How Long Does Xanax Stay In Your System?

Last Updated: January 19, 2021

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Xanax (known by the generic name alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine-type medicine that directly affects the central nervous system. This sedative is predominantly administered to patients who struggle with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Xanax is metabolized extensively within the liver by cytochrome P450 3A4 and excreted via the kidneys. The half-life of Xanax is about 11.2 hours. This is important because it determines how long Xanax can be detected in various body samples such as urine, saliva, blood, and hair. However, how long alprazolam can be detected may be affected by several other important factors. Let’s take a look at how this drug is metabolized, how long it stays in your system, and what factors influence Xanax half-life within your body.

How Is Xanax Metabolized?

Alprazolam impacts brain function, specifically the production of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for communication between neurons. When the brain becomes stimulated, e.g., feelings of anxiety, the neurons will fire flat out. It has significant calming effects on the neurons. Metabolism of alprazolam depends on the user and whether it’s the first time/infrequent use or not. The body processes medication, toxins, etc., in the liver and kidneys.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Alprazolam is an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. The effects are usually noticed within an hour of taking the drug and may last for as long as 5-11 hours, depending on the formulation. It is metabolized majorly by the liver and excreted by your kidneys. Xanax half-life is between 10 – 16 hours. So how long does Xanax stay in your system? It should exit the body in 4 – 5 days, but this depends on the biological sample used for testing.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your Urine?

Generally, it can remain detectable in properly collected and stored urine samples for as long as 4 days, which corresponds with Xanax half-life. However, in chronic users, it may remain detectable in Xanax urine tests for as long as a week.

Technician examining a urine sample.

How Long Does It Stay in Blood?

The half-life of Xanax is about 10-16 hours, which means only half of the original dose should be present in the blood after this time. Based on normal use, alprazolam is usually only detectable in the blood within 24 hours of ingestion. Still, in chronic users, Xanax half-life may be extended to as much as 4-5 days.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your Saliva?

Research has shown that alprazolam is detectable in saliva samples for only about 2.5 days after ingestion of the substance. However, this depends on the initial dose of the substance consumed. The higher the dose, the longer it remains detectable in oral fluids. This corresponds with the principle of alprazolam half-life since it takes longer for the substance to be completely broken down if the initial dose is high.

How Long Does It Stay in Hair?

Hair analysis is one of the most reliable methods of testing. One can detect usage over a period of time, not just the last time. Evidence of the drug can be found in the hair sample up to a 3-month period. This is not the best way to test for recent ingestion as the medicine needs time to settle within the body.

Hair sample to test Xanax use.

Factors That Influence Benzodiazepine Metabolism

It is metabolized majorly by the liver and excreted through the kidneys. Several important factors may affect this process and increase or decrease the drug’s activity within the body.

They Include:

  • Alcohol. Studies show that consuming alcohol with alprazolam can significantly increase the toxicity of the drug. This is why concomitant benzodiazepine and alcohol use is strongly discouraged.
  • Body fat percentage. It is stored within fat cells; therefore, people with a higher percentage of body fat may store larger amounts of the drug. This may also correspond to a longer Xanax half-life in obese people.
  • Liver disease. Alprazolam is primarily metabolized in the liver, and hence liver disease or liver failure can lead to it accumulating in dangerous levels within the body, increasing the alprazolam half-life dangerously.
  • Kidney disease. Alprazolam is excreted by the kidneys, so diseases affecting the health of the kidney or renal clearance of the drug may lead to a build-up of the drug and its metabolites, thereby affecting the half-life of Xanax as well as the results of Xanax urine tests.
  • Other drugs. Consuming alprazolam with several other drugs may affect its metabolism, especially drugs which compete with alprazolam for the same liver enzymes such as carbamazepine, ritonavir, SSRIs, and cimetidine. These may increase or decrease the alprazolam half-life accordingly.
  • Age. Older people usually have a harder time metabolizing benzodiazepines, which is why they are usually started on a lower dose.

Other factors that play a role in eliminating benzodiazepines in the body include Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), body weight and height, and acidity levels. All these factors lead to one conclusion: the healthier the person is, the quicker it exits the body. Over time, heavy usage can cause permanent damage to the body itself and negatively affect the user’s health. This may affect the rate at which the drug is expelled.

False-Positive Results

A false-positive test occurs when a biological sample is tested for a particular substance and indicates the presence of that substance even when you haven’t taken it. There are several reasons why an individual may falsely test positive for benzodiazepines.

They Include:

  • An error by the individual conducting the test
  • Faulty testing equipment
  • Certain drugs such as SSRIs (like sertraline) and NSAIDs (like oxaprozin)

How to Get Benzodiazepines Out of the System?

Like many substances, alprazolam is pretty addictive. The rapid effect and exit from the body creates a quick, albeit dangerous dependency. When trying to detox, one may experience physical and psychological Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Researchers conclude that reducing the drug in small measures is the best way to remove benzodiazepines from the system.

Typical Treatments on How to Get Benzodiazepines Out Of the System Consist Of the Following:

  • Detox clinic or hospital program
  • Cutting it out completely (not recommended due to the hold on mind and body)
  • Medical detox using other drugs
  • Outpatient program (including therapy)
  • Familial support

It is best to seek a treatment plan that suits the individual concerned. Remember that detoxing may be a violent process. The patient may need round-the-clock assistance and care as the benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms present.

Alternative treatments include involving the user’s family and loved ones. This method provides a steady stream of reassuring feedback from both directions.

Getting Clean

Benzodiazepines may be classified as a drug of low addictive potential, but their accessibility and popularity make it a serious public health challenge. People struggling with a Xanax addiction or anyone who knows someone struggling with this issue should immediately seek medical help. Treatment options vary from rehabilitation therapy to medicinal-based practices such as weaning the individual off the drug by gradually tapering the dose. Another option is substituting the drug with another alternative medication for anxiety with a weaker addictive potential. It’s important to tailor the treatment plan to the specific individual’s needs, so it is advisable to seek help from a medical rehabilitation center. Not only do they offer professional health services and expertise, the pharmacological and non-pharmacological resources available to help you deal with the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. This gives the detoxification and rehabilitation process a significantly higher chance of success.


Page Sources

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Published on: October 21st, 2016

Updated on: January 19th, 2021

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.