How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

Every year, millions of benzodiazepine (benzo) prescriptions are filled across the country to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Of the many people who use benzos, be it as a part of treatment, self-medication, or recreational use, an estimated 44% become dependent on them at some point.

Because benzo prescriptions are so widespread, we are often blindsided by both the harmful side effects of long-term use and the devastating challenge of withdrawal. These drugs cloud the mind, making it difficult to hold on to jobs and relationships. They are also acutely harmful to the body, with evidence linking benzodiazepine addiction to permanent cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature death.

Withdrawing from benzo dependence is a complicated process regardless of whether you are phasing out of medical treatment or recovering from addiction. Detox programs in substance use treatment facilities like ours exist to make this process safe, comfortable, and permanent.

What Are Benzos?

As a category of drugs, the benzodiazepine family is relatively large and diverse. These central nervous system depressants are listed under Schedule IV of the controlled substances act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) but remain commonly prescribed, frequently misused, and unfortunately addictive.

When we talk about benzos, we are talking about dozens of different medications, each with their own characteristics and reasons for being prescribed.

The most common types of benzos are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Estazolam (Prosom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Midazolam (Versed)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Quazepam (Doral)

Benzos in the Body

Benzos are most frequently taken orally. They are lipophilic and pass easily beyond the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system. Here, they take effect quickly by interacting with specific brain cell proteins called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors.

These receptors are key chemical pathways that enable our nervous system to modulate its own activity. In the simplest terms, GABA is a neurotransmitter that produces sedative effects across our brain, reducing messages, physiological functions like heart rate, and anxiety. Benzos amplify the effects of GABA while they are in our bodies.

However, as with all foreign toxins, benzos don’t stay in your system forever. They are slowly processed out from the bloodstream by the liver and broken down into their component building blocks or metabolites.

For some types of benzos, breaking down the original chemical brings an end to its psychoactive effects. Still, others, such as diazepam, have active metabolites, which stretch out the period of influence.

Dependence and Withdrawal

Prolonged use or misuse of benzos can lead to chemical dependence – this means that the nervous system has adjusted its functioning to assume the presence of these drugs or their metabolites. Quitting benzo use in these cases can lead to the development of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Panic attacks
  • Deep muscle pains
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Loss of concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea and dry retching
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal ideation

Unlike some other drug abuse withdrawal syndromes, benzo detox symptoms do not simply taper off on their own. These symptoms come in waves that are difficult to predict and even harder to cope with.

Unassisted detox is risky. If you have reason to believe that you or a loved one has developed a physical dependence on any category of benzo drug, reach out to a qualified admissions representative at a licensed treatment center.

How Long Do Benzos Stay in Your System?

The different formulations of this type of drug were all created for various purposes, to treat very different symptoms, for example. Some start acting and climb towards peak levels almost immediately, while others slowly release and build up in the system over several days.

Because of this, there is no hard-and-fast rule for the length of time it takes for a dose to be entirely eliminated from a person’s system. However, you can make a broad estimate based on which subcategory (short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting) the specific drug you have been using falls into.

These subcategories are just descriptions of the biological half-lives of the various types of benzo. In other words, these categories describe the amount of time it takes for half of the initial dose of the drug to be eliminated naturally by the body in lab tests.

And what about the rest? Half-lives decay exponentially. This means that every time the initial half-life period passes by, the amount of the substance in your body cuts itself in half again. If the half-life of a drug is one hour, it would be down to 25% after two hours. However, for our intents and purposes, it takes about five half-lives for a benzo to be effectively eliminated.

Short-Acting Benzodiazepines

Short-acting benzos have the shortest half-life. These compounds take between one and 12 hours to be halfway eliminated by your body’s natural processes, while the most persistent of them takes up to four days to disappear completely.

The most common short-acting benzodiazepines include:

  • Triazolam (120 minutes)
  • Midazolam (two to six hours)
  • Alprazolam (six to 12 hours)
  • Oxazepam (four to 15 hours)
  • Temazepam (eight to 22 hours)

Intermediate-Acting Benzodiazepines

Because every individual metabolizes substances differently, intermediate-acting benzodiazepines are the vaguest to define. However, these sedatives normally take between 12 and 40 hours to decay by half and up to a week to be undetectable.

Common generic formulations include:

  • Bromazepam (10 to 20 hours)
  • Lorazepam (10 to 20 hours)

Long-Acting Benzodiazepines

The longest-acting benzodiazepines typically take up to two days to reach the first period of their half-life. After this, it can take two weeks for them to be fully eliminated.

