Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. Less frequently, it is also used to treat agoraphobia and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax slows down the nervous system, producing a calm, relaxed feeling.
Generally, Xanax begins to work within an hour of consumption. But how long does it stay in your system? Find out here.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax, like all benzodiazepines, works by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. A neurotransmitter, GABA decreases nerve impulses throughout the body, which causes sedation, relaxation, and anti-anxiety effects.
Often, Xanax works quickly, with some people experiencing effects within minutes. However, symptoms of GAD, panic disorder, and agoraphobia usually alleviate within hours or days of the first dose.
In addition to the above, Xanax can induce side effects such as:
- Deep sleep
- Visual, auditory, and sensory hallucinations
- Increased sex drive
- Detachment from yourself or your body
- Lack of feeling or emotion
As a result of these effects and because Xanax is fast-acting and reaches peak blood concentration in one to two hours, many people abuse the substance to experience a high or self-medicate.
People who consume Xanax heavily build a tolerance to the effects of the drug, including feelings of euphoria, causing it to be misused. Xanax can be habit-forming and highly addictive if used long-term, so it is often only prescribed as a short-term treatment.
Xanax relieves anxiety and is popular among those looking to self-medicate. However, when taken without the advice of a healthcare professional, physical dependence can develop quickly as a person’s tolerance to Xanax rapidly builds. Because of this, some people sadly take 20 to 30 pills each day.
Across the United States, Xanax addiction is on the rise, especially in people under 30. It is estimated that 70% of teens with an addiction to Xanax obtain the drug from their family’s medicine cabinet. This is not surprising considering Xanax is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States.
What Is the Average Half-Life of Xanax?
The half-life of a drug refers to the length of time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the plasma or the total amount in the body to reduce by 50%.
The half-life of Xanax can range from nine to 16 hours, averaging at 12 hours, meaning that half of the drug is metabolized and eliminated from the urine in that time frame. This means that the average time it takes to eliminate Xanax from the system is four days.
However, several factors can influence how long this takes. When considering how long Xanax can stay in your system, it is also important to remember that Xanax can show up on a drug test for much longer, depending on what kind of test is done.
How Long Can You Detect Xanax in Your System?
Healthy adults will naturally eliminate Xanax from their bodies within four days. However, several factors can influence how long Xanax may stay in your system, such as:
- Your age, weight, and height. Your body type can affect how long it takes your body to process Xanax and, therefore, how long the drug stays in your system.
- Frequency of use. The more often you use Xanax, the more pressure you put on your liver and kidneys, ultimately slowing the detoxification process.
- Liver and kidney function. Good kidney and liver function will help excrete Xanax faster.
- Metabolic rate. If you have a slower metabolism, it will take longer to remove all traces of Xanax from your body.
- Consumption of other substances. Consuming certain medications will slow the detox process.
- Dosage. The amount of Xanax you take will determine how long it stays in your system. The more you take, the longer Xanax stays in your body.
Types of Drug Tests
How long Xanax can be seen in a drug test depends on the type of test you do. The most common tests for Xanax are urine tests, hair tests, saliva tests, and blood tests.
People are required to complete drug tests for a variety of reasons. However, they are most commonly used as part of a compliance program for people with drug use disorders, in the case of a suspected overdose, or as a condition of accepting a job offer.
Urine tests are the most commonly used form of drug screening as they can test for all prescription and illegal drugs. They can also test for multiple substances in the same sample, including cocaine, benzos, and marijuana.
Urine screening can detect Xanax for five to seven days after the last dose.
Blood tests can detect everything that urine testing can, but they generally cost more. As they have a lower window of detection, they are less common. However, blood tests can detect Xanax for one to six days after the last use.
Hair testing can detect Xanax, in addition to multiple other substances, for up to 90 days. In a hair test, hair follicles are removed from the body and tested in a lab.
While there is a significant detection window, hair testing cannot measure how much Xanax a person has taken. The justice system generally uses this type of test to test for chronic drug use.
Saliva tests are low-cost, and the results are immediate. A swab is taken from your mouth to extract oral fluid, which determines if you have used drugs in the past three to 48 hours. Saliva tests can detect Xanax for up to two and a half days after the last consumption.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
If you abuse Xanax and wish to stop it, you will need to complete detoxification. As with all drug addiction treatment, detoxification should be done slowly and with medical supervision.
If you intend to stop taking Xanax, seek professional medical advice, as the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. For example, if you abruptly stop consuming Xanax cold turkey, your body may go into a form of shock called acute withdrawal.
Upon seeking treatment, you will be tapered gradually off Xanax, and a medication, such as a longer-acting benzodiazepine that provides the same effects, will be substituted temporarily to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This process can take up to six weeks.
Usually, those who have developed a physical dependence on Xanax experience the most severe withdrawal symptoms, which can begin just hours after the last dose. They generally peak in severity within one to four days.
During withdrawal, you might experience:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
Detox and Recovery
Detoxification from Xanax should happen slowly and with inpatient help. Both physical and psychological dependency must be addressed in such a program. The goal of treatment is to support you in overcoming your addiction.
During treatment, you will also have the opportunity to address other underlying conditions, such as anxiety or depression, as well as substance use disorders.
Treatment for anxiety, panic disorders, or any other mental illness contributing to Xanax abuse often includes therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of therapy for benzodiazepine addiction. CBT involves working with a therapist to develop healthy coping strategies.
NPAC is one of the country’s leading addiction treatment and detox centers. If you require support detoxing from Xanax or seeking addiction treatment, call us today.