Xanax is metabolized in the liver, primarily in the liver enzyme CYP3A4. For people who have liver problems, it can take longer to eliminate Xanax fully.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. If you take this medication, you may be wondering how your body processes and eliminates it from the system. The following overview covers how Xanax is broken down in the body, how long it takes and factors that can affect the process.

Article at a Glance:

  • Xanax is mainly broken down in the liver and then eliminated through the urine.
  • Xanax’s half-life, or the amount of time it takes to metabolize half of a single dose, is 11.2 hours in most people.
  • Factors like advanced age, obesity and poor liver function can make the body take longer to break down and eliminate Xanax.

How Is Xanax Metabolized?

Xanax, a brand-name version of alprazolam, is metabolized (broken down) in the liver. The liver helps the body get rid of drugs by producing certain enzymes. In the case of Xanax, the liver enzyme CYP3A4 is primarily responsible for metabolizing the drug.

CYP3A4 turns Xanax into its two breakdown products: 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam, which are both less potent than their parent drug. The body then eliminates all three products in the urine.

Is Xanax Stored in Fat Cells?

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are fat-soluble to some extent. This means that when someone has fats in their body, Xanax and other benzos are broken down and ultimately stored in fat cells called lipids.

While Xanax may have a relatively short period of elimination, it can vary depending on the amount of fats in the body. This is a big reason why Xanax’s effects can last longer in obese people than people of normal weight.

Xanax Oversedation

Oversedation can occur when someone takes too high of a Xanax dose or the drug is not broken down quickly enough in the system. This can lead to symptoms like confusion and speech problems due to the drug’s buildup in the body. Oversedation can lead to an overdose as well as symptoms like shallow breathing and low blood pressure.

How Long Does It Take Your Body To Metabolize Xanax?

The half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for half of it to be cleared from the system. It typically takes five half-lives to completely eliminate a drug from the body. In most people, the average half-life of Xanax is 11.2 hours, meaning it can take 56 hours to get rid of a single dose. However, it can take some people longer to break down the drug:

  • In seniors, Xanax has an average half-life of 16.3 hours.
  • In obese people, Xanax has an average half-life of 21.8 hours.
  • In people with liver problems, Xanax has an average half-life of 19.7 hours.

Factors That Influence Xanax Metabolization

A number of factors can influence how long it may take someone to completely metabolize a dose of Xanax. These include:

  • CYP3A4 function: Some individuals may have more activity in the liver enzyme CYP3A4 than others. A person with more CYP3A4 activity will clear Xanax sooner than a person with less CYP3A4 activity.
  • Age: Xanax can last longer in the bodies of older adults than younger adults.
  • Body mass and height: If you have a high percentage of body fat and take Xanax regularly, you will likely have some of the drug stored in your fat cells. It could also show up on a drug test, such as a urinalysis, for an extended period of time.
  • Liver function: People who have problems with liver function can take longer to eliminate Xanax fully. If you have liver disease, Xanax is likely to stay in your system longer than someone with completely normal liver function.
  • Medications: If you take other drugs that impact the function of certain liver enzymes, you may also see a slower rate of Xanax elimination. Drugs that have been shown to increase Xanax elimination time include ritonavir, cimetidine and some antidepressants. Some research has also shown that oral contraceptives may play a role in Xanax metabolization. If you take these and other drugs with a similar impact, it could cause too much Xanax to accumulate in your body and lead to serious issues.

If you or someone you love is struggling with Xanax abuse or addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village. Contact us today to speak with a helpful representative and learn about treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Drugs.com. “Xanax.” September 1, 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, October 6, 2020. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village 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.