How Long do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

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Benzodiazepines have powerful effects on the body, but you may be wondering, “How long do benzodiazepines stay in your system?”

Benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system, reducing heart rate and feelings of fear and anxiety.

This category of drugs quickly takes effect, and tends to leave the system quickly, while producing short-term stress alleviation effects.

Depressants are Prescribed to Treat a Variety of Conditions

These depressants are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • PTSD
  • Panic disorders
  • Muscle tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder

Benzodiazepines are also sometimes used as sedatives in operating rooms to assist patients experiencing severe pre-surgical anxiety.

Half-Life of Benzodiazepines

Unfortunately, benzodiazepines are known for their ability to produce quick chemical dependency. Furthermore, it is also known that the body develops a tolerance to this class of drugs very quickly. A contributing factor to this addition is the relatively short window in which benzodiazepines work within the body.

Sometimes, this is discussed in terms of the drug’s “half-life,” the time between when a drug enters the system and the point at which it has been halfway metabolized. It’s important to find out just how long do benzodiazepines stay in your system.

A Drug’s Half-Life

A drug’s half-life will also determine how long it will remain in the body. Drugs have varying half-lives, from minutes to weeks. Benzodiazepines have a shorter half-life than many drugs, leading them to be metabolized rapidly. For example, commonly prescribed benzodiazepines such as Halcion and Xanax remain in the system for two to four hours and six to 12 hours.

Anxiety Relieving Qualities of Benzodiazepines

While this may seem like a positive feature of the drug, that is not necessarily the case. The anxiety-relieving qualities of benzodiazepines leave the body as it is metabolized, which means many patients or users may still be struggling to cope with the panic that triggered their need for the substance in the first place. For example, hearing about a potential layoff at work may cause a benzodiazepine user to reach for their Xanax.

But after six hours, their fear has returned, and the situation is unresolved – tempting them to take a second dose. Thus, if use is not paired with medical supervision, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or another treatment program, the short time in which these medications work can promote addictive behavior.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Additionally, the effect of withdrawal will start to appear shortly after the drug has left the system. This means that as the benzodiazepine user begins to feel the painful effects of withdrawal, they may be prompted to take more of the medication.

It is important to note that the half-life of these drugs is an estimate; several factors can contribute to how long a medication remains in the body, including the potency of the drug and the individual patient or users:

  • Metabolism
  • Body mass
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Overall Health
  • Water consumption

The impact of these other factors means that some patients will experience diminished medication effects and the onset of withdrawal even sooner than the estimate.

Benzodiazepines Effects and Abuse

Benzodiazepines, popularly nicknamed benzos, are highly addictive and abused recreationally for their sedative effects. Due to the potential for rapid tolerance, addiction to benzodiazepines can happen quickly, leading to a spiral of addiction. Soon it becomes impossible to cope with daily life without the drug.

As tolerance builds quickly, it is increasingly difficult for users to experience the relief they first found with the medication. This can lead to overuse or extreme behaviors like snorting or injecting the drug.

Some of the symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse include:

  • Doctor shopping (seeing multiple doctors in pursuit of prescriptions)
  • Hallucinations
  • Poor judgment or thinking
  • Asking others for their benzodiazepine medication
  • Ongoing excuses for alack of pills (“spilling,” “lost bottles,” etc.)
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Inability to decrease usage
  • Mood changes
  • Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving after abusing benzodiazepines
  • Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or other drugs

It is also extremely difficult to stop taking these medications alone, and “cold turkey” strategies are rarely successful. This is because withdrawal effects are severe, including difficulty sleeping, anxiety, restlessness, and muscle tremors.

Addiction to Benzos

Addiction to benzos is best resolved through professional help and medical intervention, including detoxification. Frequently a medical professional will have to gradually lower the dosage of the addictive medication, transferring the user to a different, longer-lasting form of the drug to help reduce chemical dependence.

Mental Illness and Benzodiazepines

Mental illness, sleeping problems, anxiety, and panic, can be both causes and effects of benzodiazepine addiction. Since benzodiazepines are powerful sedatives, the use of benzodiazepines is frequently associated with relaxation, freedom from fear, and even feelings of joy – for a short time.

