Substance Use

How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

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urine drug test

Benzodiazepines are a very potent class of drugs that have a variety of medical uses. Benzodiazepines work by strengthening the effect of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. This is an acid that is naturally found in your brain and acts as a vitally important neurotransmitter. Strengthening its natural effect can enhance the ability of GABA to calm your brain and mind, allowing you to reduce your stress and anxiety.

As you would expect, these drugs have a variety of medical uses, including:

  • Treating anxiety
  • Treating sleep disorders
  • Treating alcohol disorders
  • Sedation
  • Reducing seizures

The problem with benzodiazepines (also called “benzos), unfortunately, is that they are highly addictive, and individuals who become addicted to benzos often need extensive and intensive treatment. This is largely due to how benzos work. While the drug is meant to reduce anxiety, the way in which this anxiety relief occurs can induce a sense of calm, tranquility, well-being, peace, and even euphoria. As such, people may use them recreationally as part of an effort to induce a high. As with alcohol addiction, people may turn to benzos if their life becomes too stressful to manage and they are looking for an escape. 

Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule III drugs by the United States Food & Drug Administration. This means that it has the potential for abuse and should only be used as directed by a doctor. Furthermore, a prescription is required to access most benzos.

Unfortunately, given benzos’ widespread prescription — more than 100 million prescriptions are filled every year — it is all too possible for someone to accidentally get addicted to the drug. This happens when someone takes benzos for legitimate medical reasons after being prescribed them by a doctor but quickly becomes addicted to the drugs and the feelings that they cause. They may begin to take them recreationally — meaning in a way not prescribed by a doctor — and become unable to stop taking them without professional help.

Furthermore, benzos have another classic feature of many drugs to which individuals become addicted: tolerance. In the addiction world, tolerance is defined as needing to take an increasing amount of a substance to get the same pleasant feelings. Tolerance is a classic hallmark of benzos, meaning that people wind up needing to take more and more to feel the positive impacts of the drug — or to at least avoid feeling withdrawal. Unfortunately, taking more of a substance can simply strengthen the cycle of addiction.

Addiction to benzos is no small problem. According to available information, research on benzo use indicates that its use, abuse, and addiction are on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic increased virtually all drug addictions. Between 2019 and 2020, benzo overdose visits to the emergency room increased nearly 30%, and these statistics only grew worse from 2020–2021.

As a result of the potency of their impact and the unique way in which these drugs are metabolized, it can take some time for your body to metabolize benzos. This can result in additional complications, positive drug tests, and implications for treatment — including the need for extensive detox.

How Long Does It Take for the Effects of Benzodiazepines To Wear Off?

To be clear, all benzodiazepines are not the same. Different types of benzos have different effects. Furthermore, just like any other drug, the strength of the benzo that an individual takes can have a major impact on how long it takes for the effects to wear off. So can the metabolism of the person in question, their tolerance level, and factors as small as what they ate that day.

However, despite this variation, some general conclusions about benzos can be made in terms of how long it takes for their effects to wear off.

For starters, take a drug like Xanax. Xanax is one of the most commonly used benzos and is prescribed widely for use in controlling anxiety and panic disorders. It is often taken as a fast-acting tranquilizer, with users feeling its impact very quickly after they first take it — usually within 1–2 hours. Xanax has a half-life of between 8 and 16 hours. This means that half of the drug’s impacts will fade away in that time, with the drug completely out of someone’s system and all effects purged within two days.

However, Xanax is different than most benzos — it acts quicker, but it also leaves the body quicker. Different benzos may have different impacts. Other benzos — such as Diazepam or Librium — last much longer, with a half-life of between 36 and 200 hours. That could be as long as eight days, a massively long number for an individual to feel the effects of medication. Thus, when trying to determine how long do benzodiazepines stay in your body, one must factor in the specific type of benzodiazepine that an individual is taking. 

It is worth noting that benzos used for anxiety reduction often have effects that stay for much longer than medication used for sleeping. This makes sense, as ideally designed sleeping medication should work to get a person to sleep, but disappear when that person begins to wake up. Medications that are designed for sleeping tend to have effects that are felt from 6-40 hours.

How Are Benzodiazepines Detected on Drug Tests?

The most commonly used drug test to detect benzodiazepines in somebody’s body is a urine drug test. This is because urine drug testing is typically considered to be the most accurate for determining benzodiazepines use within a certain time period. Much of the reason that urine tests are so common is because of the way that the drugs are metabolized in your body. Benzodiazepines are metabolized through the liver. This means that, just like many other substance, they are then expelled via urination. As such, an accurate urine test should be able to determine whether or not an individual has benzodiazepines in their system. 

