Most drug tests look for remnants of Xanax in your system. How long a drug remains in the body depends on several factors. Each drug has its chemical composition, which uniquely affects how a person’s body breaks it down and excretes it. In addition, people’s body metabolizes — or break things down— differently. Some people naturally break drugs down quickly, while others are slow metabolizers.
These aspects alongside several other factors, play a part in how long it takes to get rid of a drug within the body, like Xanax. If the appearance of Xanax in drug screens is a concern, understanding the process can help you figure out how long the drug stays in your system.
Xanax is also known under the following street names:
Though benzodiazepines are typically used to treat anxiety disorders, they are sometimes prescribed for the management of insomnia and alcohol withdrawals. Xanax is also a Schedule IV controlled substance with a potential for abuse, and it is detected as a benzodiazepine on drug tests. Because Xanax can be habit-forming, it’s typically prescribed only for short-term use.2
Benzodiazepines are all central nervous system (CNS) depressants. As a CNS depressant, benzodiazepines like Xanax boost the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA slows down the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the body, which reduces communication between neurons results in the sedation and calmness that drugs like Xanax are used for. In short, Xanax in your system causes slow responses and sleepiness.3
Unlike long-acting benzodiazepines like diazepam, which take many hours to hit peak levels, Xanax is short-acting. In healthy adults, Xanax maintains its peak levels in the blood after one to two hours of administration. The levels of Xanax in your system depend on which part of the body is evaluated. For example, Xanax remains in the hair for ninety days. In blood, though, it is undetectable within twenty-four hours.4
The following numbers are general elimination timelines for Xanax in your system:5
Even without Xanax in your system, drug tests may show positives for benzodiazepines like Xanax. Drug tests for this substance may indicate a false positive for several reasons. A few medications such as Zoloft, also known as sertraline, may cross-react with immunoassay on a urine drug screen, resulting in a false positive for Xanax.6
Though general timelines exist for how Xanax in your system metabolizes, every person is unique. Whether you are a fast or slow metabolizer, how well your liver and kidneys function, and how much fat is present in your body all factor into how your body processes Xanax.
The liver is the primary organ that metabolizes Xanax, and the kidneys filter toxins from the body. If either of those organs is compromised, levels of Xanax in your system remain high for longer periods.6
When discussing how the body processes drugs, the term “half-life” is often used. A half-life of a drug is the average time it takes for the body to process 50% of the drug. In one half-life, for example, the concentration of Xanax in your system is reduced by half. In the blood, the average half-life of Xanax for someone healthy is 11.2 hours. This aspect means that 11.2 hours after ingesting the drug, only half of the Xanax will remain in your body’s system.6
The enzyme cytochrome P450 3A (CYP450 3A) is what the liver uses to process Xanax. Liver disease can impact this enzyme, affecting how quickly the body excretes this drug. Medications and other drugs like cannabinoids may also influence how the body metabolizes Xanax. Birth control pills and fluoxetine are examples of medications that may block CYP450 3A.7
Frequency of use and the amount of drug used are other factors that may affect the processing of this drug. Routine use for long periods can affect how long it stays in the system. An individual’s natural ability to metabolize a drug also affects Xanax excretion, with some people being naturally fast-metabolizers.
Other factors that affect how long Xanax remains in the system are:8
If Xanax in drug tests is your concern, know that there is no proven method of removing it from the body quickly for blood or urine tests. However, drinking water and staying hydrated not only helps to remove the drug from urine tests but can also help manage its side effects. Stopping the use of this substance is the only sure way to get it out of the system for a Xanax drug test.
This drug should not be abruptly discontinued due to the severe effects of withdrawal. In rare cases, Xanax withdrawals may result in seizures and can impact co-occurring disorders like anxiety or depression.
Other symptoms that may occur during withdrawals are:9
Many employers look for Xanax in drug tests, but if you take the drug, do not stop using it all at once. Rather than suddenly stopping it, it is advisable to gradually reduce your Xanax dosage. Tapering down the drug in the system may help to prevent serious withdrawal symptoms.10
Drug addiction detox and rehabilitation can make the process of withdrawals much more tolerable. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) helps manage the symptoms of withdrawal and prevent seizures. Whether it is inpatient or outpatient care, being surrounded by addiction specialists and healthcare professionals adds a much-needed layer of safety. Psychotherapy like cognitive-behavior therapy also offers long-term interventions that help prevent relapse.10