Common versions include:

  • Clobazam (12 to 60 hours)
  • Clonazepam (18 to 50 hours)
  • Diazepam (20 to 100 hours)
  • Flurazepam (two point three hours, lasting metabolites 47 to 100 hours)

Complicating Factors

A few other factors complicate the length of time an actual drug and its metabolites stay in your system. The drug’s half-life in your body, as well as the ability of any specific screen to detect the substance, is affected by all of the following:

  • Dosage amount
  • Mode of ingestion
  • Age
  • Health status
  • Kidney function
  • Liver function
  • Gender
  • Body mass
  • Presence of other drugs
  • Other medical conditions

Drug Testing for Benzodiazepines

Being asked to undergo drug testing is an everyday fact of life here in the United States. The most frequent reason why is employment – many organizations ask new employees to attend their headquarters for drug detection as part of their intake process.

Court cases and other encounters with the legal system often require drug tests, particularly when they relate to child custody or parole. Involvement in athletic organizations and participation in some sports competitions might also demand drug tests as a prerequisite.

Types of Tests

Regardless of the reasons for testing, it is important to understand that benzos and their metabolites can be detected in many of these tests for some time after cessation. The timeframe for how long depends on the type of benzo (short, intermediate, or long-acting) and the type of test sample.

When the body metabolizes a drug, the molecules it breaks into then spread and remain throughout the body. Many organizations will employ more than one type of drug test because of the variability of detectability for different drugs in diverse samples.

Most people going through routine screening will only have to provide samples for a blood and/or urine test.

Benzo Detection in Urine Tests

Urine tests are among the least non-invasive and most cost-effective screening options. This type of test measures the metabolites filtered into the urine when the sample is collected.

Benzo formulations that set in quickly can be detectable in urine samples within minutes of taking a dose. After this, metabolites can lead to a positive result in samples taken up to two weeks of the last use in most cases.

In the most extreme cases (Valium, for example), a urine sample can test positive even one month after the last use. The exact time frame of each benzos detectability in urine is closely related to the half-life of the particular drug.

Occasionally, alprazolam, clonazepam, temazepam, and triazolam may appear as false negatives, but almost every type of benzo is easily screened for using a urine test.

Benzo Detection in Saliva Tests

Saliva testing is another standard and non-invasive procedure for drug screens. A Q-tip sample is taken from either inside the cheek or under the tongue to check for substance abuse.

Benzos of all types can be very accurately tested for in oral fluid in the first hours after use, but this effectiveness drops off quickly. Saliva screens are only accurate within the first two to three days after the cessation.

Benzo Detection in Hair Tests

Hair follicles absorb benzo metabolites as they grow, and this dead matter is capable of holding them for a long time after stopping. Hair tests can accurately determine drug use up to 90 days after use regardless of the elimination half-life of the substance taken. This makes hair testing one of the most effective forms of screening. However, it is also one of the least common.

A hair follicle does take some time to grow, so to test positive, benzo use has to start at least five days to a week before the test sample is provided.

Benzo Detection in Blood Tests

The final potential detection method is the blood test. Blood testing can detect benzos in a person’s system for up to 24 hours after their last use.

This is by far the most invasive type of detection and is generally avoided due to the higher associated discomfort and the narrow window associated with an accurate test. Benzodiazepines stay in your system for far longer than the period required for blood tests.

While they are not frequently used for routine screens, blood tests are occasionally called for in medical situations when an individual is impaired or unconscious to replace other types of drug screens.

Addiction Treatment for Benzodiazepines

If you or a loved one has been using benzos frequently for an extended period, quitting and weathering withdrawal is not easy alone. Benzos have the potential to stay in the body for weeks, leading to a protracted withdrawal period and uncomfortable, potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Sobriety from benzos is the best choice you can make for your long-term physical and mental health, and the process of quitting should not put anyone in danger.

Choosing to detox and receive professional addiction care in a licensed treatment facility allows you to stay safe during the crucial period and build the foundations for a successful recovery.

To find out more about addiction treatment, contact us today.

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Samantha Kelly​

Director of National Business Development & Admissions Coordinator

I am a dedicated and passionate professional with extensive experience in business development Admissions and marketing. I have an incredible passion for showing others that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel if someone truly wants it.
Being in recovery myself I understand the struggles of addiction and alcoholism. I Started this Career path in 2009. With multiple years of experience, I bring a multi-faceted approach and am always seeking new ways to make a difference in the lives of those I work with.

Kim L. Buckner

Facilitator

As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. He says he is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns

Clinician

Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
 
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine