How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

According to a guide provided by Drugs and Alcohol Information and Support, they indicate some average times for benzodiazepines to exit the system. These are rough estimates and as such the factors mentioned in this article will affect these timeframes.
  • Urine: 3 to 6 weeks
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: 2-3 days

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are potent sedatives prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety, panic attacks, social phobias, sleep disorders and seizures. These powerful drugs act as a tranquilizer by depressing the central nervous system.

Benzodiazepines can be greatly effective for reducing stress and anxiety, encouraging better sleep and relaxing the muscles. They are also commonly used to lessen the effects of coming off stimulants such as cocaine, speed or ecstasy, and to help mitigate withdrawal symptoms from downers such as alcohol or heroin.

Benzodiazepine pills, benzos, on a table next to a prescription pill bottle.
Benzos come in the form of a tablet, capsule, injection or suppository.  Typically, they are taken orally, however intravenous injection is common for people who have been admitted to the hospital or those who may be misusing the drug by crushing up tablets to create a liquid form.

While benzodiazepines can be beneficial for many people, they are also known to be highly addictive. Dependency on benzos is a real concern for anyone who has taken them for any extended period of time. While some stick to their prescribed amounts, others use higher doses of the drugs or use them recreationally to enhance the effects of relaxation, alcohol intoxication or opiate use.

In a study performed by the National Library of Medicine in 2008, they looked at adults filling 1 or more benzodiazepine prescriptions during the study year by sex, as well as age (18-35 years, 36-50 years, 51-64 years, and 65-80 years), to study those individuals receiving benzodiazepines and the correlated data showing percentages of people with long-term (over 120 consecutive days) benzodiazepine use.  Their findings were:

  • Approximately 5.2% of US adults aged 18 to 80 years used benzodiazepines.
  • The percentage who used benzodiazepines increased with age from 2.6% (18-35 years) to 5.4% (36-50 years) to 7.4% (51-64 years) to 8.7% (65-80 years).
  • Benzodiazepine use was nearly twice as prevalent in women as men.
  • The proportion of benzodiazepine use that was long term increased with age from 14.7% (18-35 years) to 31.4% (65-80 years).
  • In all age groups, roughly one-quarter of individuals receiving benzodiazepine involved long-acting benzodiazepine use.

Since then, the number of people being prescribed, using and misusing benzos on a daily basis has steadily increased. This correlates with the overwhelming increase in prescription drug use as a whole.  Sadly, with these figures, benzos have correspondingly attributed to overdoses resulting in death.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported there was a steady increase of Benzodiazepine overdose in the U.S from around 2,000 people in 2002 to over 9,000 people overdosing on benzos in 2015. Not to mention we have seen a rise in those who develop an addiction to benzos, which often leads them into addiction treatment.

Of the 15 FDA-approved benzodiazepines in the U.S., the most commonly known include:

Short acting (generic names and brand names):

  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Midazolam (Versed)

Longer acting:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (librium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Halazepam (Paxipam)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Prazepam (Centrax)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
When looking at how benzos affect the body, we look at peak level and half-life. A peak level is the highest concentration of a drug in the person’s bloodstream and the half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for the body to get rid of half of the dose.

Peak levels and drug half-life of benzodiazepines depend on several factors such as the specific drug that has been prescribed or ingested, dosage amount, time between doses, and method of administration. In general, benzos can be divided into these three categories:

  1. Ultra short acting benzos – The half-life of ultra short acting benzodiazepines is 5 hours or less.
  2. Short acting and intermediate benzos – This class of benzodiazepines have a half-life that ranges from 5-24 hours.
  3. Long acting benzos – Long acting benzodiazepines have half-life values of 24 hours or longer. Benzos in this group have long acting pharmacologically active metabolites, which create significant stores inside the body with multiple doses.
Addiction with benzodiazepines is largely attributed to environmental factors such as friends, family and peer pressure. There are genetic predispositions to consider, but this type of addiction is heavily influenced by environment. Benzos are highly addictive after long-term use therefore being in a stressful setting for any length of time can create a prolonged addiction. Things such as employment status, finances and economic status can be huge factors.

