Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of drugs used to treat conditions like anxiety and insomnia.
They’re also referred to as tranquilizers because of their sedative and relaxing side effects. Common benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Our Massachusetts drug treatment center is familiar with benzos’ potential for abuse and addiction. Many people who are prescribed benzos or begin taking them without a prescription become addicted. We’re reviewing how long benzos stay in your system and the long-term side effects of their use.
How Do Benzos Work?
All benzodiazepines are believed to work by affecting a specific chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter or a chemical messenger used by neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) to communicate. These chemicals send signals between the body and brain and are responsible for a vast majority of human function. GABA is specifically an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it suppresses the function of neurons in the CNS. Because conditions like seizures, anxiety disorders, and insomnia are associated with high neuron activity, benzos are often the chosen form of treatment.
Although benzos all work the same way, certain factors are adjusted depending on the purpose of its use. Some of these factors include:
- The rate of onset action (how quickly their effects kick in
- Duration of action (how long their side effects last)
- Potency (how much of the drug is needed to produce a certain effect)
- Duration (how long they stay in the person’s body)
Benzodiazepines were hoped to replace barbiturates, another class of highly addictive drugs; however, benzos were also found to be addictive. Although they’re controlled substances (Schedule IV drugs), they all have the potential for abuse. Many individuals have needed the assistance of our benzo addiction treatment at Banyan Treatment Centers Massachusetts to regain their health and sobriety.
How Long do Benzos Stay in Your System?
How long benzos stay in your system depends on their duration of action and half-lives. Individuals who abuse benzos may use a higher dose or take more of them if the duration of action is short. The higher the dose they take, the longer this drug will stay in their body. Some benzodiazepines may be eliminated from the body quicker than others.
How long benzodiazepines stay in the body also depends on the type of benzo a person uses. Below is the duration of side effects for different types of benzo drugs:1
- Long-acting: Long-acting benzos like Valium can be detectable in a person’s body anywhere from 5 to 24 days
- Intermediate: Benzos with an intermediate duration of action like Xanax, Ativan, Restoril, Librium, and Klonopin can be detected in a person’s system for up to 12 days
- Short-acting: Benzos with short-lasting side effects like Halcion can be detected in a person’s system for 24 hours after last use
The type of detection test may also result in different detection times for benzos in a person’s system. These are general estimates of how long benzos can be detected in urine, saliva, blood, and hair.
- Urine: 3 to 6 weeks
- Hair follicles: Up to 90 days
- Blood: 2 to 3 days
- Saliva: 2 to 3 days
These are general estimates that can be influenced by the type of benzo taken, metabolism, age, body size, weight, liver health, and hydration. The length of time any benzo remains in the system is heavily dependent on its duration of action. People also mix benzos with alcohol or other drugs, a form of substance use called polysubstance abuse. The additional substances can also affect the length of time benzodiazepines stay in a person’s body. When it comes to chronic benzo abuse, the drug can remain in a user’s system for up to 30 days after their last dose.
Benzos are potent drugs with a high potential for abuse. Individuals who misuse or abuse these drugs increase their risk of addiction. Those who are struggling with benzos use disorder can recover with the help of our partial hospitalization program at Banyan Massachusetts. This is a form of outpatient treatment that helps patients transition back into their everyday lives while receiving addiction treatment.