Benzodiazepines, a class of prescription medications known as sedatives or tranquilizers, depress the central nervous system to calm down people who have anxiety, insomnia, and certain phobias. These Schedule III medications are potent and should only be taken as prescribed, which is usually on a short-term basis. Physical side effects of benzodiazepines include slurred speech, sedation, motor impairment, disorientation, and behavior reminiscent of someone who is intoxicated after drinking alcohol.
These medications are powerful drugs, and they should not be used in a carefree manner. Some dangers of benzodiazepines are shallow breathing, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and death.
Benzodiazepines are popular among two main groups of people: Those who have legal prescriptions for them and those who abuse them recreationally. Both groups are at risk of developing a physical or psychological dependence on them. The latter defines what addiction is. Misuse and abuse involve taking more benzodiazepines than prescribed and consuming them in a manner that is inconsistent with their design and purpose.
Benzodiazepines are classified according to how long they stay in the body after ingestion. The three categories are short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. The drug’s elimination half-life is how long it takes for the drug’s concentration to be reduced by one-half in the bloodstream. That’s an important number to know because it will tell you how long it takes for the body to absorb it before it leaves. Benzos with longer half-lives take longer to leave the body.
Common benzodiazepines include:
With prescription drug abuse rates on the rise among Americans, some employers have opted to drug test job candidates and current employees for benzodiazepine use. There are a few things to know about drug screenings. First, test results may be affected by outside factors, such as your age, gender, medical history, and what kind of test is used.
Other factors include:
The four screening tests that are commonly used to carry out drug testing for benzos in the body are the blood test, urine test, saliva test, and hair test. They all have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Below are five benzodiazepine medications and how a drug test will pick up on them.
Ativan (lorazepam) is commonly prescribed for people who have anxiety. It is intended for short-term use. An extended period of use can lead to health risks, including addiction, worsening symptoms of depression, memory impairment and dementia. According to the site RxList, the average half-life of Ativan is about 12 hours; for its major metabolite, called lorazepam-glucuronide, the average half-life is about 18 hours.
According to one study, Ativan can be detected in a urine sample for at least six days after its last ingestion. Frequent use may mean the substance lingers in the system for a week. The metabolite lorazepam-glucuronide can be detected for up to nine days after the last Ativan dose. The study says urine appears to be the best specimen to test for Ativan exposure. A saliva test can pick up Ativan use within eight hours of use. A blood test can reveal Ativan use up to three days after it was taken. Frequent Ativan use may mean it will take longer than three days for the drug to clear. A hair test can detect Ativan use for at least up to a month after it was used.
Klonopin (clonazepam) is prescribed for anxiety disorders and acute epilepsy. According to Mental Health Daily, the medication is estimated to have a 30- to 40-hour half-life, which means it can stay in a person’s system for 6.88 to 9.17 days after the last dose. When metabolized within the liver, a metabolite called “7-amino-clonazepam” is formed and its half-life is said to be either shorter than that of Klonopin or about the same. In all, it is believed the body can clear Klonopin within 14 days, or two weeks after one stops taking it.
Mental Health Daily reports that although Klonopin testing is uncommon, certain people are more likely to be tested for the drug. Among them are people whose jobs require mental alertness and sobriety. This group includes pilots, military troops, top-level athletes, criminals, and people in active addiction. People suspected of prescription drug abuse, particularly those in treatment for a substance abuse issue, may be tested for the drug.
Klonopin drug tests include those that check the urine, hair, and saliva. The urine test will check for the 7-amino-clonazepam metabolite, which can remain detectable in the urine for up to five days. The hair test, which provides the longest window of detection, can detect the 7-amino-clonazepam metabolite for up to four months after Klonopin was last ingested. The saliva test can detect the same metabolite as well as clonazepam between five and six days after the drug was last taken. A blood test for Klonopin provides the shortest window of detection despite the fact that it will be able to easily detect it only one to two hours after ingestion, Mental Health Daily writes. Klonopin’s long half-life makes also makes it detectable days after it’s taken. Still, the blood test is seen by some as more invasive than urine testing.