Benzodiazepines affect the GABA receptors in the brain and spinal cord. When administered, they bind with the GABA receptor and make it less easy for excitability inside the brain, which is what causes the traquilizing and anti-anxiety effects of the drug.

The issue is with long term use or excessive use is that benzodiazepines can cause a depletion of GABA receptors. This can ultimately have a reverse effect on the brain, causing someone to be more likely to experience hyper-excitability. This can lead to insomnia, heightened anxiety and other symptoms of chronic abuse. This causes a cyclical effect, where people begin taking more not realizing they have become addicted and a tolerance has developed.

People who have become addicted to benzodiazepines often want to know how long it takes for them to be removed from the system.

If you’ve quit taking benzos or are contemplating getting off of them, you should consider medical assistance or detox when discontinuing usage, as the withdrawal process can be extremely dangerous, especially for those people who have been taking high doses.

Once someone has completely discontinued using the drug, they typically can’t wait for the day when it will be fully removed from their systems. Naturally, the process of elimination from the body varies slightly from person to person.

Several factors play a role in how long benzodiazepines stay in your system. The most influential factors to consider when coming off benzos are:

  • Age: The older a person is the slower their metabolism will be and the slower their organs will work. This will play a huge role in how quickly they can eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Body height / weight / fat: These factors need to be taken into consideration when looking at the dosage amounts someone has been taking in proportion to their body weight, height and fat percentage.
  • Genetics: Genetic make-up not only plays a role in those who are more susceptible to addiction, but it also largely affects how the body metabolizes things. This can affect how a person reacts to drugs and how they process them through the digestive tract.
  • Function of the Kidney & Liver: Liver and kidney health is crucial for the elimination process. If a person has issues with his or her liver or kidney they will have a much harder time excreting benzos from the system.
  • Metabolism: Higher metabolism allows someone to burn off food, liquids and drugs quickly. However, a slow performing metabolism is going to hinder this process. Other factors such as supplements, exercise and diet can influence metabolic rates as well and thus affect the process of elimination.
  • Frequency of use: Depending on how long someone has been taking benzos and at what level, the process of clearance varies. If a person only took a single dose, they will eliminate much faster than a person who has been using on a regular basis.
According to a guide provided by Drugs and Alcohol Information and Support, they indicate some average times for benzodiazepines to exit the system. These are rough estimates and as such the factors mentioned in this article will affect these timeframes.

  • Urine: 3 to 6 weeks
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: 2-3 days
Knowing how long benzodiazepines stay in the body is great, however it won’t excuse you from the withdrawal symptoms that come along with breaking a chemical dependency to benzodiazepines in the body. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blurry vision
  • Amnesia
  • Weakness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Body shakes and sweating
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

It is important to seek medical attention such as hospitalization or detox with a treatment facility to ensure a healthy recovery from the withdrawal process. Quitting benzodiazepines cold turkey can result in death as the body can go into shock. It is recommended to consult with a doctor before making any changes to your medication doses and to ask for help in getting off the drug or breaking an addiction.

Rapid detox or inpatient detoxification may be suggested depending on how often and at what dosage a person has been using. In doing it this way, doctors can administer medications to help lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and also help with preventative measures to avoid complications.

The initial process of detoxing is important; however, treatment is also necessary to establish long-term recovery.

Benzodiazepine use in the United States, National Library of Medicine, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25517224>, February 2015.

Overdose Death Rates, National Institute on Drug Abuse, <https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates>, January 2017.

Benzodiazepines, Drug and Alcohol Information and Support, <http://www.drugs.ie/drugtypes/drug/benzodiazepines>

How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System
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How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System was last modified: May 9th, 2017 by The Recovery Village