How Long Does Xanax (Alprazolam) Stay in Your System?

Xanax in Your Blood, Urine, Hair, & Saliva

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In This Article

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine medication that's used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and panic attacks. It's also sometimes prescribed for depression and other conditions like agoraphobia and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Xanax works by slowing down your nervous system, giving you a calm feeling.

Because it can be habit-forming, it's used as a short-term treatment. Xanax can be detected in your body from one to 90 days after use, depending on the type of detection test as well as other factors like dosage, age, weight, ethnicity, and use of other substances like alcohol and nicotine.

Xanax is a Schedule IV drug, meaning it has a lower potential for misuse and lower risk of dependence relative to Schedule III drugs. While the risk is comparatively lower, the drug still carries these risks.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Blood: Up to 24 hours

Urine: Up to 4 days

Hair: Up to 90 days

Saliva: Up to 2.5 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel the Effects?

The effects of Xanax depend on the dosage, but in general, you can expect to feel calmer within an hour. People who use Xanax heavily can build a tolerance to these effects as well as feelings of euphoria, which is why the drug is highly misused.

Xanax can cause side effects that often go away once your body gets used to the medication, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness

Serious side effects aren't very common, but if you experience any of the following symptoms call your doctor right away:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe rash
  • Problems with memory, speech, or coordination
  • Suicidal thoughts

Drinking alcohol and/or using illicit drugs makes the chances of life-threatening side effects of Xanax higher.

How Long Does Xanax Last?

Xanax is considered an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine drug. After taking Xanax in pill form, peak levels are found in your blood 1 to 2 hours later. The average half-life of Xanax in the blood is 11.2 hours in healthy adults, meaning that half of the drug has been metabolized and eliminated in the urine in that time frame. It takes five to seven half-lives for 98% of a drug dose to clear the body, so Xanax takes at least four days to be fully eliminated from the body.

Xanax is detectable in your blood, urine, saliva, and hair, but how long it's detectable depends on a variety of individual factors.

Blood

Blood levels may be done as a screening test or in cases of treatment for a suspected overdose, but they can only detect if you've taken Xanax in the last 24 hours.

Urine

A urine drug screen, such as those that are done for employment, will test positive for benzodiazepines for five days and up to a week after a dose. For populations who metabolize Xanax more slowly—such as the elderly, obese, and those with alcoholic liver disease—that time maybe even longer.

Saliva

Xanax can be detected in saliva for up to 2.5 days.

Hair

As with all drugs, Xanax can be detected in your hair starting two to three weeks after and for up to 90 days after your last dose.

False Positives

If you are taking Xanax by prescription and you have a drug screening or test, tell the testing laboratory so they can properly interpret your results. If you're being screened at work, you may want to let your employer know that you're taking Xanax ahead of time.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

Your age, weight, body fat, other medications, dose, length of time taking Xanax, hydration level, and metabolism all affect how long it takes for the drug to be eliminated from your system. The half-life of Xanax is longer for older adults, people of Asians descent, people with obesity, and those with liver disease.

Age

Your age can play a factor in the half-life of Xanax. For example, the average half-life is roughly 11 hours in young, healthy adults compared to a little over 16 hours in healthy, senior adults. 

Weight

When you’re overweight, it’s more difficult for your body to break down Xanax, which can increase the half-life of the drug. 

Ethnicity

Studies show that people of Asian descent take longer than Caucasians to excrete the drug from the body—the half-life of Xanax is approximately 15% to 25% higher in Asian people.

Metabolism

People with a higher metabolism, for example, those who are physically active, tend to be able to excrete Xanax faster. Hydration, age, and other health conditions may also play a role in a person's metabolic rate. 

Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol and Xanax is a dangerous duo that can lead to a fatal overdose. Alcohol can increase the effects of Xanax as well as the time it takes for the drug to leave your system. What's more, people with chronic liver disease due to years of alcohol use have a harder time breaking down the drug in their bodies, resulting in a half-life of nearly 20 hours versus 11.2 in healthy adults.

Smoking Cigarettes

The concentration of Xanax in the blood is up to 50% less in smokers than non-smokers.

Other Medications and Supplements

Certain medications, like birth control pills and opioids, may make it harder for your body to break down Xanax while others, like the supplement St. John's Wort, may speed up the process.

Symptoms of Overdose

Because Xanax can create feelings of relaxation, calm, and well-being, and because it doesn't take long before your body builds a tolerance to the dose you're taking, it has the potential to be habit-forming. Your doctor will likely start you on the lowest dose possible to see if it's effective and aim to keep you on the lowest effective dose.

Take your prescription on the schedule and dosage your doctor prescribed. Do not cut or crush extended-relief pills as this gives you a larger dose all at once and may cause an overdose.

Symptoms of Xanax overdose can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow respiration
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Confusion
  • Coma

If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of Xanax, call 911 or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Medication Interactions

Interactions with other medications can lead to serious, life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, and coma while you are taking Xanax. Discuss with your doctor all prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking, plan to take, or plan to discontinue. Some medications of special concern are opiate medications such as codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, and tramadol.

Getting Help

You may experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking Xanax. Don't stop or decrease your dose on your own as this can be dangerous, and can increase the risk of seizure. Talk to your doctor, who will prescribe an appropriate tapering schedule that will minimize or eliminate any potential physical or psychological symptoms of Xanax withdrawal.

Many people who are prescribed Xanax worry about becoming addicted to the drug. While Xanax is safe for most people when taken as advised, people with a history of alcohol or drug use disorders may be at risk for dependence.

If you or someone you love is misusing Xanax, it's important to get help. Talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional about treatment options.

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Article Sources

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  1. Nordal K, Øiestad EL, Enger A, Christophersen AS, Vindenes V. Detection times of diazepam, clonazepam, and alprazolam in oral fluid collected from patients admitted to detoxification, after high and repeated drug intake. Ther Drug Monit. 2015;37(4):451-60. doi:10.1097/FTD.0000000000000174

Additional Reading

  • MedlinePlus. Alprazolam. U.S. National Library of Medicine. July 2018.

  • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Xanax. September 2016.