How Long Does Valium (Diazepam) Stay in Your System?

Valium in Your Blood, Urine, Hair, & Saliva

Several 5mg/ml vials of Valium (Diazepam)

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Valium (diazepam) is a fast-acting and long-lasting benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Since being approved by the FDA in 1963, Valium has been prescribed for a range of medical conditions including muscle spasms, seizure disorders, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines such as Valium were originally developed to replace more dangerous and addictive barbiturates. Despite the improved safety profile of Valium and other benzodiazepines, these substances can still lead to physical dependence and addiction even when taken exactly as prescribed. Benzodiazepines like Valium are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances.

Valium can also have potentially dangerous interactions with other substances, so knowing how long its effects last and how long it stays in your body can help minimize the risk of interaction side effects and accidental overdose.

How Long Does Valium Stay in Your System?

Urine: Up to six weeks

Blood: Up to 48 hours

Saliva: Up to 10 days

Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

Valium works by facilitating the activity of the chemical GABA at various receptor sites in the brain. GABA reduces activity in different areas of the brain including regions that help control emotion, thought, memory, and automatic functions such as breathing. By increasing the effects of this brain chemical, Valium helps reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and increase drowsiness.

Valium can be taken by mouth, injection, or rectal gel. When administered via injection, valium takes just one to five minutes to take effect. When taken orally, people usually begin to feel the effects 15 to 60 minutes after ingestion. Rectal gel may be used for those who are experiencing seizures and begins working quickly after administration.

If you take Valium, it's important to know how long the drug stays active in your system to avoid associated risks:

  • Having too much Valium in your body at one time can cause serious side effects. These include seizures, tremors, a shuffling gait, fever, severe skin rash, yellowing of the skin or eyes, irregular heart rate, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Valium can easily become habit-forming. After a period of time, you can develop a tolerance for the drug, making it less effective than when you first started taking it. As a result, you may have to take larger dosages to achieve the same effect that you once got, but to do so can increase your risk of addiction. Notably, long-term or heavy use of Valium can have some alarming consequences. Studies have found, for instance, that long-term use of Valium and similar drugs used to treat anxiety are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
  • Valium can have serious or even life-threatening side effects if you take certain other medications before it's totally cleared from your body. It's especially dangerous to take sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers if you have Valium in your system. The same is true of drinking alcohol.

How Long Does Valium Last?

Valium has a half-life of approximately 48 hours. The half-life of a drug is how long it takes for half of a dose to be eliminated from the body.

As Valium is processed by the body, it is broken down into other substances known as metabolites. In many cases, these metabolites are detectable in the body for much longer than the drug itself. The most common metabolites of Valium are nordiazepam, temazepam, and oxazepam.

The metabolites of the drug may have much longer half-lives as well. Nordiazepam, for example, has a half-life of up to 100 hours. Valium also accumulates when people take multiple doses over a period of time, which can slightly prolong the total half-life of the substance.

Valium—or rather metabolites associated with the medication—can be detected in the body in different ways.

Urine

Valium can be detected in urine for one to six weeks after being taken. Because of its widespread use, Valium is one of the drugs most frequently seen on urine drug screenings. People who have taken this drug usually test positive for a combination of Valium metabolites. It is the presence of these main metabolites that distinguishes prescription diazepam use from non-prescription benzodiazepine misuse.

Blood

Valium is detectable in blood for six to 48 hours. Blood tests tend to be used less frequently than other test methods due to the shorter detection window and the more invasive nature of the test. However, a blood test may be used in some forensic settings or to confirm an unexpected positive urine test result.

Saliva

A saliva test can detect Valium for one to 10 days after it's taken. Research suggests that saliva testing can be a viable alternative to urine testing for the detection of Valium and other benzodiazepines. 

While saliva tests have a fairly long detection window, this type of testing can present some challenges. Valium side effects can include dry mouth or hypersalivation, which can affect the ability to collect an adequate sample or may dilute the amount of detectable substance in the oral fluid.

Hair

Like many other drugs, Valium can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days. The long detection window of this testing method means that it can be used to look for past drug use. If you have been prescribed Valium to treat anxiety or another condition, be sure to inform the testing lab, even if you are no longer taking your medication.

False Positive Testing

There are some medications that may cross-react with immunoassay drug screens. There are reports of the antidepressant medication Zoloft (sertraline) and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Daypro (oxaprozin) causing false-positive urine screens for benzodiazepines like Valium.

Always disclose any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking to the lab so clinicians can accurately interpret your drug screen results.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

There are many variables that affect how long Valium remains in the body. The rate at which medications (and any substance for that matter) stick around depends on things like a person's metabolism, age, weight, and percentage of body fat. Activity level and hydration also can impact how long it takes medication to clear. Some health conditions, including liver impairments, can play a role in the rate at which drugs are metabolized by the body.

Other factors that can affect how long Valium stays in a person's body have to do with the specific prescription—the larger the dose and more frequently you take it, for example, likely means it will be detectable for longer.

Why You Might Be Tested

Some prospective employers order drug tests during the interviewing process to screen for possible drug misuse. A doctor may want to make sure you don't have traces of Valium in your system before prescribing another medication.

How to Get Valium Out of Your System

The first step to getting Valium out of your system is to stop taking the drug, though you should never stop taking your prescribed medication without talking to your doctor first. Because your body can develop a tolerance and dependence on the substance, suddenly stopping your medication can decrease your body's tolerance for the drug. If you start taking it again at the same dose, it can result in an accidental overdose. Discuss your options for safely stopping your medication, which may involve a gradual reduction in your dose in order to avoid withdrawal effects, a process known as tapering.

Once you have safely stopped taking Valium, make sure that you stay well hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and get regular physical exercise. Such habits may help to slightly increase how quickly your body metabolizes and excretes the drug and its metabolites.

Symptoms of Overdose

Benzodiazepines such as Valium are usually considered safe when they are taken as prescribed. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of overdose. These factors include taking Valium in combination with other CNS depressants, consuming alcohol in combination with Valium, taking more than your prescribed dose, or taking the drug more frequently than prescribed. Being aware of the signs of a Valium overdose is important so that you and your loved ones can get help as quickly as possible.

Some of the signs of a potential Valium overdose include:

  • Very deep sleep
  • Blue lips
  • Mental confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

If someone is experiencing these symptoms, contact emergency services right away.

Getting Help

Valium carries a risk of dependence. If you suddenly stop using Valium, you may experience symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, which can include nausea, seizures, insomnia, muscle spasms, and mental changes like anxiety and depression. With longer-acting drugs like Valium, withdrawal symptoms may not appear for one to two days after your last dose.

If you believe that you might have a physical dependence or addiction to Valium, talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor can offer advice and assistance. In some cases, you might want to seek help from a medical detox center, since benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be severe. 

Treatment options may include inpatient or outpatient treatment centers, individual psychotherapy, or support groups to aid in your long-term recovery. Effective treatments may involve tapering your dosage to manage withdrawal symptoms as well as psychotherapeutic approaches including cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management.

You can also find help by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or using their online tool to find treatment services in your area.

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Article Sources

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