Urine tests are not foolproof, and they depend on the rate of metabolization of the individual taking the drug, as well as how soon after the drug is consumed the urine test is taken. Generally speaking, short-acting benzodiazepines — such as those taken for sleep — can be detected up to two days after the drugs have been consumed. Intermediate-acting benzos can be detected up to five days after they have been consumed, and the longest and strongest of benzos can be detected for up to 10 days after they have been consumed. The length of time in which benzos can be detected in urine unquestionably makes it the most preferred and accurate method of testing for benzo use and abuse, although other tests are available. 

Most urine tests operate based on the amount of a substance that has been detected in a urine sample. This limit — known as the Limit of Quantitation, or LoQ — is triggered if a benzo is detected above a certain threshold. If that is the case, a test will come back positive. 

It should be noted that some other drugs can sometimes cause a false positive in a urine test, even if that individual has not taken any benzos within the time period. A questionnaire that inquires about what drugs the user has taken can help to weed out these potential false positives.

That being said, the presence of benzodiazepines in a person’s body can be detected in a variety of other ways. A blood test can be used to detect the presence of benzos in your bloodstream, and many hospitals or rehabilitation centers commonly use these tests. The test is simple enough. Blood is drawn from your arm and then tested for the presence of benzos. There are some challenges with blood testing, however, as blood can often only be used to detect the presence of benzos for up to a day.

Saliva testing is also an option to test for the presence of benzos. The testing method itself is simple enough, as it merely involves a quick swab inside someone’s mouth. This makes it a cheap and easy method of detection. The problem, however, is that saliva detection isn’t as accurate as urine detection. Like blood testing, saliva doesn’t have the same benzo markers. As such, saliva testing does not have the same accuracy as urine. One study found that saliva testing was only accurate between 74% and 85% of the time, and that false negatives were given 9–23% of the time.  

Finally, hair testing is an option. A hair follicle is taken from the person in question and run through a drug panel. Hair testing can unquestionably go back further than any other test, looking back as far as 90 days to determine someone’s benzo use. The challenge with hair testing is that it can be expensive. Furthermore, in most cases, a person won’t actually need to go back 90 days to determine if they used benzos. The sample-gathering process is also more intensive, as a person will actually need to have 60–100 strands of hair cut. Typically, saliva or blood is much easier to obtain.

When it comes to trying to determine how long do benzodiazepines stay in your body, it is important to remember that the test medium makes a difference in determining detection. 

These drug tests are used in a variety of work and professional situations. They may also be used in rehab facilities to ensure compliance with the program. If you or someone you love is addicted to benzodiazepines and needs help, reach out to Zinnia Healing to find out more about our addiction treatment services. 

How Are Benzodiazepines Metabolized in the Body?

According to research, benzodiazepines are metabolized in the liver. This applies to all forms of benzos. Specifically speaking, the cytochrome P450 enzymes are responsible for metabolizing the benzodiazepines. These cytochromes will turn the benzos into urine, and this is how the benzos are then removed from your body.

It is important to note that this metabolization will happen through the liver regardless of how the drug is administered, be it orally or intravenously. The method by which the drug is ingested has nothing to do with its ultimate metabolization and excretion from the body. A persistent myth is that some benzos are not actually metabolized by the liver. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Like everything else, the speed at which benzos are metabolized depends on a variety of functions, including your metabolism, the amount of a drug you have taken, and your long-term history with a drug. However, metabolization is specifically dependent upon the overall function of your liver. There is evidence to suggest a two-way negative impact in terms of the functioning of your liver and taking benzodiazepines. Studies have determined that abusing benzodiazepines may increase an individual’s risk of getting certain types of liver disease. Furthermore, individuals with liver disease who take benzos — even when medically appropriate — risk suffering from complications if they already have certain liver diseases, like cirrhosis. This makes benzo abuse similar to alcohol abuse in at least this respect, and it should serve as a note of caution for anyone interested in using benzos who already has liver disease. 

It is also worth noting that higher levels of tolerance to benzodiazepines — tolerance that is caused by increased use — can increase the time it takes for the drug to be metabolized by the liver. Furthermore, as noted above, repeated use or abuse can ultimately damage the liver and make it less effective at metabolization. When considering how long do benzodiazepines stay in your body, it is important to consider tolerance as well.

At the end of the day, if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to benzodiazepines, or if you are worried about your addiction to any other drug, you should seek help immediately.

Zinnia Healing offers a variety of treatment programs and has the ability to help individuals who are addicted through the detox process, then begin their path to recovery. Don’t wait — contact us today by visiting our website or by calling 855-430-9439.