Many people wonder how long does Xanax stay in your system, including your blood, urine, saliva, and hair. There are a few primary reasons someone might have this question. Some of the reasons it’s relevant include:
- Someone may ask “how long does Xanax stay in your system” because they are going to undergo drug testing, such as urine tests.
- Xanax can cause an overdose, so it’s important to correctly time dosages of the drug to prevent too much depression of the central nervous system and ensure enough has been eliminated from the body.
- When Xanax is combined with other central nervous system depressants such as opioids or alcohol it can be dangerous or deadly, so a person may want to ensure the entire dose of Xanax is cleared their system before using another substance.
- If you’re dependent on Xanax, you may wonder how long it can stay in your system to have a better idea of when withdrawal symptoms might occur.
What Is It and How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?
What's In This Article?
First, what is Xanax? Xanax is a brand-name drug, with the generic name alprazolam. Xanax is characterized as a benzodiazepine used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Specifically, Xanax may be prescribed to treat symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety linked to depression and panic disorder. Less commonly Xanax may be used as a treatment for depression.
Xanax is available in different forms including tablets, extended-release tablets, and a liquid form.
How Does Xanax Work?
All benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. Xanax and other benzodiazepines (or benzos as they’re sometimes called) slow the activity of the central nervous system and have a calming effect. The following details how Xanax works:
- When someone uses Xanax, it increases the effects of GABA, which is a naturally-occurring brain chemical
- GABA is an inhibitory brain chemical, meaning it reduces neural activity in the brain
- By increasing the effects of an inhibitory brain chemical, Xanax can help someone feel calmer and more relaxed, reducing over-excited brain activity
Xanax is not meant to be a long-term or daily anxiety medication. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are habit-forming. They can also lead to physical dependence.
What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Xanax?
Along with being potentially-habit forming, Xanax has other risks associated with its use as well.
The FDA issues black box warnings regarding the use of benzodiazepines and opioid pain medications at the same time. Opioid pain medicines include oxycodone and hydrocodone, among many others. The reason for the warning is because taking opioids and benzodiazepines together can lead to extreme central nervous system depression. Specific effects of mixing Xanax and opioids can include drowsiness, slowed breathing, coma, and death.
Less severe and more common side effects of Xanax are:
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired thinking
- Slurred speech
- Problems with memory
Can You Get High on Xanax?
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are among the most widely abused drugs right now, including among prescription and illegal drugs. Someone who uses Xanax may find that it creates a high, or a sense of pleasant relaxation and anxiety-relief. Xanax is often used without a prescription as a result.
Xanax also tends to be combined with other substances such as alcohol to increase the high.
There are risks associated with Xanax abuse, however, and particularly in the long-term. Long-term Xanax abuse is linked to depression, aggression, impulsivity, and psychotic experiences.
Typically a doctor doesn’t prescribe Xanax to a patient for more than a few weeks because of its potential to be habit-forming. Along with psychological addiction, it’s also possible to be physically dependent on Xanax.
If this is the case and you stop using Xanax suddenly, you may go through withdrawal. Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be severe in some cases—in fact; benzodiazepines have among the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms for heavy and long-term users of any other substances.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can include:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in vision
If someone takes Xanax for a period of time they should consult with a doctor before stopping.
When someone is prescribed Xanax, the dosage can vary depending on specific factors. These factors include the patient’s age and health history and why it’s being prescribed. Doctors will typically start a patient out on the lowest possible effective dosage of Xanax and then gradually increase it over time to reduce side effects.
Available doses of Xanax include:
- Xanax 0.25 mg (white oval pill, imprinted with Xanax 0.25)
- Xanax 0.5 mg (peach, oval tablet imprinted with Xanax 0.5)
- Xanax 1.0 mg (blue, oval and imprinted with Xanax 1.0)
- Xanax 2 mg (white, oblong imprinted with Xanax on one side and two on the other)
How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?
Xanax is classified as an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. When someone uses Xanax, the peak concentrations of the drug occur in their blood anywhere from one to two hours after it’s initially used.
What is the Half-Life of Xanax?
The half-life of a substance is a measure of how long it takes the substance to be reduced by half in the body. The average half-life of Xanax is 11.2 hours in adults who are generally healthy. Within 11.2 hours, the body has therefore metabolized half the dose of Xanax someone took.
On average it takes anywhere from four to seven half-lives for a drug to clear the system fully. Based on these figures, it would take a minimum of four days for someone’s body to eliminate Xanax.
A number of factors can affect the elimination half-life and how long it takes Xanax to leave the body.
For example, people who are obese or who have impaired liver or kidney function may have slower elimination times for Xanax. Older people and people with underlying health issues also tend to take longer to eliminate drugs like Xanax. If someone is a long-time benzodiazepine user, it’s likely to take them longer to eliminate a dose of Xanax, and certain other substances and medications can slow the elimination time for Xanax. Many specific features of a person’s body and health can cause the amount of time it takes Xanax to leave the body to vary.
Half-life measures are extremely variable, and the half-life of Xanax can range to anywhere from 6.3 hours to 26.9 hours, depending on the individual, and how much Xanax they use.
How Long Do the Effects of Xanax Last?
Whether someone is using Xanax as prescribed to treat a condition such as panic disorder, or they’re recreationally abusing it, they may wonder how long the effects last. The noticeable effects of Xanax end much sooner than the drug clears the system.
For example, within a few hours, most of the effects of Xanax you can feel will have worn off. Some people may be prescribed to take Xanax several times a day as a result, but they have to be careful. Even though you can’t still feel the effects of Xanax, it can still be in your system for days, increasing the risk of an overdose.
How Long Does Xanax Show Up In a Drug Screen?
Some drug screens will show the use of benzodiazepines. The following are some things to know about whether or not Xanax will show up in specific drug tests:
Within around two weeks a urine analysis will typically stop showing the use of Xanax. However, long-term or people with a Xanax addiction who use high doses may test positive for the drug beyond two weeks. For someone who doesn’t regularly use Xanax or used only a small dose, typically within three days they will no longer test positive on a urine analysis.
The more hydrated someone is, and the more often they go to the bathroom, the more likely it is they will be able to speed up their elimination time for Xanax.
In a blood test, there is a much shorter detection time for Xanax. Typically a blood test will only show the use of Xanax within around 24 hours.
In a saliva test, the use of Xanax may be detected for up to three days after someone uses it.
Hair tests have the longest detection times for not only Xanax but all drugs. While it can take two to three weeks for the use of Xanax to initially show up in a hair test, you can test positive for up to 90 days after using it.
The Takeaway—How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?
With an average half-life of just over 11 hours, you can expect that Xanax will stay in your system for anywhere from three-to-four days up to a week or more.
Nichols, Hannah. “What You Need to Know About Xanax.” Medical News Today. December 7, 2017. Accessed March 4, 2019.
Buddy T. “How Long Does Xanax (Alprazolam) Stay in Your System?” Verywell Mind. September 26, 2018. Accessed March 4, 2019.
Cafasso, Jacquelyn. “How Long Does Xanax Last?” Healthline. November 20, 2017. Accessed March 4, 2019.