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Xanax Half-Life: How Long Does it Stay In Your System?

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Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine prescription drug used to treat panic disorders and anxiety. Anxiety is the most common mental illness and affects nearly 40 million adults in the United States annually. Although it’s highly treatable, 36.9 percent of those with the condition won’t get the help they need. Anxiety disorders stem from a set of risk factors that involve our genetics, personality, brain chemistry, and life events. 

As you might expect, with such a significant portion of the population struggling with anxiety, there are many prescriptions administered each year for Xanax. In 2019, an estimated 92 million benzodiazepine prescriptions were dispensed to the public, and Xanax made up 38 percent of those prescriptions. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, it’s probably that your doctor suggested Xanax or that you’ve tried the medication to alleviate your anxiety symptoms. You might wonder about the half-life of Xanax. The average person eliminates half a dose of Xanax from their system in 11.2 hours, according to the Xanax prescribing information. However, it may take several days before it’s entirely eliminated from your system. 

Depending on the test administered, Xanax may be detected in a person’s system for much longer. Other factors, including the dosage and the person’s overall health, may also affect how long it stays in your system. Keep reading to find out how long Xanax stays in your system and how different testing methods affect it. 

How Long Does Xanax Take To Work?

Different benzodiazepines work for differing amounts of time. For example, short-acting benzodiazepines will affect you differently than long-acting ones. Xanax falls in the middle. When you take Xanax, your body absorbs it, and a significant part of it binds to circulating proteins. In one to two hours, Xanax will reach its peak concentration in your body. Although doctors are unsure of how this works, they know it depresses the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve your anxiety. Once that occurs, your body starts breaking it down, and the effects begin to diminish. 

How Long Does a Dose of Xanax Work?

Just because Xanax remains in your system doesn’t mean you’ll experience the effects for that long. Within one to two hours of taking Xanax, you should feel some relief from your anxiety. If you use Xanax frequently, you might be able to maintain the drug’s concentration in your blood, so it doesn’t feel like it’s worn off. 

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have also developed extended-release versions of the drug, and these are designed to last in your system longer, so you take less each day. However, these formulations may stay in your system for much longer. 

xanax-halflife

How Long Does Xanax Show Up On Drug Tests?

There are various methods doctors use to determine the presence of Xanax in your system. Each method will yield different results. These include the following:

  • Blood: How long laboratories can detect Xanax in your blood will vary. A majority of individuals have half the dose of Xanax in their blood within a day. However, it may take several days longer for our bodies to completely eliminate the drug. Even if you don’t experience the anxiety-relieving effects anymore, a laboratory can detect the benzo in your blood for up to four or five days after use. 
  • Saliva: A study from 2015 showed that of 25 saliva samples, the maximum time Xanax was detectable through a person’s oral fluid was 2 ½ days.
  • Hair: Xanax can be detected in the hair by laboratories for up to three months. Since the body hair doesn’t grow as fast, a lab test might produce a positive result for up to 12 months after using Xanax. 
  • Urine: Not every drug test is capable of identifying Xanax or other benzodiazepines, according to the Journal of Laboratory Medicine. However, some urine tests are capable of detecting Xanax for up to five days after use. 

These timeframes will vary based on how quickly your body is able to break down Xanax and the sensitivity of the particular lab test. 

Xanax and Pregnancy

In fear of hurting the baby, doctors don’t do many studies on pregnant women with medications. It means a lot of knowledge comes from the reports or studies that indicate potential problems. 

Doctors believe that Xanax crosses the placenta and, therefore, will affect a baby. Most doctors recommend that the individual stops using Xanax for the first trimester to reduce birth defects.

If you use Xanax while pregnant, your baby could be born with Xanax flowing through its system. It’s essential for you to have an open and honest dialogue with your doctor if you’re pregnant about your Xanax use to learn how it can affect your baby.

Xanax And Breast Milk

Xanax does pass through breast milk, and the average half-life of the medication in breast milk was about 14.5 hours. Breastfeeding while using Xanax could cause a baby to become sedated and affect their breathing. Xanax also reduces the risk of having a seizure, so when a baby withdrawals from the drug, they could experience a seizure. 

A majority of doctors will advise against using Xanax while breastfeeding unless it’s imperative for the individual’s wellbeing. They typically prescribe short-acting medications with a different reaction in their body, so it’s less likely to affect a baby. 

What Affects How Long Xanax is In Your System?

There are several factors that determine how long Xanax remains in your system. Some of these factors will make it stay in the system longer, while others mean it stays for less time. 

Xanax will last longer under these circumstances:

  • If you’re elderly
  • If you suffer from alcoholic liver disease
  • If you’re obese

Xanax will last a shorter amount of time in your system if you take these medications that speed up the elimination process. Doctors refer to these medications as inducers, and they include:

  • Fosphenytoin
  • Carbamazepine
  • Phenytoin
  • Topiramate (Topamax)

These medications are prescribed by doctors to reduce seizure activity. 

Although Xanax isn’t considered a long-lasting benzodiazepine, it isn’t the shortest either. Your body typically metabolizes the drug in a day, but the rest you might not feel and will yield detectable levels in a drug test. 

You should always speak with your treating physician to determine if Xanax is right for you. The drug is highly addictive and may lead to a substance use disorder if abused. 

Sources

ADAA (February 2021) Facts & Statistics. from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

USA Today (September 2020) FDA Requires Stronger Warning Label on Xanax, Valium, and Other Benzodiazepine Drugs. from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/09/24/fda-requires-stronger-warning-label-xanax-valium-similar-drugs-benzodiazepine/3516126001/

NCBI (August 2015) Detection Times of Diazepam, Clonazepam, and Alprazolam in Oral Fluid. from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25549207/

Oxford Academic (May 2015) Benzodiazepine In a Urine Specimen Without Drug Metabolites. from https://academic.oup.com/labmed/article/46/2/164/2505078

FDA (N.D.) Xanax. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s045lbl.pdf

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