant withdrawal, with the intensity of the withdrawal depending on the amount of time you’ve been using the drug.

You should only stop Ativan under the supervision of a medical professional, who can aid in detox through outpatient or inpatient treatment. 

Ativan is a schedule IV drug, meaning there is a risk of habit-forming benzo substance abuse. Seek addiction treatment if you believe your substance use has led to Ativan dependence. 

Consult a healthcare provider for medical advice on whether Ativan is right for you. 

References, Studies and Sources:

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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