In addition to relieving anxiety, Librium (chlordiazepoxide) is also given to help manage the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. Drugs.com reports that the half-life of Librium is between 24 and 48 hours. According to a VeryWellMind.com report, a urine test can detect Librium for up to one to six weeks. Saliva samples can show traces of it for one to 10 days while blood tests for the drug can detect it for up to six to 48 hours, or two days. Of course, the hair follicle test can detect the drug for up to 90 days, or three months, which is the longest window of detection.
Valium (diazepam) is prescribed for people with anxiety and those experiencing panic attacks, seizures, and muscle spasms related to restless legs syndrome. Its half-life, according to RxList.com, increases by about an hour for each year of age, which begins with a half-life of 20 hours at 20 years of age. Valium can be detected with urine, saliva, and hair drug tests. Of these, the urine test is the most commonly used. The urine test can pick up traces of the drug’s metabolites, nordiazepam, temazepam, and oxazepam, instead of the drug specifically, according to this study. A hair test can pick up the drug and its metabolites up to three months after last use. Research shows that a saliva sample can detect the metabolite nordiazepam for between seven to nine days.
The urine test is the most often used to detect Xanax use. It’s less expensive and easier to use than other drug screenings tests, and it also offers accuracy and immediate results. According to a FDA facts sheet, Xanax has a half-life of 11.2 hours in healthy adults. A urine drug test can detect Xanax three to seven days after use. The frequency of use determines how long it remains in the system as well as one’s metabolism. A saliva swab test can detect the medication for up to 2.5 days. Blood tests can detect Xanax for up to one to six days. A hair follicle test can find traces of Xanax for up to a month.
If drug testing for benzos has you worried or nervous because you have misused or abused the drugs, that may be just the sign that it is time for you to get help today. It is OK if you need help because you can’t quit on your own. It is safer to do so with medical professionals who can help you get through benzo withdrawal safely and present treatment options that can help you put benzo addiction behind you. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is treatable but not curable.
Quality addiction treatment programs like the ones Delphi Behavioral Health Group offers can be designed to fit the needs of the client according to their situation.
Professional drug treatment can help you or your loved one end Xanax dependence safely at an accredited treatment facility. After completing a medical benzodiazepine detox treatment for three to 10 days, entering an addiction treatment program that can help people in recovery from benzo abuse is the next step.
Treatment programs at Delphi Behavioral Health Group’s facilities provide unique therapy and counseling methods for certain addictions. Our treatment centers provide an oasis for the community, counseling, and support for our clients in recovery and their families.
Cirimele V., Kintz, P., Ludes B., Pepin G., Villain M. (2004) “Windows of detection of lorazepam in urine, oral fluid and hair, with a special focus on drug-facilitated crimes. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15451084
Christophersen AS, Enger A. Nordal K1, Øiestad EL,, Vindenes V. (August 2015). “Detection Times of Diazepam, Clonazepam, and Alprazolam in Oral Fluid Collected From Patients Admitted to Detoxification, After High and Repeated Drug Intake.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25549207
RxList. (n.d.) “Ativan.” Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/ativan-drug.htm#description
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MentalHealthDaily. (n.d.) “How Long Does Ativan (Lorazepam) Stay In Your System?” Retrieved July 2018 from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/10/15/how-long-does-ativan-lorazepam-stay-in-your-system/
MentalHealthDaily. (n.d.) “How Long Does Valium Stay In Your System?” Retrieved July 2018. Retreived July 2018 from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/11/13/how-long-does-valium-stay-in-your-system/
T., Buddy. (April 2018). “How Long Does Librium Stay in Your System?” Very Well Mind. Retrieved July 2018 from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-librium-stay-in-your-system-80272