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Updated on January 6, 2022

How Long Does Xanax Last?

Key Takeaways

  • Xanax is a popular benzodiazepine drug used to treat anxiety, seizures, and other conditions.
  • While effective, the drug can be highly addictive.
  • Xanax’s effects can be felt in less than an hour.
  • For most people, Xanax clears from the body within 2 to 4 days.
  • Various factors influence how long it takes to clear from the body, including age, weight, and metabolism.
  • It’s possible to develop an addiction to Xanax in just a few weeks.
  • There are various addiction treatments available, including detox and therapy.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a common medication in the benzodiazepine (benzo) drug class. 

Benzos are usually very effective, but they can also be dangerously addictive. People often abuse them recreationally.

Benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system (CNS) to treat the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disorders

Xanax produces feelings of relaxation at standard doses. 

In high doses, Xanax can create a euphoric, yet dangerous high. This is especially true if it’s crushed and snorted or mixed into a solution for injection.

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How Long Does it Take for Xanax to Kick in?

Xanax is taken by mouth and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. People typically experience the effects in under an hour.1 The drug reaches peak concentrations in the bloodstream in 1 to 2 hours

People who take Xanax often develop a tolerance. It may take longer to feel the sedative effects or they may not be as intense.

Xanax increases the effects of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric (GABA.) GABA promotes calmness and produces a relaxed feeling. Xanax also reduces excitement levels in the brain to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders.

People may experience the following effects from Xanax:

  • Anxiety relief
  • Easing of muscle tension
  • Insomnia relief

Xanax affects the mind and can lead to temporary memory loss, feelings of hostility, and disturbing or vivid dreams.2

Serious side effects of Xanax include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • A weak, rapid heartbeat
  • Coma
  • Death

These side effects can occur if someone takes too much Xanax.

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How Long Does Xanax Last?

Xanax clears from the body within 2 to 4 days for most people.

The sedative effects of Xanax stop before it clears from the body. This is why many people are prescribed Xanax up to 3 times per day.1

The effects of Xanax are brief. Most people will experience the strongest effects for 2 to 4 hours. Side effects sometimes continue for several more hours.

It’s possible to quickly build a tolerance to Xanax. If this occurs, people often notice it takes longer to experience the drug's sedative effects. The feelings may also wear off quickly.

Half-Life of Xanax

Xanax has an average half-life of around 11 hours in healthy adults. Half-life refers to the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body.1

However, everyone metabolizes medications differently. The half-life of Xanax varies. There is also no difference in the average half-life between genders.

Factors That Influence Xanax Detection Time

Various factors influence how long it takes Xanax to clear from the body, including:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Race
  • Metabolism
  • Liver function
  • Dosage
  • Other medications 
  • How long you’ve been taking Xanax 

How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Xanax?

The United States government classifies benzodiazepines, including Xanax, as Schedule IV controlled substances because of their abuse potential.

This classification makes it easier for the US. government to assess the drug’s prescription and distribution.

Xanax is fast-acting and can create a euphoric high, especially in large doses. This makes it popular among people who enjoy the pleasurable feeling Xanax provides.

In many cases, taking Xanax has become a social activity at parties and other social gatherings.

Additionally, some people take Xanax to cope with problems like situational anxiety. This often occurs without committing to professional treatment.

For many people, Xanax is considered a fast fix. Since the drug isn’t used as a long-term medication, some people take it as needed for relief. The brief comfort Xanax provides may help in a fast-paced environment where they’re exposed to negativity and stress.

It’s possible for people to become dependent on Xanax in just 3 or 4 weeks of use. Tolerance can develop in a few days, while physical dependence can occur in a few weeks. 

Some people become addicted to Xanax even when taking it as prescribed. If someone takes Xanax without a prescription or takes more than prescribed, addiction can develop in a short time.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms 

A person addicted to Xanax typically displays specific physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms, which include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Requiring more of the drug to feel its effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Manic moods
  • Memory issues
  • Concentration problems
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Slurred speech
  • Avoidance of tasks that require sustained attention
  • Strained relationships with friends and family
  • Financial problems due to spending money on the drug

There’s a difference between Xanax abuse and addiction. With recreational use, people usually abuse the drug during an event like a party for a temporary effect.

To reach the desired buzz, a user may combine Xanax with alcohol or other drugs. Typically, these people can stop taking the substance without severe side effects.

People who abuse Xanax recreationally usually still have some control over their drug use and lives. But it can quickly turn into addiction with consistent use. 

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Several treatment options are available for Xanax addiction. Often, more than one approach achieves the best results.

Detox

Someone with Xanax addiction first undergoes medical detox with supervision from medical staff. The goal in detox is to wean users off Xanax with as little distress as possible.

The effects of Xanax withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable and traumatic, so staff may prescribe a course of anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant medications.

Staff will then put the patient on a drug plan to ease the withdrawal process with minimal risk in mind.

Withdrawal should never be attempted alone. The risk for relapse and seizures outweighs the benefits of avoiding medically-supervised withdrawal.

The detox period can last longer than those for other drugs. This is because the time it takes for a brain to return to normal function is prolonged with Xanax dependency. 

During this time, the person may need to take anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and other medications. Xanax detox may happen concurrently with detox from alcohol and other medications. It also must be tapered slowly over time.

Because of this, detox often overlaps with other treatments. Once you’ve stopped taking Xanax, there’s no extra medication needed.

Your doctor may prescribe other medications to treat anxiety, depression, or a sleep disorder.

Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy for Xanax addiction. CBT treats the learning processes underlying substance use disorders (SUDs).

CBT involves working with a therapist to learn and develop healthy coping strategies.

Withdrawal Timeline

Xanax withdrawal begins with feelings of anxiety and restlessness as the effects wear off. This leads to cravings because the body knows the drug provides anxiety relief. Symptoms peak during the next several days to week.

Usually, Xanax withdrawal symptoms begin within 12 to 14 hours. However, they can occur as soon as 6 hours after the last dose. 

Most withdrawal symptoms last around a week to 10 days.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Numb fingers
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety 
  • Panic

Resources

MORE
LESS
  1. Xanax, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Aug. 2011
  2. Benzodiazepines, United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 2017
  3. George TT, Tripp J. Alprazolam. [Updated19 Jul. 2021]. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; Jan. 2021. 
  4. Ait-Daoud, Nassima et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” Journal of addiction medicine vol. 12,1 : 4-10
  5. Bounds CG, Nelson VL. Benzodiazepines. [Updated 22 Nov. 2020]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; Jan. 2021. 
  6. Brett, Jonathan, and Bridin Murnion. “Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence.” Australian prescriber vol. 38,5 : 152-5
  7. Schmitz, Allison. “Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review.” The mental health clinician vol. 6,3 120-126. 6 May 2016
  8.  

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