PTSD, General Anxiety Disorders, or Social Anxiety

For those struggling with PTSD, general anxiety disorders, social anxiety, or even temporary, situation-specific fears, benzodiazepines can calm the racing heart, hyperventilation, and fear associated with panic attacks. However, benzodiazepines can play a role in the worsening of these issues with time. Since the brain releases “reward” chemicals when it encounters positive experiences, it is easy for those who cope with extreme anxiety to feel they need more of these drugs’ sedative effect.

Are You Predisposed to Benzodiazepine Abuse?

Furthermore, research indicates that those with documented mental health issues may already be predisposed to benzodiazepine abuse. That said, they are one of the target demographics for benzodiazepine prescriptions. Women and older patients tend to be prescribed Xanax, a highly popular benzodiazepine, at higher rates than other demographics; women are especially likely to experience the anxiety and fear that drives benzodiazepine addiction.

Are You Struggling with Mental Health Issues and Addiction?

Unless those struggling with mental health issues are also provided with support and the skills to cope with panic and anxiety, these medications can become an easy and affordable “solution” to stressors. Overuse use can also result in memory loss, concentration issues, mood swings, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, decreased usage without medical supervision can worsen the symptoms that led to the user taking the drug.

These can include panic attacks, hallucinations, insomnia, depression, manic episodes, irritability, muscle tremors, and seizures. Medically supervised detox programs offer a safe place to discontinue use within a supportive and medically-supervised environment comfortably.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

While nearly anyone seeking freedom from addiction will benefit from visiting a treatment center, this is especially true for those struggling with Benzodiazepine abuse. Since benzodiazepine medications are often prescribed to those with anxiety-based mental health needs, co-occurring conditions underlying the addiction are often co-occurring.

Are You Struggling with PTSD?

Even if an individual struggling with PTSD can break the physical addiction to benzodiazepines, he or she will still be coping with the underlying psychological disorder. Facing daily life without sedative medication or professional guidance increases the likelihood of relapse or self-harming behavior. Therefore, to be effective in the long-term, benzodiazepine recovery should include physical and psychological treatments such as those offered at Resurgence.

Medical Detox for Benzodiazepines

Often this healing journey will begin with medical detoxification under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Medical detox allows the body to become accustomed to life without benzodiazepines and allows medical providers to help control and monitor the pain and anxiety that come with withdrawal. Since the effects of withdrawal can be traumatic to users, experiencing withdrawal in a safe and supervised environment increases detox completion probability.

As withdrawal can result in seizures, stroke, or heart attack, the presence of medical staff can provide stabilizing care in a true emergency.

The First Phase of Addiction Recovery

Detox is only the first phase of addiction recovery. Other treatments can play an essential role in addressing the patient’s co-occurring needs, thereby helping to ensure that their commitment to sobriety can succeed. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be highly effective in breaking the cycle of addiction by helping clients devise a plan for managing stressors, triggers, and underlying issues such as self-sabotage and guilt.

The Drug Rehab Center at Resurgence

Furthermore, professional drug treatment centers such as Resurgence offer flexible, responsive treatment strategies to empower clients to manage anxiety and physical and emotional health issues. These centers use a combination of inpatient and outpatient programming, partial hospitalization treatments, group therapy, 12-step programs, mediation, yoga, essential oils, nutrition counseling, fitness programming, lifestyle counseling, and other holistic strategies to support the client’s recovery goals.

Addiction Treatment at Resurgence Behavioral Health

Your time to break the cycle of addiction is now. And Resurgence Behavioral Health can help. We understand what you’re going through, and we are passionate about helping you achieve your recovery goals. Our beautiful and welcoming rehab center, and experienced team, will help you develop the skills and confidence required to find lasting freedom from Benzodiazepine addiction.

Resurgence Behavioral Health offers addiction specialists, medical professionals, certified counselors, and licensed therapists. Our stunning locations in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Fullerton Hills are the perfect place to recover. In addition to our serene, wellness-focused environments, Resurgence has flexible treatment options to meet your needs.

Call Resurgence Behavioral Health and start your new life today.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.