What Determines How Long Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

The specific drug taken, drug taking habits, amount consumed, age, weight, and gender all influence the length of time a benzodiazepine stays in your system. Other factors include how the drug was taken, whether other drugs were used, ethnicity, and medical conditions such as kidney problems. However, there are some general guidelines that can be used to determine how long a benzodiazepine stay in the body.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are mostly classified as class Schedule IV drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Usually, benzodiazepines are prescribed to address anxiety disorders and sleep issues, but they also treat disorders like epilepsy that cause seizures. Benzos replaced a much more powerful and dangerous class of drugs, barbiturates, because of their reduced risk and increased success rate. As central nervous system depressants, benzodiazepines pose a serious risk when mixed with drugs that act similarly, like alcohol. Though the combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol can be dangerous, benzodiazepines are prescribed to people suffering from the effects of alcohol withdrawal. As benzodiazepine prescriptions have increased in number, so too has the popularity of taking them recreationally. Xanax is a particularly popular drug to abuse, leading to nicknames like “bars” because of the unique, rectangular shape of many Xanax pills.

Benzodiazepine Effect Timespan

Different benzodiazepines spend different amounts of time in the body. In the medical field, these times are measured by a drug’s half-life. This represents the amount of time it takes your body to process and dispose of half of the drugs taken. It usually takes five half-lives to remove a drug’s active components from the body. There are three classifications of benzodiazepine half-life: long-acting, intermediate-acting, and short-acting. These classifications help medical professionals decide which drug to prescribe for certain conditions. Long acting benzodiazepines are known to cause a buildup of sedative feeling, which can make people feel as though they’re living in a haze if their dose is too high or they are abusing the medication. Conversely, extremely fast acting benzodiazepines can cause issues like memory loss and confusion.

Long

Acting

Valium, Librium, Dalmane

Intermediate

Acting

Xanax, Ativan, Restoril

Short

Acting

Versed, Halcion

Benzodiazepines in Your System

The length of time benzodiazepines stay in the body depends on a variety of factors: which benzodiazepine was taken, your weight, your history of drug use, your medical history, and even the speed of your metabolism. The more you take a drug, the more evidence it leaves behind, making it easier to test positive. Someone with a quick metabolism who takes a small dose will test negative more quickly than someone with a slow metabolism who takes the same or larger doses.

Other factors that influence how long benzos stay in the body include:

  • The regular dose
  • How the drug was taken
  • The presence of other drugs in the body
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Medical conditions
  • Gender
  • Psychiatric conditions

Detecting Benzodiazepine Use

There are several situations in society that implement drug tests. Many companies require incoming employees to undergo some form of drug test before starting the job. Drug testing is also common in the legal system with cases involving parole and child custody. Professional sports and athletics organizations test athletes regularly and when an athlete falls under suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs. Athletic drug tests are often the most publicized because of the celebrity status of professional athletes.

The majority of drug tests don’t literally test for the drug itself. They look for what scientists call metabolites, which are the leftovers created when your body metabolizes the drug. These molecules stick around for much longer than the actual drug and drug tests can determine what drug was consumed by the metabolites left in your body.