How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System? North Jersey Recovery Center - A man is sitting in bed taking another dose of his benzodiazepines to achieve the effect he first had when he initially took the medication for his anxiety.

How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

Last Updated: Mar 17th 2021

Reviewed by Laura Riley

Many individuals want to know: “How long do benzodiazepines stay in your system?” They might want to know so they avoid taking too much and possibly overdosing. Or, they might need to know because they take other medications that could become dangerous if combined with benzos. Then there are those who might be taking them recreationally and want to know in order to pass a drug test.

Regardless of the reason, knowing how long benzos stay in your system can be the difference between life and death. Let’s take a look at what benzodiazepines are, how they work, how long they stay in the system, and how you can get help for benzodiazepine addiction.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Before we talk about the effects of benzos, it’s important to understand what exactly they are. Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that is typically obtained by a doctor’s prescription. They tend to be prescribed in order to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and, in some cases, even insomnia. Common benzos include:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Libirum
  • Etazolam
  • Restoril

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

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When a person takes a benzodiazepine drug, it creates a calm and relaxing effect in their brain. That’s because the benzo attaches itself to the GABA receptors, thus calming brain activity. By calming the brain, it can reduce the feeling of anxiety or panic, allowing the brain and body to relax.

In addition to its relaxing and calming effects, there are other possible side effects that are commonly associated with benzodiazepines. These include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Impaired coordination
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems

Prolonged use of benzodiazepines can lead to dependence, addiction, and, in extreme cases, overdose and death. Overdose can occur when taking too much of the substance for an extended period of time, or when it is combined with other substances that also slow down the central nervous system, such as opioids.

That’s why it is so important to take benzodiazepines only as medically directed. If you have been prescribed any medications, it is important to remember the following:

  • Take your prescription only as medically directed and follow the directions on the bottle.
  • Ask your doctor what you should do in the event that you miss taking a dose. 
  • Let your doctor know of any other medications, vitamins, or supplements you may be taking.

What Affects How Long Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

Now that we have talked about what they are and how they work, it’s time to address how long benzodiazepines stay in your system. The biggest factor is the type of benzo that you take. There are short-acting, medium-acting, and long-acting benzodiazepines and all of them stay in your system for different amounts of time. 

Xanax is the longest-acting of all the benzos. If you were to take a Xanax, peak levels would occur in your blood about 1-2 hours after taking it. The typical half-life for an average adult is around 11 hours. This means that approximately 11 hours after taking a Xanax, half the drug has been eliminated from your system.

In order to clear approximately 98% of the drug from your system, it would take 5 half-lives or approximately 55 hours. That means, for an average adult, it could take anywhere from 2 to 4 days for just 1 dose of Xanax to be completely eliminated from your system. 

As far as how long it can stay in your urine for a drug test, those numbers tend to differ. For a short-acting benzodiazepine, it could show up in a urine test for up to four days. It can show up in a blood test for up to 24 hours and in saliva for up to two and a half days. A longer-acting benzodiazepine could show up in a drug test even longer.

Are There Additional Factors That Contribute to How Long Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

In addition to the type of drug you take, there are other factors that can play a key role in how long a benzo drug can stay in your system. Some of these factors include:

  • Age Typically, the younger you are, the healthier you are. You are also less likely to be on multiple medications. This can mean that your body may eliminate benzodiazepines faster than someone older. While the average half-life for Xanax is around 11 hours in healthy, young adults, it can go up to 16 hours in seniors.
  • Alcohol Use – If you combine benzo drugs with alcohol, it can lead to fatal consequences. It can also take longer for the drug to leave your system.
  • Ethnicity – Some ethnic backgrounds have demonstrated longer elimination times for drugs. 
  • Organ Problems – Organs, especially the liver, play an important role in eliminating substances like benzodiazepines. If you have a condition such as chronic liver disease, it’s harder for your body to break down and eliminate certain substances.
  • Weight – If you’re overweight or have a higher percentage of body fat, it’s harder for your body to break down substances, including benzodiazepines, leading to a longer half-life.
  • Metabolism – If you have a higher metabolism or are physically active, you may see that benzodiazepines stay in your system for a shorter time period.
  • Frequency and Duration of Usage – If you frequently use benzodiazepines, your body can take longer to eliminate the substances in your system.

Getting Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction

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If you are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, you aren’t alone. There are treatment programs available for people of all ages and all levels of addiction.

The first step in the treatment process is medical detox. In order to truly recover from benzodiazepine addiction, you must first rid yourself of not just the benzos but all harmful substances in your system. During medical detox, your symptoms can be safely managed in a controlled environment by a trained medical professional. Detox can be done at either a hospital or medical facility, a dedicated detox facility, or a treatment center that also offers detox services such as North Jersey Recovery Center. Attempting to self-detox can be dangerous and even life-threatening. 

Following medical detox, the next step is to begin addiction treatment. This can be done by entering either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Determining the type of program that is best for you depends on the severity of your addiction and any other addictions to other substances. If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, you might need a more intensive treatment program, such as inpatient rehab.

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we offer a wide variety of treatment programs. Some of the treatment programs that we offer include:

No matter what treatment program you enroll in, you will have a team of compassionate and trained professionals who create personalized treatment plans for you and your needs. Following treatment, you should have plans for relapse prevention during your recovery. This might include having a recovery coach or participating in 12-step programs regularly.

Getting Treatment for Benzo Abuse and Addiction

When answering the question of how long benzos stay in your system, it’s important to consider the following:

  • You can expect a half-life of five hours or less for ultra short-acting benzodiazepines.
  • Short- and intermediate benzodiazepines have a half-life ranging from 5 to 24 hours.
  • Long-acting benzodiazepines have half-lives that are 24 hours or more.

To learn more about caring and effective addiction treatment programs, call North Jersey Recovery Center today. We will answer any questions you may have and provide you with information about program options. We can also verify your insurance coverage and work with you each step of the way for admissions and during treatment and recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.

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