How Long Does Librium Stay in Your System?

Elimination depends on many different factors

Shot of a senior woman about to take a pill

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Librium (chlordiazepoxide) is a type of sedative known as a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders and alcohol withdrawal, among other things. It was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, but its popularity has waned in recent years due to the high risk of dependence and addiction.

As with other benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam), Librium has a relatively long half-life, and the time it takes to eliminate the drug from the system can vary from one person to the next.

Factors for Drug Elimination

Librium has a drug half-life of between five and 30 hours, meaning that 50 percent of the drug will have been eliminated from the body with this span of time. In order to achieve the therapeutic effects, you need to take Librium for a period of time (known as the loading dose) to gradually build up to peak concentrations in the blood.

When stopping Librium, the time it takes to eliminate all traces of the drug from the body can vary based upon a number of factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Liver function
  • Body mass
  • Dosage
  • Period of usage
  • Other drugs in your system
  • Genetics

All of these factors contribute to how quickly or slowly you eliminate Librium from the system.

Physiological Factors

Librium is primarily clear by the body through the liver, although some of the drug will also be excreted in urine. If your liver is in any way impaired, the clearance of the drug will also be impeded. This largely explains why there are such wide variations in the drug half-life.

Age also plays a role in that liver function tends to wane as we age. As a result, people over 65 end to eliminate Librium at half the rate of someone in their 20s and 30s.

Drug clearance is also influenced by your body mass index (BMI), with obese people (BMI 30 and above) taking anywhere from two to three times longer to eliminate Librium than those of normal weight (BMI under 24).

Pharmaceutical Factors

The higher the dosage and period of usage, the longer it will take to clear Librium from the body. Those who never reach peak concentration will invariably achieve clearance faster than those who do.

Beyond the drug itself, Librium clearance may be affected by other drugs you are taking. Librium is primarily cleared from the body with an enzyme known as cytochrome P450 (CYP450) that metabolizes toxins in the liver.

If other drugs utilize CYP450 for clearance, this will naturally alter the rate of elimination of both drugs simply because there is less enzyme to "go around."

Genetic Factors

Genetics also play a role in that certain genetic anomalies can impede the synthesis of amino acids, the building blocks of enzymes. This can affect the level of CYP450 metabolism and, in turn, the elimination of Librium from the body. Some of these anomalies are not readily detected or currently unknown by scientists

Librium Detection by Test

Some tests are able to detect Librium well after drug levels have dropped to undetectable levels for others. The following is an estimated range of times (detection windows) during which Librium can still be reliably detected:

  • Blood tests: 6-48 hours
  • Saliva test: 1-10 days
  • Urine test: 1-6 weeks
  • Hair follicle test: up to 90 days

Withdrawal and Safe Elimination

If you decide to stop taking Librium (or have developed a dependence on the drug and need to detox), you should only do so under the direction of your prescribing doctor. If you stop cold turkey, you risk serious withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Trouble feeling pleasure (dysphoria)

Some of these symptoms, like depression and insomnia, can persist for more than a month. To mitigate the risk, doctors will formulate a tapering process wherein the Librium dose is progressively reduced over the course of several weeks.

Even if you've only been on Librium for a few weeks, tapering is still advised to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms.

To help speed the process, you can drink a lot of water to encourage the clearance of the drugs through the kidneys. Exercise can help speed your natural metabolism but should be done under the care of a doctor. Excessive exercise may only exacerbate the stomach aches and nausea commonly experienced after you stop using Librium.

A Word From Verywell

Because Librium is a benzodiazepine, extra care should be taken if an opioid drug is co-prescribed for pain. The FDA has found serious risks associated with the coadministration of these drugs, including the potentially life-threatening depression of the central nervous system.

Because of these risks, the FDA has issued its strongest warning—a black box warning—on opioid and benzodiazepine labels. The combined use of these drugs may result in respiratory arrest and death. Alcohol can trigger the same effects and should be avoided if you taking Librium.

If you suspect a Librium overdose, call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

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Article Sources

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  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018) Chlordiazepoxide. Medline Plus. Bethesda, Maryland: Department of Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health.