How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System? Drug Facts, Half-Life, and Treatment

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System
Amanda Stevens

Written By

Amanda Stevens
Dr. Po-Chang Hsu -

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Last Medically Reviewed on November 20, 2023

  • Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine used for anxiety disorders.
  • Xanax works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which in turn helps to calm the central nervous system.
  • Xanax's presence in your body after consumption varies based on age, dosage, metabolism, and other factors.
  • Concentration typically peaks 1-2 hours after consumption, with an average half-life of around 11 hours.
  • Extended Xanax use can lead to dependence and addiction.
  • You should only take Xanax under medical supervision and as prescribed and communicate openly with healthcare providers about any concerns you may have.

Xanax, a brand name for the drug alprazolam, is prescribed to help manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Understanding the dynamics of Xanax absorption and metabolism is crucial for safe usage under the guidance of a professional, along with increasing your understanding of the drug’s potential for both misuse and addiction.

What is Xanax?

Xanax, scientifically known as alprazolam, is classified as a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that exert a calming effect on the central nervous system (CNS). In particular, Xanax is typically prescribed to manage a spectrum of anxiety-related conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.[1]

By enhancing the action of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, Xanax increases GABA’s effectiveness in reducing neuronal excitability. This specific action leads to a calming effect on the central nervous system, thereby helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are known for their rapid onset of action, making them effective in providing immediate relief to individuals grappling with acute anxiety episodes.

Xanax is available in various formulations, including immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, and sublingual tablets. The method of administration and formulation influence how quickly the drug takes effect and how long it remains active in the body.

It’s also important to note that Xanax also carries a high potential for both abuse and addiction and should only be taken as prescribed and under the supervision of a medical professional.[2] Xanax and other benzodiazepines can produce euphoria and other side effects. They are currently listed as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to their medical purposes and potential for misuse.[3]

How Long Will Xanax Stay in My System?

Ultimately, the duration of time in which Xanax remains detectable in the body is influenced by a multitude of factors. Xanax concentration normally peaks in the bloodstream one to two hours after ingestion. The half-life of Xanax, or the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body, is typically around 11 hours.[4]

However, this window can vary widely due to a wide variety of factors:

  • Age: Older individuals tend to process most medications more slowly, which can lead to an extended presence of Xanax in their system compared to younger individuals.
  • Dosage and Frequency: Higher doses of Xanax will take longer to be eliminated. Additionally, frequent usage of Xanax can lead to the drug accumulating in the body, requiring more time to process.
  • Body Composition: An individual’s unique stature and fat percentage can affect Xanax’s distribution and elimination patterns.
  • Metabolism and Liver Function: Xanax is primarily metabolized by the liver’s enzymes. As such, individuals with compromised liver function can have Xanax in their system longer than others. Conversely, those with optimal liver function may be able to eliminate the drug more effectively.
  • Genetics: Genetic variations can impact how your body processes certain medications, potentially leading to differences in how Xanax will remain in your system.
  • The Presence of Other Substances: Simultaneous use of other substances—such as other prescribed medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs—can alter your body’s metabolism of Xanax, along with carrying potentially fatal consequences.

Is Xanax Addictive?

Is Xanax Addictive

Xanax, like all benzodiazepines, carries the potential risk for dependence and addiction. While Xanax can provide relief to individuals struggling with anxiety, the medication also impacts the brain’s natural reward system due to its calming effects—and you may find yourself wanting to use the drug more frequently or in an illicit manner as a result.[5]

There are several factors which can contribute to developing an addiction to Xanax:

  • Side effects: Xanax is known to produce a euphoric and relaxed feeling, which can cause you to seek out these effects beyond their intended usage from your prescriber (or to seek out the drug illegally).
  • Tolerance: Over time, your body can develop a tolerance to the medication, which means the same dose may not deliver the same effects it once did. This can lead to taking higher doses than was intended or more frequent usage, escalating the risk of dependence and addiction.
  • Physical and psychological dependence: As is the case with all benzodiazepines, Xanax can lead to both physical and psychological dependence, meaning that your body comes to rely on the drug to function normally, and your fear of anxiety or withdrawal without Xanax causes you to seek it out.
  • Withdrawal: Stopping Xanax use after prolonged or excessive use can be dangerous, leading to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, seizures, and even death.[6]

It’s also important to note that combining Xanax with other substances, particularly alcohol, can have fatal consequences.[7] Alcohol is a depressant to the CNS, and combining it with benzodiazepine use can lead to respiratory issues that necessitate immediate medical attention.

It’s essential to always approach any Xanax use with caution and under medical supervision. If you find yourself using Xanax frequently or in larger doses than prescribed, it’s important to have an open conversation with your healthcare provider.

Recovery From Xanax Addiction is Possible

The question of how long Xanax lingers in the system underscores the importance of responsible use, medical guidance, and the potential risks that misuse can bring. If you’re struggling with Xanax or benzodiazepine usage, reach out for professional support to begin the recovery process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Xanax

Can Xanax show up on drug tests?

Yes, Xanax can show up on drug tests. Many modern, standard tests can detect the presence of Xanax and its metabolites. The duration Xanax remains detectable can vary based on factors like dosage, frequency of use, and individual metabolism.

Can I stop taking Xanax suddenly?

It’s never advisable to abruptly stop taking Xanax without consulting a physician. Stopping Xanax abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which may include increased anxiety, insomnia, and, in more severe cases, seizures. These symptoms underscore the importance of consulting with a physician before discontinuing Xanax use. If you’re considering discontinuing Xanax, working with your healthcare provider to gradually taper off the medication to minimize these effects is important.

How can I use Xanax responsibly?

Using Xanax responsibly requires open and ongoing communication with your healthcare provider. They can help determine the appropriate dosage and usage frequency for your specific needs. Suppose you have concerns about dependence or addiction. In that case, discussing these with your healthcare provider immediately can help to create a tailored plan that addresses your anxiety while minimizing the risks of ongoing Xanax usage. Additionally, only take Xanax when prescribed to do so by a medical professional, and never take Xanax for recreational purposes.

Should I drink alcohol while taking Xanax?

It’s generally recommended to avoid alcohol while taking Xanax. Both substances are CNS depressants, and their combined use can lead to enhanced sedation, drowsiness, and impaired coordination. This interaction can be dangerous, potentially leading to accidents or respiratory depression. Always consult your healthcare provider before combining Xanax with alcohol or any other substances.

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[1] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Alprazolam: Medlineplus Drug Information. MedlinePlus. on August 24th, 2023

[2] Alprazolam – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. (n.d.). on August 24th, 2023

[3] Controlled substance schedules. (n.d.). on August 24th, 2023

[4] MediLexicon International. (n.d.). How long does Xanax last in your system? withdrawal and more. Medical News Today. on August 24th, 2023

[5] Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A. S., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A review of Alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. Journal of addiction medicine. on August 24th, 2023

[6] DK;, L. M. (n.d.). A fatal case of benzodiazepine withdrawal. The American journal of forensic medicine and pathology. on August 24th, 2023

[7] McHugh, R. K., Votaw, V. R., Taghian, N. R., Griffin, M. L., & Weiss, R. D. (2020, October). Benzodiazepine misuse in adults with alcohol use disorder: Prevalence, motives and patterns of use. Journal of substance abuse treatment. on August 24th, 2023

Amanda Stevens

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work.

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