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Xanax can show up on a drug test for days, weeks or even months depending on what part of the body is being tested and different factors that impact absorption.
We can help answer your questions and talk through any concerns.
Xanax, or alprazolam, is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, among other mental health conditions. Xanax belongs to a class of sedative drugs called benzodiazepines. Depending on the part of the body being examined, whether it’s urine, blood or hair, Xanax can be detected in your system for up to 90 days.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax increase the activity of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. This heightened GABA receptor activity inhibits nerve signals and chemicals in the brain that trigger anxiety or panic. Xanax also releases chemicals in the brain that cause a pleasurable sensation and relaxation.
The high that Xanax creates can make it addictive, and the relaxation it causes can make working or driving dangerous. Because of Xanax’s addictive potential, employers or law enforcement officers may test for it, leading those who take Xanax often to wonder how long the drug will affect them and how long it will be detectable in the body.
The half-life of a drug is the length of time needed for the body to metabolize half of the drug that is present in the bloodstream. It generally takes five half-lives to eliminate a substance from the body. After this time, the remaining amount of the substance will likely be undetectable.
Xanax’s half-life is up to 12.5 hours for immediate-release formulas and up to 16 hours for extended-release formulas. The typical half-life of Xanax can vary based on the individual. Several factors can lengthen the specific formulation, including age, overall health, weight and the presence of other drugs.
Because Xanax is a Schedule IV controlled substance whose use can have legal or employment implications, many people who use Xanax wonder how long it will remain detectable in their system. Breastfeeding mothers might also be concerned about the potential impact Xanax could have on their children. Ultimately, the length of time that Xanax can be detected depends on the method of testing used.
Urine drug sampling is the most common method of testing for drugs, and most urine drug screens will detect Xanax use. Xanax will appear in a urine test for up to four days after the most recent use. Its breakdown product, alpha-hydroxyalprazolam, will also show up in a urine test for up to four days.
Blood tests will typically only detect drugs for a short time after they have been used. These tests are more commonly used by law enforcement officers immediately after an event where drug testing may be needed, such as a car accident. Blood tests can typically detect Xanax for up to 27 hours.
Saliva testing is less common than urine testing. Xanax will be detectable in a saliva test for up to two days after the last dose of Xanax.
Hair testing for drug use is relatively uncommon, but it may be done in some circumstances where the timeframe for other methods is not an option. A half-inch hair sample will indicate Xanax use within the last 90 days.
The half-life of Xanax in breast milk is about 14.5 hours, meaning that the drug stays in breastmilk for about three days. Because it lasts so long in breastmilk, it is possible that a breastfed baby could be exposed to Xanax. Manufacturers have released reports about withdrawal symptoms in babies after being breastfed by mothers taking Xanax. Talk to your doctor about shorter-acting options if you are breastfeeding and need to take a benzodiazepine.
Several factors may affect metabolization, influencing how long the effects of Xanax last and how long Xanax can be detected during drug tests.
Xanax is fat-soluble, meaning that it is absorbed by adipose tissue, or body fat. Those who are overweight absorb Xanax into their adipose tissues, which will slowly release the drug into their bloodstream. Higher body weight can cause Xanax to stay in the bloodstream for almost twice as long as it would for someone who is of normal weight.
Xanax is processed in the liver, where it is broken down into smaller and smaller molecules, or metabolites, until it can be expelled through the kidneys. Metabolism can be influenced by overall health. Health disorders like alcoholic liver disease will almost double the amount of time that Xanax remains in the body.
As we age, metabolism changes and kidney function can be especially impacted. Decreased nutrition intake could also reduce the amount of protein in the blood that can bind to Xanax. This can increase the duration of Xanax’s presence in the body.
Some races are more likely to break down Xanax slower than others. Xanax stays in the system for about 25% longer in Asian people than other races.
Once you have taken Xanax, it cannot be flushed from the system. The body absorbs Xanax within two hours of taking a short-acting formula and within five hours of taking a long-acting formula. After this time, it is widely distributed into all the body’s tissues, including the brain. A person will need to wait for the liver to break down Xanax and for the kidneys to flush it out. The process cannot be sped up.
Generally, if a person has a valid prescription for Xanax, testing positive on a drug test will not matter. In fact, if a person is prescribed Xanax and tests negative on a drug test, this can be a red flag and raise concerns for diversion.
If you have a prescription for Xanax, you can ask your doctor to write a letter to the entity that is ordering a drug test. Alternatively, your employer may be able to directly review your state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for controlled substances. These programs are electronic databases that track controlled substance prescribing within your state.
Although most employers may not frown on Xanax use if you have a prescription, there are exceptions. For example, for safety reasons, both truck drivers and airline pilots may be disqualified from their positions if they take Xanax, whether or not they have a prescription.
When taken as prescribed, drugs like Xanax should not impact work performance. However, their performance may suffer if the person experiences common Xanax side effects like sedation or confusion at work.
If you are prescribed Xanax and its side effects are affecting your work, you should talk to your doctor. They may be able to lower your Xanax dose or switch you to a different medication that will still treat your medical condition, but with fewer side effects.
If you or a loved one struggle with Xanax, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. We have detox and rehab centers not only in Colorado, but across the United States as well. Our detox programs can help you come off Xanax, and our rehab programs can teach you the skills to keep off Xanax for good. It’s never too late to begin recovery. Contact us today.
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The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.