How Long Do Benzos Stay In Your System?

Benzodiazepines, often also referred to as “benzos”, are a class of medications prescribed to treat anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and agitation. They are also used for sedation purposes and treating withdrawal symptoms in addiction recovery programs.1 This type of medications can be legally obtained only through prescription. The most commonly prescribed benzos are Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, and Klonopin.2

Due to their effects and high dependence potential, the use of benzodiazepines can lead to misuse, abuse, and addiction. This can be very dangerous, as overdosing or combining benzodiazepines with other drugs or alcohol can lead to serious impairment and even death.3 Using benzos with opioids is especially risky. Namely, 16% of overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2019 involved opioids and benzodiazepines.4

On the other hand, when a person is dependent on substances such as benzodiazepines, stopping drug intake abruptly or reducing the dose too quickly can also pose dangerous conditions such as seizures, which can be life-threatening.3

This is the reason why the safest way to recover from addiction is to join certified addiction programs, where treatment professionals knowledgeable of benzodiazepine metabolism and benzodiazepines detection in the body can support the patient through the treatment process, help them detox safely, and recover from the substance use disorder. This may often entail conducting benzodiazepine drug tests before determining the best course of action.

Benzo on a drug test

Benzodiazepine Metabolism

Benzo metabolism, i.e. the way in which the drug is processed by the body, depends on the following factors:5

  • The route of drug administration
  • The characteristics of the drug
  • Patient’s personal characteristics

Benzodiazepines are available in the following forms: intramuscular, intravenous, oral, sublingual, intranasal, or rectal gel forms. When taken intravenously, the drug quickly reaches the brain and the central nervous system, whereas this process is slower when the drug is taken orally and absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract or when it is received in the form of an intramuscular injection.5

Benzos & Absorptions in the System

The drugs in the class of benzodiazepines differ in terms of molecular size, lipid solubility, and their binding to plasma proteins, which affects the rate of absorption. Diazepam and clorazepate are absorbed most rapidly, while prazepam and oxazepam are the least rapidly absorbed benzodiazepines. Chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam, and flurazepam fall in between.6 For example, when lorazepam is taken sublingually, it reaches its peak levels in 60 minutes.5

After absorption, benzodiazepines are widely distributed in the body. The metabolites of benzodiazepines strongly bind to proteins. They accumulate in the central nervous system and fat tissue. The more lipophilic agents the drug has, the faster is its rate of absorption and the onset of its clinical effects.5

People with impaired liver function, which is typical of older age, are at risk of benzodiazepines and the metabolites of benzodiazepines accumulating in the plasma, rather than being eliminated, which can be toxic.7

In normal circumstances, after being oxidatively metabolized, most benzodiazepines are excreted almost entirely in urine.5

Half-Life of Benzodiazepines

Drug elimination half-life is the period of time in which the plasma concentration of a drug decreases to 50%. These are the average elimination half-lives of benzodiazepines:5

  • 1 to 12 hours for short-acting benzodiazepines
  • 12 to 40 hours for intermediate-acting benzodiazepines
  • 40 to 250 hours for long-acting benzodiazepines

The drug is almost totally eliminated from the body after about 5 elimination half-lives. If another dose of the drug is taken before this time interval, then the drug will be accumulated in the body.5

Benzodiazepine Drug Tests

In addition to using different samples, the types of benzodiazepine drug tests differ in terms of benzo detection times. In other words, the time window in which a drug test can be useful for benzodiazepines detection in the system varies depending on the type of the benzo drug (for instance, whether a person has been abusing Xanax or Valium) and the dosage.8

Whether the benzo drug test will detect the presence of the substance depends on the type of the drug and test:

  • A benzodiazepine urine test can detect it in urine in the period of up to 7 days for short-acting ones and even up to one month for long-acting ones.9,8
  • When conducting a benzodiazepine screen using oral fluid samples, the detection time varies on the type of benzodiazepine drug, ranging from 2.5 days to maximum of 9 days for some drugs.10
  • Blood tests can detect benzos in the period of 12 hours to 2 days following the last use.11
  • A benzo drug test can also be done with hair samples, but since hair grows slowly, this test cannot be done right after drug intake. This kind of benzodiazepine test has the longest time window, even up to 90 days.9

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

If a person who has been using benzodiazepines for weeks and months stops taking it suddenly, or even gradually but without consulting a healthcare professional, they are likely to quickly experience withdrawal symptoms. These may include:3

  • Catatonia
  • Delirium tremens
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Memory problems
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Manic, psychotic, or suicidal thoughts

How to Get Benzodiazepines out of the System?

To avoid severe withdrawal and help the patient detox safely, treatment professionals in benzodiazepine addiction programs gradually reduce the dosage of the drug that the patient takes, which is the process called tapering. The dose is initially reduced by 25-30%, and then gradually by 5-10% daily or weekly. This process should not be shorter than two weeks. In more complex cases this process can be extended to several months and some cases may require inpatient care.12

Where to Get Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction

American Addiction Centers provides benzodiazepine and other types of addiction treatment programs across the U.S. By calling our 24/7 toll-free helpline or checking the website, it is possible to get information on available treatment options, locations, insurance coverage, and payment options.As treatment needs are highly individual, so are the treatment plans which are tailored to meet the needs of the particular patient. Admissions navigators can help the person find the optimal treatment solution for themselves or their loved one and answer all the questions about Benzodiazepines tests and treatment admission.



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