How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System? – Xanax is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine that has an average half-life of about 12 hours (between 9-16 hours). Most users, on average, will eliminate the drug from their system after around four days. “Half-life” refers to the amount of time that it takes your body to clear half of a drug from the system.
Several factors can affect how long Xanax stays in a person’s system, including the following:
- Height and weight
- Liver and kidney function
- Metabolic rate
- Urinary pH
- Presence of other substances
- Frequency of use
How Long Does Xanax Last?
Xanax is not a particularly long-lasting drug, as the effects last for about four hours. While the average half-life of Xanax is about 12 hours, the medication is no longer effective in the system after four hours. For this reason, people who are prescribed Xanax may have to take it several times a day, depending on the doctor’s directions and severity of symptoms.
Uses for Xanax
Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription benzodiazepine (benzo) and central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It is commonly used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, muscle tension, and seizures. Xanax is specifically indicated for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder.
GAD is hallmarked by persistent and excessive worry about everyday life, the anticipation of disastrous outcomes, uneasiness, irritability, sleep disturbances, and muscle tension.
Panic disorder is related to anxiety and occurs when a person experiences sudden panic attacks. These attacks are often accompanied by a range of terrifying symptoms, including feelings of impending doom, changes in heart rate, sweating, shaking, chest pain, derealization and depersonalization, and a fear of losing control or dying.
Effects of Xanax
Xanax, like all benzos, works by enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA, a neurotransmitter, reduces nerve impulses throughout the body, inducing sedation, relaxation, and relief of anxiety. Xanax becomes effective rapidly, often inducing the desired effects within minutes, and it begins to relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic within hours of the first dose.
Why People Abuse Xanax
Xanax has often been a popular choice for people with substance use disorders or people without prescriptions who are seeking to self-medicate for various psychoemotional difficulties. Xanax can induce many pleasant and sought-after effects, including feelings of relaxation and euphoria, detachment from reality, and deep sleep.
These effects can drive some people to experiment with Xanax for recreational purposes for the high feelings it can provide. And because Xanax also reaches peak blood concentration in 1-2 hours and has a short half-life, this allows potential abuses to take it repeatedly and in rapid succession.
Xanax Use Disorders
As with many substance use disorders, people who use Xanax initially do so either out of curiosity or via recommendation from another. To obtain it, those without prescriptions must know someone who does or purchase it on the black market.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half (55%) of non-medical users received prescriptions such as Xanax for free from a friend or relative. Also, 17% misused medications that were prescribed by their own doctor, 11% purchased them from a friend or relative, 5% stole them from a friend or relative without asking for permission, and only just 4% obtained them from a dealer.
Of note, if used long-term, even those with legitimate prescriptions can become dependent on Xanax. For this reason, prolonged, regular use of Xanax is not routinely recommended.
Signs of a Xanax use disorder include the following:
- Obsession with obtaining and using the drug
- Going through medication faster than prescriptions are ready to be refilled
- Taking higher doses of Xanax than prescribed
- Administering Xanax non-orally, such as by crushing pills and snorting them
Dependence on Xanax can develop in just two weeks, but more commonly, it will take between 1-2 months. Physical dependence occurs when the body has become accustomed to having a certain amount of the substance in the system. In the case of Xanax, the body will cease to produce GABA in adequate amounts on its own, thus relying solely on Xanax for feelings of calm and relaxation.
Dependence is also hallmarked by the onset of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use. These symptoms can include rebound anxiety and insomnia, and in extreme cases, even life-threatening seizures.
Adverse Side Effects
Side effects of Xanax use or abuse may include the following:
- Memory problems
- Loss of pleasure
- Impaired coordination
- Appetite changes
- Weight loss or gain
- Loss of inhibition
Also, according to Harvard Medical School, using benzodiazepines for longer than six months increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 84%. Severe interactions with other psychoactive substances can also occur, including those involving alcohol, other sedatives and hypnotics, antihistamines and other allergy medications, and opioids, among others.
Overdose and death are rare while using Xanax alone, it is commonly involved in fatalities related to polysubstance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the total number of overdose deaths in the U.S. involving benzos dramatically rose between 1999-2017, reflecting a ten-fold increase of around 1,100 deaths to more than 11,000.
Why People Are Tested for Xanax
People are most commonly tested for Xanax use as part of a compliance program for those with substance use disorders or a history of abuse. Testing may also be performed if an overdose is suspected or confirmed.
Urine tests are the most frequently used, as they can test for all prescription and illicit drugs. Blood tests can detect everything that urine tests can, but they are more expensive and, therefore, less common. Hair testing can be conducted for all illicit drugs and some prescription medications, and this form of testing is primarily used by the justice system to identify chronic drug use.
Treatment for Xanax Addiction
Detox from Xanax should happen gradually using a tapering schedule as directed by a doctor or addiction specialist. Discontinuation of prolonged Xanax use can result in a life-threatening syndrome similar to alcohol withdrawals (including delirium tremens) and should therefore never be attempted without professional help.
Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive treatment programs for substance abuse that include outpatient detox, behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, counseling, peer support, medication-assisted treatment, and aftercare planning. We offer treatment in partial-hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient formats.
We employ a team of highly-trained addiction specialists who facilitate services to clients with care and expertise. We are dedicated to ensuring that every client receives all of the tools and support they need to be successful at recovery and experience long-lasting sobriety, health, and well-being.
If you or someone you love is dependent on Xanax, other benzos, prescription or illicit drugs or alcohol, contact us today. Discover how we help people break the cycle of addiction for life!