Xanax is the most widely prescribed and misused benzodiazepine drug in the United States. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, there were more than 48 million prescriptions for Xanax dispensed in 2013, and that number continues to grow every year.
Xanax stays in the system for a long time, which is why many people experience long-term withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing this medication. Xanax dependence and addiction can be safely treated at a drug detox and rehab facility. Patients can be closely monitored and cared for by trained nurses and doctors as they go through withdrawal.
Continue reading to determine how long Xanax stays in the body and how benzodiazepine addiction can be effectively treated with drug detox and rehab.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam—a short-acting benzodiazepine drug prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. It may also be used to treat insomnia, depression, agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), and premenstrual syndrome.
Xanax works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. The effects of Xanax usually begin within 30 minutes and last for approximately six hours, according to research from the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Its main effects are relaxation and sedation. Common side effects of Xanax include poor memory and concentration, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, and loss of coordination.
Xanax is a Schedule IV controlled substance under the DEA and is defined as having a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Stopping Xanax abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms that last for between several weeks to more than one year, the most serious of which include seizures, hallucinations, and suicidal ideation.
How Long Does Xanax Stay In Your System?
The average half-life of Xanax is approximately 11.2 hours in healthy adults and can range anywhere between 6.3 and 26.9 hours, according to its package insert. The half-life of a drug is the length of time it takes for 50% of a dose to leave a person’s body.
However, it usually takes significantly longer for 100% of Xanax to leave the system due to the way its metabolites can linger in cells and fat tissues throughout the body. This means the drug can be detected in the body for up to several weeks after the last dose. Xanax and its metabolites are filtered by the kidneys and expelled from the body in urine, though drinking plenty of water and other liquids may not be completely effective at flushing all Xanax from the system within a timely manner.
Which Factors Affect How Long Xanax Stays In the Body?
A variety of factors affect the length of time Xanax stays in any one person’s body. For instance, a person who exercises frequently may be able to metabolize and expel Xanax more quickly than someone with a sedentary, inactive lifestyle.
Other factors that affect the length of time Xanax stays in the body include:
- The dosage amount of Xanax being used regularly.
- The frequency of Xanax use.
- The length of time Xanax was being used.
- Whether Xanax is being used with other substances, including alcohol, opioids, or cocaine.
- A person’s nutrition and eating habits.
- A person’s hydration level.
- Body fat percentage.
- Other medical conditions.
- Kidney health.
According to the World Health Organization, Xanax withdrawal symptoms usually begin one to two days after the last dose and last for between two to four weeks or longer. People can often continue to experience certain withdrawal symptoms for months after discontinuing Xanax, including insomnia and anxiety.
How Is Benzodiazepine Addiction Treated?
Benzodiazepine addiction is typically treated using medically assisted detox and behavioral therapy in a drug rehab program.
Medically Assisted Detox
Detox is the first stage of addiction treatment and focuses on helping patients manage the physical symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Seizures are a potential major complication of benzo withdrawal, along with aggressive behavior, loss of appetite, and weight loss. According to the NLM, additional serious withdrawal symptoms specific to Xanax withdrawal include memory problems, hallucinations, losing touch with reality, and thoughts of harm and suicide.
Benzo detox is usually performed using a tapering method, which involves reducing a person’s benzo dosage gradually over time to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Doctors work closely with each patient to develop a tapering schedule and lower the dosage as often as needed to reduce the patient’s symptoms. Tapering may take several weeks or months, depending on how the patient responds to treatment.
After acute withdrawal symptoms have been resolved and a feasible tapering schedule has been established, many patients transition into a drug rehab program to receive behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapies focus on identifying and addressing the root causes of a person’s addiction, such as misusing benzos to avoid stress or using them for recreation to experience euphoria and sedation.
Examples of behavioral therapies that may be used in addiction treatment at drug rehab include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Dual diagnosis therapy
- Contingency management
- Community reinforcement
- Motivational interviewing
- Support group therapy
- Family behavior therapy
- Relapse prevention
- Substance abuse education
- Recreational therapies (e.g., music therapy, art therapy, equine therapy)
Drug rehab aims to help patients establish healthy coping methods that promote a sober, more productive, drug-free lifestyle. All drug rehab programs are customized for each patient based on their unique, personal recovery needs.
If you need help discontinuing Xanax or another benzodiazepine, understand that an addiction treatment center can help you experience a safe, long-term recovery. Contact Indiana Center for Recovery today to learn more about your available treatment options.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.