Anxiety and panic disorders can be treated with alprazolam, which is the active ingredient found in the brand-name prescription drug Xanax. Xanax belongs to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines, which are central nervous system depressant medications. It acts as a mild tranquilizer.

Medications like this that treat complex mental health issues help people regain a sense of normalcy and produce desirable effects. While this depressant medication has many benefits, it also has many hidden dangers, such as tolerance, addiction, and withdrawal.

Learn more about Xanax and find out how long it takes to work and to wear off.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax (which contains alprazolam) belongs to the benzodiazepine class of medications. In the U.S., it is the most commonly prescribed medication used to treat mental health. Many anxiety disorders can be treated with benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”), including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Short-term use of these medications is also sometimes recommended for people who suffer from severe insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, or prolonged seizures.

Short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax do not last as long as long-acting benzodiazepine medicines. The effect will only last for a short time, so this can be useful for people who need only short-term relief for things like panic attacks or insomnia.

Alprazolam affects the power of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for slowing down the nervous system to facilitate rest and relaxation. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam bind to GABA receptors, increasing the potency of GABA’s nervous system slowing abilities.

How Long Will It Take for Xanax to Start Working?

The term “onset of action” is often used to describe when you start feeling the effects of a drug. However, there is no guarantee that all of a drug’s effects and side effects will appear simultaneously. It is possible to experience some therapeutic effects before experiencing some side effects. The desired effects may also appear before other side effects kick in.

Xanax is readily absorbed into the bloodstream when taken by mouth. Xanax should begin working an hour after a person takes it. Xanax has a moderate onset of action. It reaches its peak concentration in the bloodstream within minutes of ingesting the medication.0000g

Regular Xanax users often develop tolerance to the drug. These people may feel milder sedation or experience a longer onset of Xanax’s sedative effects. The speed at which Xanax begins to work depends on several factors, including your weight, size, and whether you take it on an empty stomach.

How Long Does It Take for Xanax’s Effects to Wear Off?

If you want to stop using Xanax, it’s important to speak to your doctor first. Xanax can cause potentially dangerous withdrawal side effects if you quit abruptly. However, how long will it take for the drug to wear off?

By measuring how long a drug lasts in the bloodstream, we can determine its half-life. Drug half-lives refer to the amount of time it takes for your body to reduce half of its concentration in your blood. The half-life of a drug is important since a shorter half-life means you’ll experience the drug’s effects more briefly, whereas a longer half-life means you’ll experience the effects for longer.

It’s possible to taper off Xanax with the help of a doctor. It may be necessary to take a benzodiazepine with a longer half-life if you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Xanax with a short half-life.

Xanax has a half-life of 11 hours in most adults, which means that it will take around 11 hours for you to reduce Xanax to half of its original levels in your bloodstream.

It’s important to note that medications will have a different half-life depending on how each individual metabolizes them. Depending on the individual, Xanax’s half-life ranges from around six to 27 hours.

You may need to wait through several half-lives before a drug is completely eliminated from your body. Just because a drug reaches its half-life doesn’t mean that it has left your symptoms. You might continue to feel some effects and side effects of the drug, and the drug will remain detectable in your system for much longer.

Still, when a drug reaches its half-life in your body, its effects will be significantly diminished.

How Long Can Xanax Be Found in a Drug Test?

How long after your last dose will Xanax be detectable in a drug test for employment or another purpose? The type of test you undergo strongly influences the outcome. Here are the lengths of time different types of drug tests can detect Xanax in your body.

  • Urine tests can detect Xanax for up to four days.
  • Blood tests can find Xanax in your system for up to 24 hours.
  • Saliva tests can find Xanax for up to 2.5 days.
  • Hair follicle tests can detect Xanax for up to 90 days.

Urine tests are the most commonly used type of drug test for employment. Blood tests may be used to detect recent intoxication, as is the case if you are arrested for a DUI. Hair follicle tests may be used in forensics, but they are uncommon for job testing. Since they detect drug use for so long, they aren’t an accurate measurement of recent drug use.

Xanax and any other medications you are taking should always be disclosed before taking any medical tests. If testers know about acceptable prescriptions you are taking, they can disregard markers that indicate a drug test failure if those markers are associated with a drug you’re legally taking.

Factors That Can Change How Long Xanax Lasts

The amount of time it takes Xanax to leave the body can be affected by several factors, including age and weight. The average half-life of men and women is about the same, however. Xanax’s effects can be prolonged depending on a number of factors, including:


Benzodiazepines are harder to process as we age. Xanax will take longer to clear from the system of older people. Compared to younger, healthier adults, healthy elderly people have a half-life of 16.3 hours on average, while younger adults have a half-life of 11 hours on average.


Obesity can make it harder for your body to break down Xanax. Obese people have a longer half-life for Xanax. With an average of 21.8 hours, the range was 9.9 to 40.4 hours.


A higher metabolic rate may shorten the time it takes for Xanax to leave your body. Those who are sedentary may not be able to eliminate Xanax as quickly as those who exercise or have a faster metabolism.

Liver function

People with alcohol-induced liver disease have difficulty breaking down Xanax or metabolizing it. When it comes to Xanax, people with this liver problem generally have a half-life of 19.7 hours.


Xanax tablets contain four types of alprazolam: 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg. High doses take longer to be metabolized by your body.

Depending on how long you have taken Xanax, your body will also feel its effects for longer or shorter periods. The concentration of Xanax in the bloodstream of people who take it regularly is consistently higher. Due to your tolerance to Xanax, you may not feel its sedative effects for longer, but it will take longer to eliminate it entirely.

Other Substances That Can Affect Your Xanax Timeline

Your body eliminates Xanax through the cytochrome P450 3A enzyme (CYP3A). Taking drugs that inhibit CYP3A4 makes it harder for your body to break down Xanax. Therefore, Xanax will last longer than normal.

It is possible to prolong Xanax’s exit from the body by taking certain medications, including:

  • Macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Azole antifungal medications
  • Nefazodone (Serzone)
  • Oral contraceptives for birth control
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Propoxyphene

Certain medications, however, can induce or accelerate CYP3A. With these medications, Xanax will be broken down faster. The seizure medication carbamazepine (Tegretol) is one example.

How Alcohol Use Effects Xanax

The combination of alcohol and Xanax can result in synergistic effects. The effects of Xanax will be enhanced if you consume alcohol while taking it. You will have to wait longer for your body to rid itself of Xanax. Drinking alcohol can also lead to overdoses on Xanax. You should always ask your doctor before combining alcohol with other drugs.

What Is the Xanax’s Withdrawal Timeline?

If you stop taking Xanax, you may experience uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. How long will withdrawal symptoms last after you quit Xanax, and when will they occur?

As one of the short-acting benzodiazepines, Xanax has a half-life of around 11 hours. When the last dose of the drug has stopped being active in your bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms can appear six to 12 hours later.

It takes four to five days for acute withdrawal symptoms of a short-acting benzodiazepine, such as Xanax, to subside after the last dose has been taken.

In rare cases, withdrawal symptoms may persist for years after typical prolonged or post-acute withdrawals end. Symptoms that last for a long time may lead to a relapse without treatment. Consistent therapy will be necessary for you in that case.

Withdrawal symptoms can be overcome safely by those who stop using Xanax with adequate support.

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